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Larry King Live
Jesse Ventura Discusses Youth Violence, Politics and the EconomyAired March 14, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, you're talking outspoken, unconventional and no-holds barred, you're talking Jesse Ventura. Minnesota's governor is here to speak his mind, take your calls and he's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. It's always a great pleasure to welcome Governor Jesse Ventura to these cameras and microphones. His popularity remains at 70 percent in the state of Minnesota in his third year as governor.
Lots of things to talk about, Governor Ventura, and we thank you for joining us. First things first, what do you make of that case in Florida, a young boy who says he watched wrestling and that led him to kill a little girl, and then he gets sentenced to life imprisonment at age 14?
GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: Well, first of all, Larry, I don't know the specifics very well in the case. I wasn't there for the sentencing or anything, but to make an excuse that he watched wrestling, I find that a bit thin. I mean thousands upon millions of kids watch wrestling every week, and they don't behave in that manner. So, you can't blame wrestling. And it's called parenting anyway. If you don't want your children to watch wrestling, don't have them watch it.
KING: Does Minnesota have laws dealing with children and crime, must have laws, as to how they're treated?
VENTURA: They do, but I'm not a lawyer, so I wouldn't be the one to ask about it because, I think the attorney general, Mike Hatch, might be in a better position than me for that.
KING: Do you agree, though, as many seem to agree, even Governor Bush has hinted at some sort of commutation, that life in prison for a 14-year-old is wrong?
VENTURA: Well, again, you've got to take the specifics of the case. What he did was very wrong, too, the little that he murdered. But again, I will leave that up to Governor Bush because he'll have the specifics and I'm not in a position to, you know, to make any statement on that because I don't really know the case that well. But, certainly it is -- you know life without parole is pretty drastic. You know, at some point young man probably ought to be given due consideration at some point in time.
KING: But you tend to doubt the wrestling excuse.
VENTURA: I fully doubt the wrestling excuse, Larry. How many millions of kids -- I grew up watching wrestling and I don't behave in that manner. And, you know, millions and millions of other kids watch wrestling on a weekly basis, and they don't behave in that manner. They understand that wrestling is a show, and no different than a movie or anything else on television, and kids are brighter than that. They know the difference between a video game, television, and real life.
KING: Another thing keeping Jesse Ventura in the news, and we're going to cover a lot of topics tonight, is your taking the role away from governor's mansion on the weekends to do color on XFL football. Any regrets over accepting that?
VENTURA: Not at all. It gives me a chance to perform, Larry. I was a performer before I became governor. The only people really suffering over this is my wife, Terry, and my daughter, Jade. My son Tyrel now lives in Los Angeles, but it's time away from my family.
I mean I don't work Saturdays and Sundays generally anyway. I mean, you know I have security people with me. I can be reached at any point in time, and my contract states that if something comes up that the state of Minnesota takes precedence over doing football. And I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to perform. It gives me a chance to watch football into the spring, and it's been a lot of fun.
KING: Are you troubled that the league is not doing well?
VENTURA: I'm troubled over the fact that the media is missing the boat on this league. They're really missing what is all about. I think the media got fooled, Larry. They thought it was going to be football players hitting each other with chairs and mimicking wrestling.
Then when it came out to be legitimate football, just with a change in some of the rule to make it more exciting, well then they started tearing the league apart. Well, the talent isn't as good as the NFL. Well, of course it's not as good as the NFL. We never claimed that it would be.
But what they're missing the boat on is that we are a "we" league. We're a league where if the team does well, the players prosper instead of an "I" league. In the NFL, if I run for a thousand yards or I catch 100 passes, I get big money. Well, in the XFL, it's a flat pay scale, and the only bonus money is given out is if your team wins.
So, there's no egos in the locker room. When the center gets paid the same as the quarterback, you don't have this battle of egos and you have people trying to win for the sake of a team to make more money.
KING: So it's the media that preconceived the notion that this would be a wrestling football league?
VENTURA: Oh, I think they definitely did. You know, that's what they expected because Vince McMahon was in charge of it but they didn't realize that it's a legit football league, and I respect it. I like to call this the "Rudy" league. Remember that movie "Rudy"?
KING: Sure do.
VENTURA: The kid that just wanted to run down that aisle at Notre Dame, come up the tunnel one time in his life. Well, what's interesting, Larry, is unions are generally designed to protect workers; right?
