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Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura told the nation that Norm Coleman is a hypocrite who has lost the election for U.S. senator and should give up his fight against Al Franken for a second term.
In a wide-ranging interview Monday night on CNN with Larry King and in his trademark blunt style, Ventura also called former Vice President Dick Cheney a coward for avoiding service during the Vietnam War and made a pitch for himself to be appointed ambassador to Cuba.
King asked the former pro wrestler whether he was embarrassed for the state he once led as the Coleman-Franken battle has stretched beyond six months.
"No, not at all, it's the procedure," said Ventura, in a sportcoat, open collar and his trademark bald head adorned with a shaggy mullet. "When you have an election that's that close, you want to get the right decision, I would think."
What he would like to see is for Coleman to abandon his court battle with Democratic rival Franken, who holds a 312-vote post-recount lead.
"Coleman's always been a hypocrite," said Ventura, who "shocked the world" when as the candidate of the Reform Party (now the Independence Party) he defeated Coleman and Democrat Skip Humphrey for the open governor's seat in 1998.
"He never does what he says," Ventura added. "He said on Election Night [in 2008], when he won, that Franken should drop out and he should be the senator. Well, the same should hold true after the recount."
Ventura was referring to when Coleman went before supporters on the day after the election and urged Franken to waive his right to a recount, saying that the prospect of changing the result was remote, that a recount would be costly to taxpayers and "I just think the need for the healing process is so important."
Calls and e-mails to the Coleman campaign for reaction have yet to be returned.
Over the weekend, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that if Minnesota's courts don't ultimately declare Coleman the winner, he'll take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ex-governor echoes poll results
Ventura has previously tagged Coleman with the hypocrite label in front of a national television audience.
Just days after being elected governor, Ventura rejected the notion of a presidential run in 2000 and added a shot at Coleman on NBC's "Meet the Press" for seeking the governorship just after being reelected mayor of St. Paul: "I criticized him greatly because of that, and I will not put myself in the position of being a hypocrite."
Ventura's view on what Coleman should do now falls in line with that of the state he once governed. A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll last month found that 64 percent of those responding believe Coleman should accept the recount results showing Franken as the winner.
Also in the interview, Ventura railed against the military interrogation tactics under the Bush-Cheney administration, calling waterboarding torture.
"It's drowning," he said. "It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning." Ventura said he knows because he was subjected to waterboarding as part of his military training. "I'll put it to you this way: You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."
Ventura also challenged Cheney for avoiding service during the Vietnam War with college deferments. "Clearly, he's a coward. He wouldn't go when it was his time to go."
As for Cheney's boss, Ventura called former President George W. Bush "the worst president of my lifetime. Barack Obama inherited something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."
Ventura had one piece of advice for Obama: Appoint him ambassador to Cuba.
"I went there as a governor, I felt comfortable with the Cuban people, I met with Fidel Castro when I was there as governor," Ventura said, adding that U.S.-Cuba relations should be normalized.
"They love the American people, they just dislike our government," he said.
And true to his libertarian foundation, Ventura said that the nation's debate over gay marriage would ease if government would get out of the marriage business.
"I think it should only be decided in the private sector. That way, if the church doesn't want to recognize it, they're the private sector. The government should only recognize civil unions, and that way you don't have to put down what sex you are."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482