People Staff
December 31, 1999 12:00 PM

Not even Warren Beatty’s Senator Bulworth was this outspoken. Who ever heard of a sitting governor admitting that he has hired prostitutes? Or that he’s taken steroids, smoked marijuana and believes that organized religion is “for the weak-minded”? You might as easily find a politician being, say, firmly opposed to gun control and at the same time utterly supportive of gay rights. Except that too defines Jesse Ventura. A year after he took the starring role in a man-bites-dog election upset that’s still making steam come out of the ears of some uncomprehending Minnesota pols, the only sign that the 48-year-old ex-biker, ex-pro wrestler, ex-sports call-in shock jock has been at all domesticated is in the way he dresses: Governor Ventura seems absolutely at home in the sort of gray or blue business suit that would look appropriate on any politician who happens to be 6’4″ and weigh 250. Actually, on most counts Ventura has been a pretty normal governor: He fights with the legislature and feuds with the local press. And he has even delivered on his campaign promises to slash the state income tax and increase state funding of public education. Though detractors said the moves were easy in these economic boom times, Ventura armed himself pretty well for the effort: The head of one Minnesota public-policy group said that the cast of advisers the governor recruited after the election comprises the state’s “best cabinet in 20 years.” Still, it’s the talking, not the governing, that has kept the former James George Janos in the national spotlight. Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Minnesota’s Carleton College, says that Ventura “puts his foot in his mouth and refuses to take it out. It’s extraordinary for a politician to make such mistakes.” But as Ventura’s popularity both in Minnesota and elsewhere continues to float at robust levels, it may be that the mistake is being made by professional politics watchers like Schier. “I could never be a career politician,” says Ventura, whose term runs through 2002, “because I believe in telling the truth.” If that’s putting his foot in his mouth, Jesse watchers should expect it to be lodged there for years to come.

You May Like