VENTURA: That's the concept of a union. Well, in the NFL right now, the union is hurting the workers, because we've got players who have been kicked out of NFL because they're like five- or six-year veterans. They're required to be paid a minimum pay, and in order to stay under the salary cap, these guys are cut. Even when they offer to play for less money, they're not allowed to because it will violate the collective bargaining agreement.
KING: Well, we've got a lot of bases to touch. Let's now go, switch gears and go to Bill Clinton. What do you make of -- before we get to the pardons, the whole way he's handled leaving that office?
VENTURA: Well, you know, again, you're asking me to second-guess the president, and however he chooses to do it.
KING: Well, you can have an opinion as of one politician for another.
VENTURA: Don't call me a politician, Larry. I'm a statesman.
KING: I forgot. What do you make of this whole rigmarole?
VENTURA: Well, I think you need to look at the system. The president didn't really do anything wrong because our system allows him to pardon anybody. He could pardon Charles Manson if he so chose to do so. The president is given that much leeway to do it.
If you don't like it, then change the system. Don't allow him. Like in the state of Minnesota, I sit on the pardon board, but I sit there with Kathleen Blatz, the head -- chief justice of our Supreme Court as well as Attorney General Mike Hatch. Now in order for us to grant a pardon, all three of us must agree. If one of us disagrees, the pardon is not granted.
But it's not that way with the president. So, I would tell the people, if you don't like the system and don't want this sort of behavior to happen again -- and President Clinton isn't the first one to pardon a controversial figure. Many, many presidents have done it. If you don't like the system, change the system.
KING: Would you change it if you had the power to change it? VENTURA: Yes, I probably would. I think that it should go to more than one person to have that ability. You know, maybe possibly you would look at bringing in the chief justice of the Supreme Court and maybe the attorney general or whatever. Although, you name the attorney general federally, so that wouldn't really be fair either where in the state of Minnesota, of course, the attorney general is elected.
But, I think maybe if you had three elected people or three different people, it might work a little better. But then again, I'm not at the federal level, so I might be out of line, too, in saying that.
KING: Governor Jesse Ventura is our guest, coming to us from the governor's mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota. We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll be including your phone calls during this hour as well. Kelsey Grammer on Friday night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I will faithfully discharge...
VENTURA: That I will faithfully discharge...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the duties of the office of governor.
VENTURA: ... the duties of the office of governor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... of the state of Minnesota.
VENTURA: ... of the state of Minnesota.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to the best of my judgment.
VENTURA: ... to the best of my judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and ability.
VENTURA: ... and ability.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... so help me, God.
VENTURA: ... so help me, God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, governor.
VENTURA: Thank you, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Governor Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota. Are you, though, critical -- while you say the president can pardon anyone he wants -- are you critical of the decision to pardon Marc Rich? VENTURA: Well, again, Larry, the things I've heard about the case, I'm not exactly enthusiastic about it, from what I've heard. But I wouldn't be an expert to ask on that, Larry. I've got things in Minnesota. My legislature's in session right now. I'm working to pass another biannual budget.
So all I really know about the case is what I read about in the paper or watch on television shows occasionally.
So -- but I do think, you know, some -- yeah, it wasn't a very good pardon, I don't think. I think it was for political reasons.
KING: In the election, you sort of -- you didn't -- I don't think you supported anyone, did you?
VENTURA: No, not really. I've been a third party person, and I told both candidates that I would endorse policy rather than a candidate. If they came out with a good policy, I would state that I'm in support of that policy. But no, I did not endorse either Republican or Democrat, and I generally don't.
KING: Do you think Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election?
VENTURA: No, I do not, because I agree with what Mr. Nader says, that you earn those votes, and that people should vote their heart and their conscience, and go into that booth.
See, what's wrong today, Larry, is you get people going into a voting booth like a horse race. They're trying to pick a winner. They shouldn't go in and do that. They should pick the candidate of their choice that most represents what they believe in. And if you do that, then irregardless of who wins, you've done your civic duty.
Ralph Nader earned every vote because people believed Ralph Nader was their choice for candidate, and it's up for Vice President Gore or Governor Bush to win those votes over.
KING: What do you make -- speaking of Governor Bush -- what do you make so far of President Bush?
VENTURA: I am very enthusiastic about President Bush right now, I support his budget. I support his tax cuts. I think it's ridiculous that we've got people out there saying they're too drastic when the case is this is excess money, this is money that the government wasn't supposed to have anyway -- surplus money, if you want to call it, over-taxation money. And all he wants do is give us back 20 cents on the dollar. And the other people want us to get -- what? -- a dime back on the dollar. I'd be more inclined to say a quarter back on the dollar might be better.
