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Campbell Brown

Politics of War; Interview With Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura

Aired April 08, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And tonight, everyone, the politics of war.
The top U.S. commander tells Congress that on a scale of one to 10, with 10 getting troops out, we are at a six or a seven right now, and there is still no end in sight. The three people who want to be our next president were among those asking questions today. We are going to get an update from the members of the best political team in television and a reality check from our Baghdad correspondents, who actually know what it is like there on the ground in Iraq.

Plus, he went from the wrestling rink to the governor's mansion, Jesse Ventura is back, and he has got a lot to say about politics. We are going to talk to him a little bit later in the show.

But first let's start with Iraq. And the big headline from General David Petraeus' testimony on Capitol Hill today is that there are no plans for any more troop withdraws beyond the 20,000 surge troops who will be coming home by this summer.


GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDING GENERAL OF THE MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Upon the withdrawal of the last surge brigade combat team in July, we undertake a 45-day period of consolidation of our forces and evaluation. At the end of that period, we will commence a period of assessment. This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable.


BROWN: The general's plan would leave about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for an undetermined period of time, news that didn't sit well with Democrats, who pressed Petraeus about how long it could be before there are more withdraws.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: But I'm just asking you a direct question: Could that be as long as three months?

PETRAEUS: It could be, sir.

LEVIN: Could it be as long as four months?

PETRAEUS: Sir, it is when the conditions are met, again.


BROWN: Time after time today, the general told senators that progress in Iraq is real, but fragile and reversible.


PETRAEUS: We haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. And the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.


BROWN: The line of the day. It was a big day on Capitol Hill and made even bigger because presidential candidates John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were among the senators asking questions today.

And we want to get more now on the hearings from senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. She's been covering the Democrats' battle for the presidential nomination. And congressional correspondent Dana Bash, who has been covering presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

Dana, let me start with you. And I just kind of want to get your take on what was happening in the room today. You had some very impatient senators from both parties frankly pressing General Petraeus, a pretty tough crowd.

And they're all sort of looking for something from him to take home to their constituents, something in terms of where we're headed. Did they get it?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they didn't. And you played really a great example, an illustration of the very long day of hearings here.

For those senators looking for a timeline or even a general timeline or a promise for a withdrawal coming up, they definitely did not get it from General Petraeus, no matter how hard they tried. They did get some discussion of some progress on the military front, but with that they also got a real reality check that on the political front, there still is a lot of work to do.

But you know, Campbell. You have covered these hearings. I know Candy has also. This tends to be not as much about information- gathering from thee senators as a chance for them to really talk about the issues that they think their constituents back home want to hear them. They want to hear them represent their feelings back home.

We definitely heard that from Democrats and from Republicans. But most interestingly, at least towards the afternoon, you heard from some of the more disgruntled Republicans in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for example, Senator George Voinovich, who represents Ohio, one of those states that is really turning -- it has turned for a while -- when it comes to the war.

He said, we have had it. The American people have had it up to here when it comes to the war. So, you definitely get a sense of frustration that is definitely geared towards the folks back home.

BROWN: And, Candy, as much attention was on the presidential candidates as was on Petraeus and Crocker today.

The two Democrats campaigning essentially to bring the troops home now, let's first listen to what they both had to say today.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of the statements and suggestions that have been made leading up to this hearing and even during it, that it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership to advocate withdrawing troops from Iraq in a responsible and carefully planned withdrawal.

I fundamentally disagree.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder, that the two problems that you have pointed out -- al Qaeda in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region -- are a direct result of that original decision.

That's not a decision you gentlemen made. I won't lay it at your feet. You are cleaning up the mess afterwards.


BROWN: Candy, so much of this is about theater, frankly. Talk to us about their performances today, both of them, Clinton and Obama, and whether they took advantage of this opportunity.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they both went in, in some ways, with the same mission. And that is here you have the calendar at a highly political time. You're in the Senate, which is a highly political place, and you're running for commander in chief, which requires a certain amount of seriousness. I think they both carried that off fairly well.

You saw Hillary Clinton there. She's been on that committee for some time, gained a considerable amount of knowledge. She wanted to display her experience, if you will, what she knew about the situation in Iraq, about what was coming up.

So, you heard some very specific questions for her. Slightly different on Barack Obama's side -- he, too, though, wanted to be seen as a commander in chief, but he also had to be seen -- remember, they are talking to a guy who knows everything about Iraq. They had to be as smart about Iraq and know as much about Iraq as he did.

