(Friedman, left and Ventura, right)
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There's a big wind blowing in Texas this week. Turns out it's former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. Well, Jesse Ventura plus Kinky Friedman, the country singer (he was part of the Texas Jewboys) turned comedy-mystery novelist "who is trying to become the first independent elected Texas governor since Sam Houston nearly 150 years ago." Kinky and Sam. Woo hoo! They're mighty peculiar guys, but that's not all bad.
Back to Jesse. For those who never knew, have forgotten, or would prefer to forget, here's the quick and dirty on Jesse Ventura. He was a boa-draped pro wrestler who shed his shoulder-length hair and omnipresent bandana to run as an independent for governor in Minnesota in 1998. He was the dark horse's dark horse (some would prefer a different horse metaphor). Against all odds, he defeated Buck Humphrey (Hubert's son) and Norm Coleman (who had just morphed into a Republican to advance his political career).
The Ventura years were a wild ride for Minnesota. IMHO, he was a pretty good governor, on balance. The balance thing was tricky, though. It was always hard to separate Jesse's governance from his showman persona and petulant outbursts. The Big Fly intentionally attracted press like an open picnic basket, and then pounded on them for pretty much everything they said about him. Turns out he might have had a point, but that's a different story for another time.
I believe it's fair to say that both Jesse Ventura and Kinky Friedman are a platitude shy of a pol.
Jesse's campaign is serving as the model for "The Kinkster." Not too surprising, since the dynamic duo for Kinky's campaign is Dean Barkley and Bill Hillsman, respectively campaign guru and adman extraordinaire, who helped get Jesse elected.
This week, Jesse is stumping for Kinky Friedman at Texas colleges. And the boys are attracting crowds. Jesse's one liners continue to amuse and bemuse, to wit:
'" (Speaking to students): "You're not counted on to vote because the career politicians are only interested in you if you can advance their career."
'" (Regarding the proposed Mexican border fence being debated in Congress, which Friedman supports): "It may be designed to keep people out, but what if it keeps you in 10 years from now? I, for one, don't want to live in East Berlin."
'" On what he sees as the stranglehold the Democratic and Republican parties exert on American politics: "It isn't democracy -- it's fascism. Who's in control of the government? Big business and organized religion."
'" On Vice President Dick Cheney's shooting of a hunting partner: "Had he served in the military, he'd have known how to handle that weapon. The man was negligent."
'" About petropolitics and the Bush administration: "So gas prices are going down and the election is coming? There's a connection? God, are they nave. It's being taken away as an election issue. ... Everyone knows the Saudis are in bed with the Bushes. And they control the oil prices. Look at 9/11; [most] of the 19 hijackers are Saudis and we invade Iraq?"
Seems to me the Ventura/Friedman thing underscores two important points:
(1) We have an immense need in this country for truth-tellers. Bold, brash, bearded or otherwise. We (and "we" tend to be the Democrats) are so caught up in kicking butt politely that the message becomes pap-crap. Think John Kerry.
When I saw the tape of Bill Clinton going semi-ballistic in the Fox trap, it was the first time in recent memory I've seen a highly visible Democrat speak out boldly. He was pissed and everybody knew it. Hooray! A poster-boy for the truth-challenged. And he wasn't particularly snarky.
Predictably, he's taken a lot of heat for his outburst in some quarters. And it may come back to haunt Hillary (please and thank you). I think this kind of thing is long overdue. If you love this country, defend it from the Republicans.
(2) It may be time to bring in the "outsiders." People who are not already sucked in and sinking in the current political quagmire.
Friend Jeff is very high on the boys out west. Montana's Schweitzer and Tester in particular.
At this point, George Clooney is looking mighty good to me. No, no, no. Not because of his hunkliness. Because he's a strong, principled, liberal outsider who says what he thinks.
Okay, it's true that Jesse and Kinky transcend outsiderliness. It's been said their candidacies are "vanity campaigns." Well, duh! Aren't they all, to some degree? And here's the deal. We've allowed unpricipled career politicians to hijack this country. We are in the hands of messianic megalomaniacs. Yeah, we are. And that's the truth.
Here's what Jesse had to say about outsider moderates like Ventura and Friedman: "We're the real moderates in politics. As the late, great Jerry Garcia once said: If you have to pick between the lesser of two evils, you still have to pick evil."