KING: The Democrats are saying, though, it's not helping the people who need the help the most. The rich don't need it as much as those in the middle and lower.
VENTURA: Well, if you look at the president's cuts, the lower income gets the bigger percentage. They get the largest percentage cut. And why, Larry, are we penalized for being successful? Why does government take this attitude that somehow if you're successful you should have to apologize for it?
Look who pays most of the taxes. You're 1 percent of higher- income people pay almost a third of the income tax anyway. You know, my view is, is that the people that pay it ought to get the relief. If you're going to do it the other way, then call it a subsidy.
KING: Are you concerned about what's going on in the stock market?
VENTURA: Yeah, a little bit, like everybody. I think that -- but I think our economy is pretty solid. But you don't help the economy by more government spending, in my opinion, Larry. You help the economy by putting money back in the private sector's pocket so they can invest that money, so they can spend that money, so they can help the economy. By putting more money into the government, in my opinion, is not going help the economy. It's going to hurt it.
KING: So thus far, you're -- you're -- you give high ratings to the president at this short period into his time.
VENTURA: Well, I think some of the choices, the Cabinet choices he made were outstanding. When he picked General Powell as secretary of state, there is not a better choice he could make.
I looked at some of the president's choices, and I saw very much a parallel to what I did in Minnesota, putting the best, most qualified people in to do the job, and then hopefully he'll get out of their way and let them do their jobs. That's the best way to govern, in my opinion, and that's the way I do it in Minnesota.
KING: What's the toughest part about not being in a party and governing a state?
VENTURA: Well, you don't have any political punch out there. You don't have spin doctors and people that can try to make it right and all of that stuff. You really kind of stand on an island, and you have to, you know, take your own punches and weather the storm as it goes along. But I like that. I've been kind of a renegade and a loner and a rebel my entire life and career. So I'm very comfortable doing that.
But the nice thing is, too, I don't have to answer to a political party either very much. You know, I don't have to get in lockstep with a party, and I don't have to hire party cronies. I can get the best person for the job regardless of their party without having to hire within a party.
KING: But you have to get along, don't you?
VENTURA: Well, yeah, but when you're a centrist like I am, Larry, you've got the far left and the far right. Well, eventually, when they compromise, they're going to come to the middle, which is where I'm at. It just takes them three months longer to get there, and I always tell the people that. KING: Governor Jesse Ventura, later your phone calls. This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: He calls them as he sees them, Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota. I know education's a big priority with you, and in the related field to that, what do you make of these school killings?
VENTURA: Well, Larry, again, that comes down to, I think, parenting and parents taking an active involvement in raising their children and teaching them the values that they need to be taught. I don't think the government needs to be raising our kids. You know, these are tragic situations, where you've got obviously malfunctioning children that would get that violent and take that kind of action. It's horrible. There's no other way to talk about it.
How do you defend it or how do you stop it? I think each parent and all parents need to go home, look in the mirror, and say, "Am I doing the best job and communicating with my children so that they can come to me if they're troubled, so that you can work with your children if they have problems?" And I think it means, more attention needs to be paid to us as parents maybe on our kids rather than worrying so much about our jobs, the economy and everything else.
KING: How about access to weaponry?
VENTURA: Well, you know, again, as a gun owner, it's up to you to make sure that these weapons can't get into the hands of children. That's why you have a gun safe. That's why, if you so choose, buy gun locks and put those on.
You -- you know, with freedom we have to accept responsibility, Larry, and you know, you certainly don't want to lose your freedoms. But again, you must accept responsibility in which to hold those freedoms.
KING: Should, therefore, if a child were to take a gun from the home that didn't have this lock on it, should the parent be charged?
VENTURA: That's -- you know, again, that's a case of each case would have to be dealt with, I think, individually.
KING: Well, as I described that case, a parent left the safe unlocked and didn't have a safety lock, and the kid takes the gun to school.
VENTURA: Well, the kid also is old enough to know what the gun is, isn't he? I mean, you're not talking about some 8- or 9-year-old here that thinks it's a cap gun. This child knew exactly what the gun was. And are you going to charge the parent if the parent happens -- which one of us hasn't made a mistake in our life? You put your guns in your safe. Maybe you're working, something or other happens, you forget to lock the safe.