And what Obama, who is being hit a lot by Clinton on the experience issue, had to show was a command of the issue, a command of what the key parts of the issues are. And I think they feel very good in the Obama campaign that he did just that.

BROWN: And, Dana, talk to us about McCain's performance. He's politically trying to sell an unpopular war, his position.

Let's listen to what he had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there.

Our goal -- my goal -- is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops, and I believe we can achieve that goal perhaps sooner than many imagine.


BROWN: He's trying to walk a very fine line right now, isn't he?

BASH: He absolutely is. One of the things our viewers might not know is just -- and I know, in following Senator McCain around -- is that he talks about General Petraeus all the time on the stump.

He even says that he thinks he should have gotten the "TIME" magazine man of the year. So he obviously has a lot of respect for General Petraeus. He has a lot riding on General Petraeus' success.

But just like you said, Campbell, he also is walking a very fine line, talking up the success, talking up the progress, deriding Democrats for acknowledging that. But, at the same time, McCain aides understand that the only way he's going to be able to convince people who are opposed to the war to go with him is to play up what he calls his straight talk.

And so you saw him do a little of that very, very gently with General Petraeus today, talking about the fact through questioning that there have been 1,000 or so Iraqi military and members of the police force who basically disappeared during the battle of Basra, gently said isn't that a problem? Isn't that discouraging? So, trying to acknowledge that there still are problems. Whether he can sell that in the face of those Democrats, it's a big question mark.

BROWN: All right. All right.

Candy and Dana, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

And our Baghdad correspondents were also following today's hearings. We're going to see how today's testimony squares with what they see every day on the streets of Baghdad.

Also, wrestler-turned-politician Jesse Ventura, he calls the system broke. We are going to ask him how to fix it.



RYAN CROCKER, U. S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: We have no problem with a good, constructive relationship between Iran and Iraq. The problem is with the Iranian strategy of backing extremist militia groups and sending in weapons and munitions that are used against Iraqis and against our own forces.


BROWN: That was U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker with another headline from today's Iraq hearings, that Iran is just as much of a problem in Iraq as is al Qaeda.

We want to get a reality check now on how it's going on the ground. And I'm joined by our own Michael Ware. He is usually based in Iraq, but was in Washington for today's hearings. And senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who is in Baghdad joining us as well.

And, Michael, let me start with you, because I know this was an unusual place for you to be, to be able to sit there on Capitol Hill and observe all of this. How did it square what you heard today coming from Petraeus and Crocker with what you see on the ground in Baghdad?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty much an accurate reflection. Certainly, it's a reelection of the American position and assessment of things.

And, for example, the issue you highlight, Iran, that's been the story of the Iraq war for the last two or three years. Now, this hasn't been a war about al Qaeda for quite some time. And even before many military commanders and certainly others realized it, Iran was emerging as the big winner of this conflict by spreading its influence into Iraq, where it once stopped at Saddam's border, where it saw many of its friends and allies take power in U.S.-sponsored elections.

So, the fact is that what's at the heart of this conflict now, apart from trying to stabilize a broken country as a result of America's invasion, is the competition between America and Iran for influence, now, not just in Iraq itself, but throughout the region.

So, there's a lot riding here. And for them to be hitting those marks, I mean, that's been the story on the ground for years. And al Qaeda is the same. Al Qaeda has been put under pressure. We have seen the successors of the U.S.-backed militias, the awakening councils. And we have seen the mixed results of the Iraqi government security forces. So, pretty much, they painted a good sense of what's been happening.

BROWN: Let me follow up on that with you, Nic, particularly, because it was another big theme today, the Iraqi security forces, their ability to step up, along with the Iraqi government.

And a point that came up today was this recent battle in Basra. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVIN: In your judgment, was the Iraqi government operation in Basra properly and carefully planned and were the preparations adequate? Could you give me a direct answer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, the answer is, again, it could have been much better planned. It was not adequately planned or prepared.


BROWN: So, what does that tell you, Nic? Bottom line it for us. Is there a lack of confidence by General Petraeus, by the Americans in the Iraqi security forces and in Iraqi government and their ability to lead on this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think perhaps almost counterintuitively at the moment, there's perhaps a greater degree of confidence in the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, because what he's doing at the moment is taking on the Shia militias. Now, that's his constituency. And that is bringing him support from the other constituencies in Iraq, the Kurds and the Sunnis.

And that's allowing him as prime minister to build some political bridges and find political compromise, to move forward on key issues like oil law, election laws, the issue of Kirkuk in Iraq that he hasn't been able to do before. He's making himself stronger and he's making himself more able to take some -- some hard political decisions and move the country forward.

