The upcoming presidential vote has been gripping the US, but attention has been drawn to the nature of campaigning, with some comparing it with reality TV, rather than politics. To discuss this RT meets Jesse Ventura, a former Governor of Minnesota.
RT: You have recently announced that you are considering participating in the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate. But what better timing than now? Why not do it this time?
Jesse Ventura: It would take too long; you have to build for this. The difficult thing, if I do it I will be with no party. It will be just Jesse Ventura running for president.
That requires me to go out and get ballot access in all 50 states. You cannot do that overnight and it costs a lot of money. That is why I have made the statement. It will require a grass root movement of people in every state to go out and do what it takes so that I can be on the ballot.
And there is a second requirement that I have to be guaranteed: I have to be in the debates. If you are not in the debates you cannot win – and I do not run for political office just to make a statement. When I run, I run to win.
‘Money is not free speech, especially in a presidential campaign’
RT: Your new book “DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government” focuses on the parties having power for the sake of having power. You talk a lot about the need to eradicate corporations from politics. How can this realistically be done when this has been the system forever? You yourself compare politicians to possibly wearing a NASCAR racing suit because they have so much support from corporations.
JV: If you look at [NASCAR Cup Series driver] Jimmy Johnson, he has got patches all over him that tell you who his sponsors are. So if we require politicians to wear that, we as voters will know who owns them.
There is so much corruption and it has happened just recently. It was against the law for a corporation to contribute to a political party, until the Supreme Court of our land made what I call a disastrous ruling. They said that a corporation has the same rights as an individual, and that money is free speech. Well, I am waiting for the next guy to rob the bank and use that as his defense.
Jesse Ventura, or James George Janos, 61, is an American politician, veteran, author, former professional wrestler and actor. In the Vietnam War he served in the US Navy and later became a reservist with SEAL Team 1. In 1999, Ventura was elected the Governor of Minnesota, following his term as the mayor of Minnesota’s Brooklyn Park.
What we need to do is reverse that. We have to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on those two issues. And there is a movement to do that. The only way it can be done is to amend the Constitution to specifically state: Corporations do not have the same rights as individuals and Money is not free speech.
RT: One of the curious details of this election campaign is that we are seeing the same companies investing in both parties. Some people say it is a win-win situation, but others say this is like betting on red and black in roulette, because, either way, you lose. What is the point?
JV: You don’t lose. One of them is going to be the President and now you own them.
RT: But you lose the money that you invest in the other…
JV: That’s nothing. These major corporations spend more money on lobbyists that what they pay in taxes and that is a fact.
You don’t find that astounding?
Why would they do that? So they do not have to pay taxes, like GE two years ago – they made $14 billion. Not only did they not pay taxes, they got subsidies from the government. That is obscene.
‘Romney vs. Obama: No hate, just business’
RT: What do you think about the election campaign? Critics are calling it a reality show. Do you think we have ever seen a bigger disconnect between the debates and what Americans are actually in need of right now?
JV: I think what you are seeing is them finally rising up to the level of professional wrestling. In Pro Wrestling, in front of the cameras, we all hate each other. Behind the scenes, it is a business.
And it is the same way it is for them. It is a sham.
In front of the cameras and the public, they hate each other and they are on different sides of the fences. Behind the scenes, they are going out to dinner together. They are ensuring their two-party dictatorship maintains its power.
There is no difference between these two. Don’t kid yourselves.
‘Democracy cheerleaders in Middle East, OWS crushers at home’
RT: This September marks the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS). Do you think in a decade from now people will look back and say “this was a movement that changed the national dialogue”?
JV: Not yet.
They have disappeared temporarily; they need to come back. They need to keep the fight up. Now they have disappeared, a decade from now no-one is going to remember the OWS. Not unless it is victorious and does something. It has not done that yet.
RT: How can a movement like that be victorious? What do they need to do?
JV: By changing the country.
They need to continue to stay in the parks. They need to continue to get arrested. They need to continue to be vigilant.
How do you think we stopped the Vietnam War? Many people say the turning point of the Vietnam War was the 1968 Tet Offensive, that was huge. But I do not believe that was the real turning point for America.
I believe the turning point of the Vietnam War was when four students were killed at Kent State. All of a sudden the general public went back and said: “Wait a minute! We’re even killing people in our own country now because of this war?!”
I hate to say it, but it is going to require something of that magnitude for the OWS to truly have an impact and get to the psyche of mainstream America.