I mean, people lock their car keys in their cars all the time. People leave their cars unlocked and they get stolen. Are you then going to hold the car owner responsible if someone leaves their car unlocked and a drunk driver gets in and drives the car and murders someone? Is that the car owner's fault? No, I don't think that it is.
KING: Your plan in Minnesota in education is wide-sweeping, is it not? You want to take over all education in the state?
VENTURA: No, I do not want to do that at all. It's not wide- sweeping at all. What we simply want to do is take over the full funding of the per pupil K through 12 funding mechanism because right now, we already pay 70 percent of it. We mandate the other 30 percent to the local unit of government.
So, in essence, we're already dictating this 100 percent of the per pupil ratio. What I want to do is bring it off of the local government to make local property taxes local again, and this confusing game on your property tax statement. You'll know then that if there's any education spending on your property tax statement, it was done by your locals rather than state government.
KING: Do other states do that?
VENTURA: I have no idea what other states do, generally. I just look at what my state does, and try to adjust accordingly to what I think is the best idea.
KING: Governor Jesse Ventura is our guest. We'll be going to your calls in a little while and he's with us for the full hour. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Weighing 275 pounds, Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was Jesse Ventura in his heyday in the ring. Do you ever miss that?
VENTURA: Not really, Larry. It was a tough life, very physical. You have great memories of it, but I'm 49 years old now, and I'm proud to say that when I retired, I retired. I didn't make a comeback. You know, every wrestler today, they all retire, and then they make six comebacks after they're done retiring. I'm happy to say when I retired, I never wrestled again. I moved on. It was a great part of my life, but life goes on.
KING: Your most recent book was titled "Do I Stand Alone?: Going to the Mat against Political Pawns and Media Jackals." Do you still feel that way generally about the media?
VENTURA: I feel that the media and the news media especially is losing touch and the ratings war, because really, Larry, many of them now on your evening news are out to entertain us rather than report news to us. And if I want entertainment, there is all the other programming that I can choose to be entertained with.
I would prefer to get meat and potato news when I watch the news rather than the entertainment element of it. And, yes, it still goes on. You know, the media is out. It's a ratings battle. and they should be honest enough to say, yes, we're out to make money the same way everybody else is.
KING: But generally, haven't they been -- haven't they sort of like -- it's hard. How do you generalize the media? I mean, what is the media? There's so much media. But generally, you're pretty well- liked, aren't you? Don't you think, really?
VENTURA: Well, I think I'm popular because I do sell for them. You know, they'll use me on anything because it brings them ratings points. But, I would say in general, Larry, and I'm not saying this just to fluff you up, but the national media tends to treat me with a lot more respect at times than the Minnesota media does. I have more conflict with the Minnesota local media than I really do with national media.
KING: And why do you think is that?
VENTURA: Well, who knows? I guess it's because they're closer to me. They probably -- I don't know. You'd have to ask them why that is more so than me.
KING: Do you think maybe it's because you upset the apple cart there?
VENTURA: Oh, yes, I think that had something to do with it because, you know, what happened in the governor's race was there wasn't one media person, who are supposed to be experts, who predicted that I would win. Well, then the public began to question, well, how can these people be experts if they didn't see this coming?
And so then, of course, is well, he won the election. Can he govern? And I think now I've proven, yes, I can govern because really, I think just about anyone can if you truly go into this job, and you have an open mind and you work hard.
KING: What then you would say to Arnold Schwarzenegger? The story in California is many Republicans are encouraging him to run for governor.
VENTURA: I would tell Arnold, don't do it, Arnold. You don't want to come under the scrutiny. Keep making films at $20 million a pop.
KING: But you just said anyone can govern. He could probably do a good job, you think.
VENTURA: Oh, there is no doubt in my mind Arnold Schwarzenegger could do a terrific job. He's a brilliant man. He's exceptionally intelligent. He's one of the most motivated guys I've ever met in my life. If Arnold gets focused and wants to run to win, I wouldn't count him out, and certainly if they elected him out there, I think that he has the ability to do a tremendous job. He's a very intelligent man, and very personally driven man.
KING: Our guest is Governor Jesse Ventura. We're going to take a break and when we come back, we're going to include your phone calls. We've got swarms of people calling in. We'll get to as many as we can.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. Tomorrow night, we're going to look back at the stop sign murders, and Saturday night, a major program on heart disease. Right back with Governor Jesse Ventura after these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VENTURA: You check out the arm right there! You check out the tricep, the lateral deltoid right there. I'm so beautiful sometimes I can't even live with myself. It gets hard to look into the mirror because tears come to my eyes, because I cannot believe that there is anybody on Earth that can be as beautiful as me, with styled hair, beautiful earrings, the most beautiful beard in the world. And most of all, the greatest thing I've got going for me is I am modest!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You had a way about you, Jesse.