But in terms of security and running the country's security, I think what he really showed is that as a prime minister in the job of running security for the country, that he is learning it on the job and he is learning it almost at the expense of some of his security forces and is working with an army that is learning war-fighting on the job.

So I think really General Petraeus probably has a very accurate read of what security forces in Iraq can do. In some places, he said, they did well. Basra was a real point in case where they didn't do well. And Sadr City in Baghdad another point in case where they absolutely need U.S. military support behind them. I think General Petraeus has a pretty clear understanding of what the prime minister's capabilities are right now -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, to Nic and Michael, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

And Michael will be back with me at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight for a special edition of "A.C. 360," the truth about the troop surge in Iraq.

One of the most fascinating things about today's Iraq hearings today was the political drama. Which of our would-be presidents looked most presidential today? That's coming up.


BROWN: One of the most fascinating things about today's Iraq hearings was watching the presidential candidates stake out their positions as they tried to drill down for answers.

Take a look.


MCCAIN: I also believe that the promise of withdraw of our forces regardless of the consequences would constitute a failure of political and moral leadership.

CLINTON: The administration and supporters of the administration's policy often talk about the cost of leaving Iraq, yet ignore the greater cost of continuing the same failed policy.

OBAMA: I think that increased pressure in a measured way, in my mind -- and this is where we disagree -- includes a timetable for withdrawal. Nobody's asking for a precipitous withdrawal, but I do think that it has to be a measured but increased pressure; and a diplomatic surge that includes Iran.


BROWN: So, how did the candidates do?

Let's turn to our panel now, "TIME" magazine editor at large and senior political analyst Mark Halperin, Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary during President Bush's first term. And in Detroit is former Michigan Congressman David Bonior, who was John Edwards' national campaign manager.

Welcome to everybody.

So, Mark, let me start with you. All three were staking out different turf, so to speak. They're all trying to sort of accomplish something different. Who succeeded today? Give me sort of your assessment.

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": I think this was the biggest day in the history of this campaign, maybe in presidential political history. Just kidding. Not much really happened.



BROWN: I was on the edge of my seat.

HALPERIN: Trying to build it up.


HALPERIN: McCain I think probably achieved the most in the following sense. He has to show that he's supportive of the macropolicy, but also show that he's willing to be critical of tactical things that are being done now, as well as project forward.

And he was very much like a commander in chief, hard to do sitting up there as a senator, acting -- it was almost like, if he were president and debriefing these two guys, friendly witnesses, though, from his point of view.

The other two I think had twin tasks as well. They had to show that they were critical of the war, which they are, but also not disrespectful of the military, and trying to come up with solutions, not just be critical. I thought they all did fine. I don't think anybody did anything to change anything or to sway the debate one way or the other.

BROWN: Ari, your take.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the dynamics are different because there's still a primary under way.


FLEISCHER: And Iraq has hurt Hillary Clinton and hurt her badly in her primaries. It's one of the reasons Barack Obama has come -- has gotten such a big lead over her.

John McCain, on the other hand, really is making his case to centrists and independents in a much more toned-down environment than the last time General Petraeus came last fall, when it really was dramatic, big news. Because of the relative improvement in security in Iraq, it's a secondary story, interestingly, which is amazing.

BROWN: But, David, let me get your take on this, because how you have kind of have to read it I think is you have got this general who says we can't get out and you have got these two Democrats running for president who say we're planning to get out if we're elected.

How do you reconcile those two as they're being very respectful and telling us that they are going to listen to the general?

DAVID BONIOR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, Campbell, the thing that struck me the most today as I watched this is that they all three of them played their role. They were respectful, as Mark has indicated. They looked intelligent.

But when you have a war that has consumed 4,000 -- over 4,000 American lives, broken bodies in the tens of thousands, 100,000 Iraqis dead, the cost of this war into half-a-trillion, it begs for some kind of emotion. But I didn't see very much emotion today from the three candidates.

Now, as a political person, you advise your person to be cool and rational and thoughtful. But I think the American people want to see some emotion over one of the biggest catastrophes in modern American history and perhaps of all American history. BROWN: I think David makes a good point. I was sort of struck by the fact that they were so respectful and not -- especially the Democrats here.

HALPERIN: Look, we're close -- the Democratic contest going on so long has caused our perspective to go up a little bit.

One of those three people is going to be commander in chief in just a few months.


BROWN: And that's what they were trying to display today.

HALPERIN: We're not just trying to project that, but I think all three of them feel that. This could be their ambassador and this could be their head of the war in Iraq who they are going to have to deal with, if not in the White House, at least during the transition.

