Will Ventura return to the body politic?

  • Article by: SARAH T. WILLIAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 3, 2008 - 10:47 PM
Jesse Ventura

Jesse Ventura

Photo: RICHARD TSONG -TAATARII, STAR TRIBUNE

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Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura begins his new book with a provocative question:

"Do I have to throw myself into the political ring again? And, if I do, is it worth the price that my family and I will have to pay?"

In "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me!" (with Dick Russell, Skyhorse, 320 pages, $24.94), to be published in April, Ventura considers this and other questions from the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, where he and his wife, Terry, now empty-nesters, have taken refuge from public life.

His book is part travelogue and part political and personal memoir, including diary entries and observations from Terry Ventura. It's also a renegade's sounding board.

Some targets are familiar: the media (he was underestimated, misunderstood, hounded or mocked, he says); organized religion (it's a business like any other, and "If Jesus came back today, he'd throw up"); the economic boycott against Cuba (it's time for "America to get over it"); the JFK assassination (the Warren Commission is not to be believed).

Suspicions about 9/11

And there are some new ones.

He's had some time to ponder the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and he has a lot of questions: "Where were our jets? How could our air defense have failed so miserably?" Why didn't President Bush react immediately to the news, and why did he "put up roadblocks for two years to any type of investigation?"

And he's furious with the "chicken-hawk cowards -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest -- who never served and who sent American boys to Iraq to die." Not to mention Democrats, "who were cowards from the beginning of the Iraq ordeal."

It's not all politics. Ventura waxes nostalgic about first meeting Terry, recalls some rocky times after deciding not to run for reelection, and enthuses about his days on campus at Harvard, where, as a visiting professor for five months in 2004, he taught seminars on terrorism, the Kennedy assassination and "how wrestling prepares you for politics," He "blended in" there, he said, felt accepted and even signed on for a gig with the Hasty Pudding Club.

Not surprisingly, he saves his most biting remarks for the state's hated media "jackals." Still stinging from a 2002 Star Tribune story ("People's House or Party Pad?") that reported complaints from the governor's mansion staff about First Son Tyrel, Ventura vows:

"I won't put myself in front of them again. I will talk to any other media in America, but not the ones from Minnesota. When I go on tour for this book, it won't happen in my home state. I'm not going to put them in a position to make money off me anymore. When I give a quote, they're going to have to give credit to someone else that I said it to. It's the only way I can strike back at them."

But back to the central question: Will he run for president in 2008?

There are some disincentives, chief among them "an unfinished war in Afghanistan" and "a complete quagmire in Iraq." Further, he writes, "I'm incapable of lying. Every president in my adult lifetime, except maybe Jimmy Carter, has lied to the American people."

Besides, he and Terry are happy on the Baja. He's losing weight, she's regaining her health after bouts with mononucleosis and chronic fatigue syndrome. They both love the peninsula's natural beauties: "The orange, yellow and purple dawns inspire me," Terry writes in her journal, "and the pink and sapphire blue evenings calm me. All the while the sea is the continuous background music that ranges from Heavy Metal to Bach to Sinatra playing twenty four hours a day."

What if he does run? It would start with a meeting with Vince McMahon, chairman of the board of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Sarah T. Williams is the Star Tribune books editor.

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Jesse Ventura