VENTURA: Larry, where did you dig that one up?
KING: I have no idea. The crew went out.
VENTURA: They must have.
KING: Let's go to -- let's go to some calls for Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota. Omaha, Nebraska, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Does the governor feel that there needs to be a disclaimer at the beginning of every wrestling show?
VENTURA: Do I feel there needs to be a disclaimer? What kind of disclaimer?
KING: What do you want, sir, like -- you mean, "This is a show"?
CALLER: Right. Well, that's....
VENTURA: It's unhealthy if you watch it, that it's -- you know, what kind of disclaimer do you put on...
KING: I guess to say that this is not a sporting event. It's more of a theatrical event.
VENTURA: Well, is there a disclaimer on a movie that says that this is a movie and it's not a documentary? Is there a disclaimer that pro football, they hit hard and people can get hurt? What do we need a disclaimer for? It's called parenting. Parents should watch it first. If they find it objectionable, don't let your kids watch it. That's called parenting.
KING: Madisonville, Kentucky with Governor Jesse Ventura, hello.
CALLER: Hello, governor. I'm an admirer of you. I've been an admirer for a long time. But some of the things you participated in recently kind of troubled me and I wish you would address it -- the risque nature of the wrestling things that you participated in recently and the XFL that is increasingly vulgar in some of its nature. Although I admire you personally, I wish you'd explain your recent actions in those two areas.
VENTURA: Vulgar? What is your definition of vulgar?
CALLER: Well, vulgar is the pornographic type stuff that goes on in the ring recently in the WWF and the...
VENTURA: I -- I -- wait a minute. Wait a minute. I've refereed one match since I've been governor, one match. And as far as the XFL goes, excuse me, isn't there the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders? And whenever I watch the NFL, they usually go to a cleavage shot right before they go to break.
KING: Is pro wrestling, though, doing a lot more things in the sexy area, woman involved? Is that true? I haven't watched it. Is it true?
VENTURA: Larry, you know what? Larry -- Larry, it's called supply and demand. They're getting the highest ratings they've ever gotten in their life, they're making more money than they've ever made. The simplest way to change wrestling, don't watch it if you don't like it.
Obviously, people like it. They're watching it in the greatest numbers in history. Right now, it's by far, the highest-rated shows on cable television are pro wrestling. And so it's called, you know, if the people don't like it, don't watch it. Don't sit back and criticize.
KING: Palm City, Florida for Governor Jesse Ventura, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Thank you very much for taking my call.
CALLER: I'd like to touch upon the XFL with the governor.
KING: Go right ahead.
CALLER: The opinion polls -- you were elected by the people of Minnesota, and the opinion polls show that they don't want you to be announcing XFL games. Why not just wait until you're finished being governor and then go back to announcing the XFL games after you're being governor, unless you want to run for re-election? And then I wouldn't be doing this because the people don't support it.
VENTURA: Really? Well, the opinion polls are 50-50. Where are you getting your polls from? They asked the question in Minnesota: 50 percent of the people said they cared less about it. Fifty percent said they didn't particularly like it.
You know what the problem is here? There's no problem if I spent every weekend going out raising money for a political party, would there be? There wouldn't be any problem doing political fund-raisers to build up a big war chest so that I could go out and spend millions of dollars to get re-elected. Everyone would say, oh, that's perfectly fine, that's what all politicians do.
Well, I'm a citizen governor. And if I so choose to want to hold a second job, I don't think I lose my rights just because I'm elected. You know, most people in America are commended when they go out and hold two jobs to help support their family, and yet I've got people out there that seem to want to criticize me for doing it.
KING: Do you support McCain-Feingold and campaign finance reform?
VENTURA: I think that it touches on the subject but it doesn't go nearly as far as it ought to go. You know, we're passing -- we're trying to pass that type of legislation here to get -- to try to get the money out of politics. I mean, this last election, it was like 3 or 4 billion dollars were spent across the nation to elect candidates.
Now imagine what we could do with that money if it wasn't being spent for that. And how about these negative ads that are out there now, where these groups of special interests can put on these lying, deceptive ads? And there's no accountability whatsoever to these ads, there's no chance for a candidate to respond to them, and they do a great disservice to the voting public.
KING: How do like the job, governor?