BROWN: Let me ask just you very, very quickly. We're almost out of time. But the picture of Petraeus and McCain, I think we have it looking very chummy, very comfortable with each other. A vice presidential ticket here?


FLEISCHER: No. No. I think that's the last thing a general wants to do at this point is get into the political system.

BROWN: Really?



BROWN: It's a fantasy of some people.


FLEISCHER: Well, I still don't think -- John McCain doesn't need a general on his ticket. He needs to balance himself out in other civilian ways.

But what also struck me, there's a reason that senators usually don't become presidents. The work of the Senate is serious, but it's staid and relatively boring. You compare this to what they do on the stump, with the rhetoric and the emotion and the passion, very, very different setting, different communications.

BROWN: Right. All right, stay here. You guys aren't leaving. We will be back in just a second.

We have got new ads from the Democrats featuring pictures of a very young Obama and even a baby Hillary Clinton, apparently. Will that appeal to voters more than the squabbling over issues? We will talk about that when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Democrats Clinton and Obama are showing a softer side today. We have got new ads that highlight their personal influences, the focus on home and family.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's given him a lot of depth and a broadness of view.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Barack and I talk all the time about making sure that our girls can imagine any kind of world for themselves with no barriers.



CLINTON: Every August, we would pile into the car and head to our cottage on Lake Winola. There was no heat or indoor shower., just the joy of family. I was raised on pinochle and the American dream. I still have faith in that dream.


BROWN: So, we just saw two ads there, all very personal in tone. What do you think of them? What are they going for here?

HALPERIN: They're going for that emotion that David Bonior talked about. I think they're both pretty good ads. It was reported today something that's been around for a while. Obama is spending more on television ads in Pennsylvania per week than anyone has ever spent, more than a presidential candidate in the past or a gubernatorial candidate.

A lot of spending is fine, but you need good ads. I think these are amongst the best ads both campaigns have put on because they are emotional and because they reveal a side of these candidates that even people paying attention don't necessarily know.

BROWN: Ari and David, let me throw up the latest poll numbers, too. This is from the Quinnipiac poll, Pennsylvania. Back in February, Clinton at 52 percent to 36 percent. Right now, we have got Clinton at 50 percent, Obama 44 percent. It's really tightening.

FLEISCHER: I don't think anybody should be surprised after a big, long pause like this, if the race naturally tightens. But at the end of the day, I still think Hillary Clinton is on her way to a nice win in Pennsylvania. She needs it.

She's lucky Pennsylvania, like Ohio, a post-industrial state. She won Ohio before. She's lucky this is next, because she still is in deep trouble, but she needs to get hot here at the end if she is going to have a chance.

BROWN: David, what do you think is happening on the ground in Pennsylvania now?

BONIOR: Well, I think we have a got a very competitive race in Pennsylvania right now. And I think those poll numbers -- pollsters can argue them either way. You can take a 14 percentage poll that you talked about at the beginning and take it to where it is today, which they say now is close at six points. But the margin of error is four. So, it can be 10 and down to 10. So, it could be really basically the same where it's been for two weeks.

But my sense is that it's going to be a closer race than it was for instance in Ohio. Pennsylvania is a very -- it's an older state, which has a huge older population, which is going to help Senator Clinton. And it also has a Catholic population, as well as a working blue-collar population, which should help her as well.

But, you know, what comes around goes around. And what the Clintons did to Governor Casey years ago at the National Democratic Convention is going to be a problem for them in Pennsylvania, I believe.

BROWN: OK. Well, explain that, if you're making that point, David.

BONIOR: Well, let me explain it.

BROWN: Quickly.

BONIOR: What happened was, they didn't let Governor Casey speak, the Clintons, did years ago in the Democratic National Convention. And a lot of people were put off around the country who thought and had a lot of respect for Senator Casey and the family.

And now we have got a senator, his son, in Pennsylvania endorsing Senator Obama. And while I'm not really big on endorsements meaning a terrible lot in these races, I think this one in particular will have some significance before it's over with.

BROWN: All right, we have got to end it there. But our thanks to David and Mark and Ari here in the studio with me. Appreciate it, guys.

Few political shockers matched the moment Jesse Ventura was elected Minnesota governor. We all remember that, right? After a few years of silence, though, the wrestler-turned-governor-turned-TV-host is talking again about Iraq, about the two-party system, and America's current leadership.

We will talk to him coming up.