RT: I would like to ask about the way the US treats elections abroad while really drowning in electoral process flaws at home. Why this double standard?
JV: There is always a double standard.
There was a double standard on the Wall Street protests. While we are busy pepper-spraying and running them off with dogs – we are heralding the protests over in the Middle East: “O-ho, ain’t this lovely? Go-go-go!”
We are like cheerleaders over there, while at the same time we are squashing down our own protesters here. The height of hypocrisy!
Our election is the same way. We want to bring democracy all over the world and we do not even have it here anymore, because the two gangs pick your president.
Mitt Romney was picked four years ago. He was not picked at the convention. They knew four years ago. How I know that? Because right after Obama won, you started seeing these mass advertisements on TV about Mormons. Do you recall those? Where they would show a person who was a fireman or a teacher, and they would show all these attributes of how wonderful they were. And remember the person would look at the camera at the end and say “And I’m a Mormon”. They were preparing us.
‘Republicans promise to save economy, but never speak of Bush who ruined it’
RT: You think they started preparing us four years ago? Romney is going to be the President? Otherwise, why so much effort for somebody who won’t?
JV: Because he is the “ReBLOODlican’s” main man. He is the one on the pedestal right now. John McCain was four years ago. George W. Bush was, eight years prior.
You know what I find interesting about the Republican convention? They do not mention one word about Bush and Cheney. How do you ignore a president and vice-president who a mere three and a half years ago served for eight years? It is like “Oh boy!”
They do not want to identify with the true culprits who killed our economy. They are selling the people now saying “We are going to fix the economy”. Well, this is the party that ruined it!
After all, from 2000 to 2006, Bush was not only in the White House, he had a Republican House and a Republican Senate, so he had anything that he wanted to do rubber-stamped. The Republicans caused this economy to fail. Barack Obama inherited it.
‘Electoral College must go’
RT: You are obviously an advocate for eradicating the institution of the Electoral College of the United States. Because every vote has to count; this is a system that has not applied anywhere else in the world…
JV: It has not applied to any another election in the United States. When you run for governor…
RT: But how can this be done? How can this be done when we are seeing rotating chairs between democrats and republicans? They are obviously not interested in changing that system.
JV: The people have to demand it.
RT: There are a lot of things that people demand that they do not get.
JV: They have to be persistent and truly demand it. They have to threaten to vote them out of office. You have got to threaten: “If you do not change the Electoral College, you will not be sitting there next year”. That is the only way they respond. It is the threat that they could lose their job.
RT: Do you think the American people could really get worked up enough about the Electoral College, when they have all other things to deal with?
JV: Difficult. Difficult. But the Electoral College was good when they put it in, because you had to travel by horseback to Washington. That is why it was there. It is the only election like that in this country. I have been a mayor. He who gets the most votes wins. Governor, Congress, Senate.
Syria crisis: ‘Who made America the world’s policeman?’
RT: The Syrian crisis. The conflict has really been gripping the world for over a year and a half now. What kind of role, if any, should the US play?
JV: None. It is their business.
RT: What about the whole idea of the US trying to help out the Syrian people who have the right to stand up against their government?
JV: That is up to the Syrian people.
RT: So as the US President you would…
JV: I would stay out of all of it! It’s not my business.
And if they do not like us, they get no foreign aid. I would ignore them, if they do not like me. I don’t hang out with people who don’t like me.
Who made us the world’s policeman?
In fact, I would take it a step farther. If I were president, every foreign military base the US has would be closed, and I would bring our men and women home. We have the technology today; with our military we can destroy anyone in the world at any moment.
We have got multiple bases in Japan, Korea and Germany. Haven’t those wars been over for 60 years? Why are we there?
RT: Do you think the same rules apply to no matter what kind of geopolitical interests the US has with a country and crisis? Does it apply to every country – “do not get involved in their affairs”?
JV: No. I would get involved with another country’s affairs, only if that country specifically asked “Please, come and help us”.
Julian Assange case: ‘It is my right to know how govt spends my money’
RT: I wanted to ask you about the whole Julian Assange ordeal. Do you think it has been way overblown by the US and the West? What is your take?
JV: My take is that I want to know what they know. And I have every right to know what my government does. Why? Whose money do they use? Mine. Taxes. And as a taxpayer, I have every right to know what they are spending it on. Every right.
RT: Do you think you will find out?
JV: Absolutely not. Unless I become President. [laughs]
RT: Thank you for being with us tonight.
JV: Thank you, always a pleasure.