VENTURA: What job? Which one?
KING: Your job, being governor.
VENTURA: Oh, I love the job.
KING: Is it all you expected? You going to run again?
VENTURA: I'm leaning that way right now, but I really won't make the decision until a year from this July, when it comes time to register to run again.
VENTURA: Larry -- Larry, you know, for these critics of me, about working the XFL and that, I've already stated that if I do run for re-election, I'm not going to go out and raise money to campaign. I'm not going to go to any fund-raisers or actively raise any money whatsoever.
KING: You will take contributions only if it's just sent in?
VENTURA: I'll take them if they send them in, because it would be too difficult probably to figure out how to send them back, but I'm not going to actively raise money, because when you look at a candidate today, they spend, if they're out campaigning six days a week, five of the six days are done going to fund-raisers to get money. To get money.
KING: You think -- you think you could win a race for re- election without taking an ad?
VENTURA: I think that if I -- I think that I will debate, I will participate in debates. I think that if I can't be re-elected on my four-year record, then I don't want the job -- then elect someone else who you think can do it better.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Governor Jesse Ventura on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. More of your phone calls as well. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota. Caledonia, Minnesota, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Hello, governor. I was just curious, maybe you could make some news tonight and state yes or no if you're going to run again.
KING: Well, we just asked him that, and the governor said he's leaning toward running again. If he does run again...
VENTURA: I'm leaning toward running again, because I'm fascinated by the job. There's a lot of things I haven't accomplished yet. I still want to get unicameral, one-house legislature, on the ballot. I think I'll have to work hard to do that. I'm leaning that way, but I won't make the decision until July of next year.
KING: But with a 70 percent popularity rating, that's a pretty good lean.
VENTURA: Yeah, but Larry, I won't run because of that: I'll run because I want to do the job. The popularity is irrelevant to me. I'm not like the career politician who sees the chance to continue. If I feel that I don't want to do this anymore, I don't care if I've got a 90 percent approval rating.
KING: Huntington Beach, California, hello.
CALLER: Larry, great shirt. Governor, I...
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: ... admire you, because basically you've proven that you don't need to be a career politician to run for public office, and it encouraged more people. My question, if Arnold doesn't take your advice and decides to run anyway, (a) would you help him, and (b) what would be the one thing you'd tell him to do?
VENTURA: Well, first of all, certainly I'd help him. He's a friend of mine. You know, Arnold and I have been friends now for over a decade, well over a decade.
KING: You'd come in and make speeches for him...
VENTURA: I don't think Arnold will need me to make a speech for him.
KING: But if he asked you.
VENTURA: If he asked me? It depends. If he'd foot the bill, I would, you know.
KING: And what advice would you give him?
VENTURA: The advice I would give him is to always make every decision based upon whether you're not going to get reelected or not. Don't make any decisions based upon getting reelected.
KING: In our Web site, we had five questions featured on. One of them asked of you was the worst piece of advice you were ever given you and answered to do a "Playboy" interview. In retrospect, that was a mistake?
VENTURA: Well, no, it wasn't really mistake, but it did cause my family and myself the most heartache, you know...
KING: Because you criticized organized religion; right?
VENTURA: Well, no. There were other things I did. Because I was bluntly honest, you know, and when you become a politician, it can be very detrimental to be honest. It's much easier to lie because if you're really truthful, sometimes the truth hurts.
KING: Have you had to frankly cop out at all as governor? Have you had to come back on an issue because of the needs of politics?
VENTURA: No, I don't believe that I have. I will say that as you learn more, sometimes you'll change your mind on issues, which is normal. Everybody can have a change of mind. But, no, I -- the thing that I've really learned, Larry, is this is that when I'm Jesse "The Body" Ventura, I can speak my mind.
If I'm a radio talk show host, whatever I do, I have the free --- I can freewheel, and because then I'm only answering for myself. What I have learned as governor is that I do represent the state of Minnesota. So in doing that, I sometimes tend to hold back now a little more on my personal opinions on some things. KING: I want to touch another base with you. The Army chief of staff is proposing outfitting all of the service's 1.3 million troops in black berets, previously worn exclusively only by the Ranger. You were a Navy SEAL. What do you make of that idea?
VENTURA: Well, I don't like it at all and I made that known to the president and the vice president and the secretary of defense. I believe that, you know, the Army Rangers have had that black beret now for about 50 years. They pay a price to get it, that it should be exclusively for them.