BROWN: Jesse Ventura made a name for himself as a professional wrestler but in 1998, he climbed into the political ring and was elected governor of Minnesota. He won office as an independent and governed that way from day one. Never afraid to deviate from the party line, even met with Fidel Castro. So what has he been doing since he left office in 2002? Among other things, sharpening his critique of the two parties, the war in Iraq and our current leaders, he writes about it all in his new book "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me."

Welcome to you. Good to see you.


BROWN: So, where have you been for the last few years? You kind of fell off the radar screen.

VENTURA: Well, I kind of had my silenced purchased. When I came out of office, I was the hottest commodity out there. Everybody wanted me. I signed a three-year contract with MSNBC, and I opposed the war in Iraq so they didn't put me on the air. So I sat home and got paid for three years as well as my assistant. That contract ran out last March so now I'm back. I've also moved to Mexico.

BROWN: You got to make a living again. OK.

VENTURA: No, no, no. I don't have to. I moved -- they made me wealthy enough. I don't have to work anymore. And so, I moved to Mexico and I live in Mexico now. I live with those --

BROWN: And you're surfing down in Mexico, right? I read that you're surfing down in Mexico?


BROWN: You're taking surfing lessons?

VENTURA: No, no, no.

BROWN: Quite a departure from --

VENTURA: I'm not taking surfing lessons. I'm self-taught.


VENTURA: I grew up and learned the hard way.

BROWN: Of course, you are.

VENTURA: You fall down off the board until you get back up.

BROWN: Let me ask you about the news. I mean, the big news today, of course, is on Capitol Hill.


BROWN: General Petraeus testifying about the war in Iraq and being questioned by all three presidential candidates. Who do you like? I mean, who are you paying attention to, and who do you think would deal with the issue of the war in Iraq the best? VENTURA: I don't think it matters.

BROWN: Why not?

VENTURA: Well, because in the 2006 election, the country clearly gave the Democrats a mandate to get us out of there. They haven't even attempted to, and their excuse is they can't override Bush's veto. Well, that's baloney.

BROWN: Well, they can't. That's not an excuse.

VENTURA: Well, but they don't need to. Oh, yes, it is an excuse. They control the money. All they have to do is withhold the money.

Presidents and governors do not control the money. Legislators and Congress do. All they have to do is withhold the money we're out of the war, but they don't have the courage to do that.

BROWN: So who are you going to vote for? Who do you like?

VENTURA: I wish --

BROWN: Any of them?

VENTURA: No. I wish that they would put on the ballot "none of the above" so that we as citizens who want to participate in the system can show that we are. We're here to vote, but it's a no confidence vote for anything.

BROWN: But what does that solve voting for "none of the above"?

VENTURA: What does it solve? It can change the system.


VENTURA: Right now, you have the two-party dictatorship going on. You think they -- well, I did "LARRY KING" last week and on "LARRY KING," they asked the public should Jesse Ventura be running for president. Over 15,000 people weighed in.

Now, most polls are about 800; 15,000 people, 88 percent said yes. What does that tell you, Campbell?

BROWN: What does that tell you?

VENTURA: When 88 percent of the people say I should be running for president.

BROWN: Eighty-eight percent of Larry King's audience, right? OK. Let's be clear about --

VENTURA: Well, there's the CNN audience.

BROWN: No, no, no.

VENTURA: Don't you work here?

BROWN: Absolutely.

VENTURA: Oh, you better not vote.

BROWN: So what are your plans? You did say on "LARRY KING," if I'm right though, that you're not going to run for president?

VENTURA: Well, I don't have time. I can't get ballot access in this short of time but if you did get me ballot access of some magical way I could get it in, then, of course, they wouldn't allow me in debates because they saw in Minnesota what happens when I'm allowed to debate the Democrats and Republicans.

I was polling 10 percent at the primary in the fall.

BROWN: Right.

VENTURA: In a mere seven weeks, I overtook both of them and defeated them. If I can debate them, I can beat him.


VENTURA: They've got too much baggage.

BROWN: Much, much more. We're going to take a quick break, but you're not going anywhere. We'll be back with a lot more with Jesse Ventura. Stay with us.


BROWN: Welcome back. We are with former Governor Jesse Ventura. Once again, it's good to have you here.

VENTURA: Glad to be here.

BROWN: So the name of the book is "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me."


BROWN: I'm curious to know what you mean by that. I mean, what -- are you really calling for a revolution?

VENTURA: Absolutely.

BROWN: A political revolution?

VENTURA: Absolutely. You know, it doesn't have to be a violent one but a political one. You know, think about this for a moment. We all in the private sector work our entire lives to save our money and hopefully leave something, type of inheritance to our children.

BROWN: Right.

