Jesse Ventura is threatening to get into the race for senator from Minnesota, and his bluster has produced the usual chuckles from the usual clowns who point out, correctly, that Jesse always makes noises about running for something when he is trying to sell a book.

Jesse's new book is a dud. Running for Senate might be dynamite.

Jesse's latest literary effort (I use both of those terms loosely) is a boring, repetitive repackaging of stuff he has sold before called "Don't Start The Revolution Without Me." It would make a good doorstop but, at $25 a copy, a rock would be cheaper. But don't underestimate his appeal in a three-way race for Paul Wellstone's old seat in a campaign where the other candidates are Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

These are the kind of odds Jesse Ventura likes.

He shocked the seven-county mosquito district 10 years ago when he beat Republican Coleman and DFLer Skip Humphrey, winning the governorship with a Pawlenty-esque plurality of 37 percent. Yes, yes: In his four years as governor, Jesse often was a jerk and embarrassed the state and his office, but he managed something no one has done since.

He kept the bridges up.

More than that, he put competent people in charge who wanted government to succeed, not to fail and fall down so they could justify their desire to drown it in a bathtub.

I admit to having a thing for having Jesse in office. I like party animals more than I like party loyalists. Jesse was a maverick who brought soap opera to St. Paul but let government work while he fiddled. I thought it was a shame when he didn't run for a second term, and I wrote, three years ago, that he ought to run for the Senate seat vacated by Mark Dayton in 2006 (Amy Klobuchar went on to win it).

Maybe he's ready now.

Jesse is a massive egomaniac who needs the spotlight and hates the heavy lifting of governing. In other words, he's perfect for the Senate, whose 100 members fancy they belong to the most elite club in the world and believe they would look good in togas. We've already seen Jesse in tights and boas and he could pull of a toga better than a spindly-legged Norm or a knock-kneed Franken.

Plus, he'd spice up a campaign focused on fundraising, Franken's bookkeeping problems and Norm's evasiveness more than on war, the economy and infrastructure issues that desperately need debate.

Jesse Ventura is not subtle. But this is no time for subtlety.

When Barack Obama is attacked for not wearing a flag pin and school kids are suspended for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, it's refreshing to remember that Jesse opposed a 1999 effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning flag desecration.

"It's the freedom that's important, not the symbol," he said. Even after Sept. 11, he vetoed a law making the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory in school. "Patriotism comes from the heart, not repetition," he said.

Tim Pawlenty signed the law when it was passed again after Jesse left office. It's impossible, now, to imagine politicians standing for freedom as much as for flag-waving.

So it was good to hear Jesse on public radio again last week, raising blood pressures by threatening to run and by calling out his would-be opponents:

Norm Coleman, he said, is a "chicken hawk," someone who did not serve in the military but who "rubber stamp(s) the president on everything he wants to do with the war." And Franken, he said, is "a carpetbagger."

Tell it, Brother Jesse!

A former Navy Seal, Jesse has opposed the war in Iraq more outspokenly than Franken and stood up for veterans more effectively than Coleman. He has kooky ideas about a national sales tax and other things, but on the big issues -- war and peace, freedom and the Constitution -- he is worth hearing. His entrance into the race would bring attention to the stakes in this election. That's more than his book can do. Only a few dozen people came to the Mall of America for a Jesse appearance Thursday.

Forget the book, Jesse. Make some more history. Filings for office close July 15.

Bring it on.

He's tanned and rested and the curb feelers -- his goofy facial hair strands with love beads in them -- are gone. No more Mr. Weird Beard.

He looks very statesman-like these days. At (almost) 57, with a chrome dome and long flowing locks, he looks a bit like Benjamin Franklin, especially if you imagine him in a bathtub with a French woman somewhere in the bubbles.

Who knows? Minnesotans might be able to imagine him in an even stranger place.

The U.S. Senate.

Nick Coleman •