It would it be no different than if the Navy gave out what we call the Trident or the Budweiser, which is the symbol of the Navy SEALs. You don't hand that out to anyone unless they earn it, and you have to earn your way to be an Army Ranger just as you have to earn your way to be a Navy SEAL and so I would be very upset if I was a Navy SEAL and they did that.
I don't think they need to do that. I think it's being done just to try to glorify the Army a little more and probably to get people to enlist more. Oh, I can wear a black beret just by signing my name on the dotted line and going to boot camp.
KING: Do you have any -- what are the pollution questions in Minnesota? You said politicians can change their mind. Today, the president changed his mind. He made a campaign promise about carbon dioxide emissions, and changed that today. What are your thoughts on that?
VENTURA: Well, I'm not familiar with -- I don't even remember the promise he made the first time around, Larry. I didn't watch all the campaigns or keep up with every promise made. But certainly, I think that you have to give leeway that if someone gets into office and as they acquire more information and they become more knowledgeable on certain subjects, that you have to have the ability.
I would be more worried if someone didn't have ability to change their mind. You know. But, then again, you have to stay true to your certain core issues, also where you really shouldn't change your mind.
KING: By the way...
VENTURA: On this particular issue, I think that, you know, there's room to change your position.
KING: Is governor -- is President Bush's performance surprising you? Is he doing better than you thought?
VENTURA: No. Well, it's far too early to tell, fully. I think he named a pretty solid Cabinet, as I said earlier, and I think that he is sticking to his word and holding the line on the tax cuts that he promised to give. I commend him for that. I think he is doing a fairly decent job right now, absolutely. But, you really can't judge him until about a year from now.
KING: We'll be right back with more phone calls for Governor Jesse Ventura. Kelsey Grammer on Friday night, and Sunday night, eight nominees for Academy Awards. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VENTURA: ... lives on in Minnesota as we shock the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PREDATOR")
VENTURA: ... bug in like an Alabama tick.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're hit. You're bleeding, man.
VENTURA: I ain't got time to bleed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Great title of a great book: "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed." Do you miss doing movies?
VENTURA: Oh, yes. Movie making, Larry, is probably the most fun job you can have as long as you're employed. There's nothing like it. You get, you know, to be creative. You get to see the end results when the film comes out. Absolutely, I miss movie making, and maybe I'll dabble back into that when I'm done in politics.
KING: Let's go to -- back to calls. That scene was from "Predator." Toronto, Canada.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Jesse. How are you?
VENTURA: Very well, thank you. How are you?
CALLER: Not bad, not bad. Any comments and/or suggestions of the Florida election and all of those recounts?
VENTURA: Well, my personal viewpoint is this: I don't know, I kind of don't like the Electoral College to begin with irrelevant of what happened in this election. I find it strange that someone can get the most votes and lose. You know, that we're actually elected by the states rather than by people.
And, you know, I think it was good way back when. But to me, today, with all the technology we have today, first of all we need to upgrade our voting process because the first thing you'll find in state government when they want to cut something is they'll cut money out of voting. Well, they learned a valuable lesson that maybe they ought to invest in voting a little bit more to keep the integrity of it to the level it should be.
But I personally believe the person with the most votes should win, rather than the Electoral College, but that's here nor there, really, because that's the way the rules are, and you have to abide by the rules of that current election. KING: Fredericksburg, Virginia. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry, how are you?
CALLER: Hi, Governor Ventura, being an ex-Navy man, what's your opinion on the recent tragedies with the Navy? I mean, we have the USS Greeneville colliding with the Japanese fishing boat and killing nine men and now the F/A-18 Hornet bombing the observation post and killing six.
VENTURA: Well, first of all, let's remember something. What these people do is real. This isn't the movies. This isn't pro- wrestling. It's not even pro football or anything like that. We have people here that deal in life-and-death situations.
And rest assured, as my friend Dick Marcinko always says, no matter what kind of op you go on, whether it's real or whether it's training, Mr. Murphy will come along with you. Do you know who Mr. Murphy is? That is Murphy's law: Anything that can go wrong maybe will go wrong.
And being that you deal with real things like this in life-or- death situations, unfortunately, we're all human. Mistakes will be made and when mistakes happen, it can cost lives. They're tragic, but that's reality.
KING: Do you have a thought on the submarine policy of taking civilians so they show them how the submarines work?