VENTURA: I got news for you. That inheritance is gone. We are now $9 trillion in debt. That's the inheritance we're going to leave our kids. Thanks to the Democrats and Republicans who have been in charge.

BROWN: You keep saying -- I have read this that the Republicans and Democrats are running a two-party dictatorship is how you describe it.

VENTURA: Yes. Yes.

BROWN: But here, how do you explain then, though, the level of engagement that people have in this process right now in this election? There's some real excitement out there and real enthusiasm on both sides.

VENTURA: Imagine if they put me in the race how much excitement and enthusiasm there would be.

BROWN: OK. In fairness, they don't need you right now. There are a lot of people excited about the choices they have now.

VENTURA: Really? OK.

BROWN: So why do you think that we need to blow up the system given that?

VENTURA: Well, because first of all, are we a dual monarchy? Since 1980, if you count Bush with Reagan, we have only had Clintons and Bushes in the White House for 28 years. So in other words, those are the only two families capable of running our country, right, Campbell?

BROWN: But that's not --

VENTURA: No, those are the two families that the two parties give to us to vote for. I challenge them to put "none of the above." That might win.

BROWN: I know. But isn't it kind of vague--

VENTURA: Imagine the message that would send if that won.

BROWN: It doesn't solve anything, does it? It's sort of a lazy...


VENTURA: Yes, it does.

BROWN: ... kind of populism to just say, none of the above.

VENTURA: No, it isn't. No, it isn't.

BROWN: You know, don't you have to choose? I mean, someone's going to have to lead the country one way or another.

VENTURA: Well -- BROWN: You might not like any of these presidential candidates, but one of them is going to end up being president.

VENTURA: So we should do like -- you should read Jerry Garcia, the late Grateful Dead. He said when you're made to pick the lesser of two evils it means you are still picking evil.

BROWN: So what --

VENTURA: So you feel that's fine. Instead of having a candidate you can vote for, you should have a candidate that, well, I don't like any of them but I have to pick one of them, so I'll pick the lesser of the two evils.

BROWN: So what is your role in this revolution?

VENTURA: My role in the revolution hopefully is to wake up the lemmings of this country who sit back and accept the pablum that our media feeds them. You guys are all in the entertainment business now. You're not in the information business.

Case in point, last year at this time the lead story of every news station in this country for a month, and they even went out on location, was the death of Anna Nicole Smith, a Playboy playmate, a gold digger, who did nothing else, but she's the lead story.

BROWN: I'm with you on that one.

VENTURA: Well, if you're with me, then why did you all report it for a month? That got more coverage than when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

BROWN: So you are going to bring us back to real issues?

VENTURA: I'm not bringing us anywhere. I'm just writing a book hopefully to wake people up. I'm doing these shows to hopefully wake people up. Whether they stay sleeping or not is certainly up to them.

BROWN: OK. We got to go. Real quick, what's the next move for you? You're going to run for office? Or how do you that? How do you turn that into something actually?

VENTURA: Well, how you run for office is you go down and file, and you pay the money. Then, you're on the ballot at least for most of them.

BROWN: Right.

VENTURA: Like, you know, if I went for the U.S. Senate, there's a big Senate race in Minnesota this year.

BROWN: OK. So you're going to keep us guessing?

VENTURA: Of course, or I could just stay in Mexico. You know, I might add...

BROWN: And surf.

VENTURA: ... I didn't tell everyone, I'm a former Navy Seal, too. So I'm a patriot.

BROWN: All right.

VENTURA: Expatriate.

BROWN: Jesse Ventura, always good to chat with you. Always interesting. Good to have you here. Appreciate it.

VENTURA: Thank you, Campbell, my pleasure.

BROWN: Now that we've heard what's got the former governor on fire, it's time for our daily check of what's burning up talk radio. Take a look.


THE AL SHARPTON SHOW, SYNDICATED ONE: We've got to be there. We got to be vigilant, and we have to keep the interest of our communities out there because everybody in the political spectrum is going to do that whether their candidate wins or loses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why on earth would presidential primary candidates be weighing in on whether the sitting president of the United States should attend the Olympic ceremony as beyond my can (ph). Can't you tell me what you're going to do about health care in this country? Can't you talk to me about your real plan to tackle the terrorists who want to kill me?

THE CURTIS SLIWA SHOW, WABC: I can honestly tell you as a person of mixed race background, there will be things that you will hear on both sides just like I'm pretty certain you, even in your family probably had an uncle who was like Archie Bunker.


BROWN: The Iraq hearings are one of the hottest topics on the blogosphere right now. We're going to see if Democrats still want to get out of Iraq no matter what. Stay with us.


BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" gets underway at the top of the top of the hour. Larry, who do you have joining you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, we got a primetime exclusive tonight, escape from polygamy. We'll talk to insiders who fled that secret sect in Texas. It's incredible stuff. And Senator John Kerry will be here with his take on today's war report. All at the top of the hour, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. We'll be there. Thanks, Larry.

KING: Thanks, dear. BROWN: Let's check now to see what's hot around the blogosphere. Ranking at the top are what people are saying about the general's war report to Congress today.

And joining me now is Ezra Klein who is the associated editor of the "American Prospects," Baratunde Thurston of, and Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter from Welcome to everybody.

Amanda, let me start with you. I know you've been tracking the hearings today all day and what people have been saying about them. What was the most striking thing to you to come out of it?

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM POLITICAL REPORTER: I think one of the most striking things is how Hillary Clinton tried to say that General Petraeus said there was no political progress in Iraq. He actually stopped to correct her at a certain point in the hearing and pointed out what he said in a "Washington Post" story. So, I thought that was kind of interesting to see him sort of take her to task on that fact.

BROWN: And Ezra, for you, what was sort of burning up the blogosphere?

EZRA KLEIN, ASSOCIATED ED., "AMERICAN PROSPECT": I don't know that I'd agree with Amanda. I thought it's -- I think it's odd to call it political progress. It's one of the other I think madaglacious (ph) and the blogster pointed out today. If we were seeing wars between rival groups in Chicago and Los Angeles, we wouldn't say our political system was doing that well. But that's what's been happening in Basra this week.

The big thing liberals are talking about is that there is no such thing as a definition of success today. What you had instead was heads we stay in Iraq and tails we never leave it. If al-Qaeda is stronger, we have to stay there to fight them. If they're weak, we have to stay there to press the advantage. But nobody knows when we can ever leave.

BROWN: And that's a fair point. Baratunde, because it's not -- the debate sort of used to be or seemed that way that it sort of picking a date for withdrawal. But now, at least in the Democratic Party, there does seem to be a debate about whether that's an option really or will be an option given the current situation.

BARATUNDE THURSTON, JACKANDJILLPOLITICS.COM: I think it absolutely will be an option once we can change who the president is. And I would just tag on to our point (ph). Ezra's point, we had a situation where they said, oh, the violence is so high therefore we can't leave. Now, the surge has theoretically worked and the violence is low, and we still can't leave. So what is success?

There's a false non-choice that regardless of what happens, we have to stay. Meanwhile, the cost of this war economically is officially a tax on the American people.

BROWN: Yes, but I want to get back Ezra to your point which is the definition.


BROWN: It's changing. You are seeing Democrats come to a different place about this and what they're willing to accept, aren't you?

KLEIN: I'm not really sure what you're referring to. I mean, possibly I think Democrats are groping towards an understanding of it. But in part, I think, they're trying to get Petraeus and Crocker and for that matter Bush to say what is our metric here? What is our role?

We have a tactical strategy in the surge. And now, Petraeus is saying tactically we're going to draw the surge down back to presurge levels because frankly, we don't have any more troops. But what is our strategy? How do we get political reconciliation, and how do we measure when we do?

But apart, I think, what Democrats realize and what they've seen in the past year, I mean, Jesse Ventura mentioned they were reluctant to end the Iraq war and couldn't do it, but they couldn't do it over Bush. I think they've essentially resigned themselves to the idea that you can't do it unless you elect a Democrat. And if you elect McCain, he'll keep us in there.

I mean -- so, I think a lot of it today was just trying to figure out what the generals are talking about. There's a little bit less about political positioning than it was during the last Petraeus/Crocker testimony.

BROWN: And Amanda, for you, I mean, we talked about how John McCain is taking so much of his campaign on this issue. What was the take among conservatives that you noted about his performance today?

CARPENTER: I think John McCain did a pretty good job handling the hearings. None of the three presidential candidates overstepped their bounds. I don't think any of them were trying to make any grand political gestures. And McCain did a good job. He didn't cheerlead, you know, the hearings as some liberals have suspected he might have done. He questioned the generals about the violence that's happening in Basra, and he asked them for ways that they're figuring out to evaluate it and fix it and go on. So I thought that was good for his part.

BROWN: All right. We got to end it there. Thanks, guys, appreciate all of your time tonight.

THURSTON: Thank you.

KLEIN: Thank you.

BROWN: And coming up, we've got an unusual way to compare the candidates. It's not by what they say but by how they put it in print. We'll explain.