VENTURA: Well, I'm not real high on that. I don't think we ought to be doing that, because it would, to me, it would be like taking civilians on a Navy SEAL operation. You know, you can compromise the mission. Why do you need to be looking after them? You have a job to do, and you should be focused on doing it. If civilians want to see what the military can do, they can join the service. That is the way they can find out.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: For Governor Ventura; San Diego, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Jesse. With all your remarkable accomplishments, as an adult I would love to know what your aspirations were as a child
VENTURA: I was an athlete. I was a competitive swimmer. I played football all the way through high school. I probably didn't study as much as I should have. I enjoyed having a good time with my friends, probably more than hitting the school books at that time. And then, I was going to go to college, and then I kind of got disenchanted a little bit, and went out and joined the Navy. I graduated from high school in June, and joined the Navy in September of 1969. So I don't know, really, what my aspirations were. I was a kid, probably like a lot of kids, that didn't know really what he or she wanted to do, and so the military seemed like a good way to see the world, and go out and enjoy life and life experiences. So, that is what I did.
KING: Why the SEALs?
VENTURA: Because my brother was in them before me. In fact, we actually served together, not in the same platoon but we actually served together for a year and a half. So he went through BUDS class 49, and I went through BUDS class 58. My parents actually had to actually sign a release to the United States Navy to allow us to be in the same basic unit. We were never in the same platoon together, but we were in the same basic unit.
So I followed my brother. He was also a competitive swimmer, too, like all younger brothers, for a period of your life you always tend to do what your older brother does.
KING: You still swim?
VENTURA: Oh, yes, I can still -- I just don't do the butterfly any more, I stick to the breaststroke now. But yeah, I swam last winter. I was going over the University of Minnesota and I do 72 lengths without stopping, which is one mile.
KING: Los Angeles, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry and Governor.
CALLER: First and foremost, I commend you for having a backbone and being your own man, and also having a life. OK.
VENTURA: Thank you.
CALLER: My question is, would you consider in 2004 running for president? Because you are what we need.
VENTURA: Well, I'm flattered that people even say that to me, but personally, at this point in my life I don't think I would want the job, because the president really lives in a bubble. And the president in itself is an oxymoron in a way, because he is the leader of the free world, but he has no freedom himself at all. You can't -- you know, you can't go anywhere because of national security without being heavily guarded. It is really like living in a prison in its own way, and so I would really have to break through that mind-set of living a life like that.
It is hard enough being governor with the security that I have around me. I can't -- I can't imagine what it is like being president, because I have been around them and so I don't know. I'm flattered that people would consider me for that, but again, it would have to be a decision I would really have to make a turnaround on to do it.
KING: Do you think you could be electable?
VENTURA: Oh, absolutely, I could be. There is no doubt in my mind I could be. I think everywhere I go, Larry, in the country people tell me to run. But you know, again, you've got to raise a lot of money and I find that -- that is not my strong -- panhandling has never been a top priority in my life.
KING: What is your party now? You are not Reform Party anymore. What are you?
VENTURA: No, I belong to the Independent's Party of Minnesota which was the Minnesota Reform Party but we were the Independent's Party prior to affiliating with the Reform Party of 1996. Then we disaffiliated from them in the year 2000, so I'm back to the Independence Party in Minnesota and we are doing just fine.
KING: Do you expect to see other independent candidates around the country, run for various posts?
VENTURA: Well, I think you will. We have the most candidates we have ever fielded this year but it is very difficult, because you have an unlevel playing field, you know. Like in the -- you know what would make me run for president though, Larry? I'll tell what you would make me run. The fact is I would love to see them keep me out of the debates, because they would attempt to do that. And I would love the challenge to see the Democrats and Republicans say, no, we are not going to let Jesse Ventura debate, because I would love to see the outcry from the nation on that one.
KING: Yeah, I could picture you even charging into the arena, Jesse.
VENTURA: Oh, no. I wouldn't do that. But the case is, Larry, is if the same standard in the presidential election were held in Minnesota, I wouldn't be the governor today, because at the point of the primary, I was only polling 10 percent, where they required a 15 percent at the national level. See, I showed that you could come from 10 percent, and in seven weeks you could win an election, and they are afraid that could happen again.
KING: Always good seeing you, Jesse.
VENTURA: Absolutely, Larry, my pleasure. Look forward to doing it again.
KING: Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota. Tomorrow night, the "stop sign" murders are back in the news. We will investigate.
For more information you won't see anywhere else on our guest tonight, Minnesota's world-famous Governor Jesse Ventura, visit "Cable Talk" on my Web site, at cnn.com/larryking. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT." Good night.
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