BROWN: In political pop tonight, a look at the look of the campaigns. You know, they put a lot of thought into their logos. From typeface to color, everything is chosen for a reason. And the three candidates all have very different visual brands. So what do these choices tell us about them?

Well, joining us is art director, Roger Black, who has designed or redesigned a host of magazines and newspapers from "Rolling Stone" to the "L.A. Times" and we should note, he hasn't decided who he is going to vote for. So an impartial observer here.

So, let me start off. Each -- we're going to take you through fonts, right? We're talking about fonts here, and each of the fonts that we're looking at on the screen belongs to one of the leading presidential candidates. Before we reveal which one, what does each typeface say to you?

ROGER BLACK, ART DIRECTOR: Well, the top one is very bold, assertive. It's in control, happens to be a typeface called Baskerville, which was Benjamin Franklin's favorite typeface.


BLACK: But a bolder version. The middle one is a little mugwamp of a typeface.

BROWN: Mugwamp?

BLACK: Well, this type has serifs, the little feet on each letter. This one looks like it wants to. It's a typeface that's halfway between serif and Sans serif. So it's not quite decided what it is, which is interesting.


BLACK: The last one is I would have to say the most presidential, is very elegant. It cages through too elegant. It's almost like it might be a real estate brochure.

BROWN: OK. OK. Now, let's do our reveal here. These are the same fonts taken from the three leading presidential candidates. How -- explain to us how each of these candidates are branding himself.

BLACK: Well, I think that they fit well. I mean, Hillary's type is in control. It's maybe a little relentless. It is trying to assert a certain amount of familiarity and solidarity. It's got a -- I mean, the cool thing is that it's her first name, which is, you know, one of the first times we've seen though.

BROWN: Right.

BLACK: I like I (ph). It's the only one I can remember.

BROWN: Yes. BLACK: McCain, it looks like it was shown to the candidate very quickly and he said, OK, OK, whatever. It doesn't look like -- I mean, Hillary looks like a committee labored over it. McCain not so much.

The Obama thing is very, very sweet. It's a classical Roman old- fashioned typeface.


BLACK: And very nicely rendered. It looks though that it might be ready to change it to 12.

BROWN: OK. And you said also Obama actually changed his typeface recently, right?


BLACK: Well, they recently did change it. Yes, it looked like --

BROWN: We have a new one. Yes, here we go.

BLACK: When he started winning -- the old one is on the bottom. When he started winning, he decides -- somebody decided that this open, very -- more informal type was not maybe presidential enough so they beefed it up. They went to this, what we call caps and small caps. And I think it's a little more formal. Maybe it's sort of more like the kinds of suits he likes to wear.

BROWN: And do you -- is it your take that they are reflective of the personalities of these candidates?

BLACK: I think they're clearly reflective of the campaigns.


BLACK: What --

BROWN: And the thinking behind it.

BLACK: Yes. And I think that Obama, of all of them, has worked much harder to try to say something with his design. The graphic design clearly means a whole lot more to him than it does to John McCain.

BROWN: Yes. Yes. All right. It's interesting stuff. What your typeface says about you.

BLACK: Exactly.

BROWN: Good to have you here.

BLACK: All right.

BROWN: Appreciate the time. BLACK: Thank you.

BROWN: The McCain ladies have a sequel to their smash Web hit, "It's Raining McCain" and we've got it. You're not going to want to miss it.


MUSIC: Here comes McCain again falling on my head like a memory.



BROWN: We have been scouring the Internet in search of great political Web videos for you since we aired the Web video "It's Raining McCain" a few weeks ago. It went viral, getting over 800,000 hits.

Well, the ladies have a follow-up and they honor their favorite candidate with their take on a Eurhythmics' hit.


MUSIC: McCain, McCain, McCain, McCain, McCain, McCain, yes. Here comes McCain again falling on my head like a memory, getting off this bus like a new emotion. Ohhh.


BROWN: Time on their hands, I think. Hillary Clinton is trying to win over the fickle superdelegates, but a Web performer who calls herself "Venetian Princess" promises she'll support Clinton through thick and thin.


MUSIC: With this friendship bracelet our sisterhood will never end. So Hillary, won't you be my best friend?


BROWN: And though his production values are not quite as impressive, a guy called "The Kid from Brooklyn" is lending his enthusiastic support to Barack Obama and more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Barack Obama, if you're listening, I only be too proud, too proud to serve you as the vice president of the United States of America!


BROWN: OK. We'll let you know if "The Kid from Brooklyn" shows up on Obama's short list. That is it for us. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.