Gov. Jesse Ventura – now more than ever …

We won’t have Jesse Ventura to kick around any longer.

That’s what the politically nonconforming Minnesota governor let the news media know last month when he announced that he wasn’t going to seek another term of office.

Ventura, the iconoclastic Reform Party candidate who turned Minnesota’s prosaic politics upside down in 1998, said he was tired of the news media scrutinizing his family.

“It’s fine when they stick to the issues, but when they start getting personal, going after your kids, it’s very unfair,” Ventura said.

Criticism of “media jackals” is a familiar refrain for the former U.S. Navy SEAL and professional wrestler. He’s repeatedly blasted the news media for everything from misquoting him to biased reporting and fishing without a license.

It’s unfortunate that the news media is being blamed for Ventura’s withdrawal from politics, because it was that very same media that helped put him in the governor’s mansion in the first place.

Sure, Jesse shook a lot of hands and kissed a lot of babies (or was that shook a lot of babies and kissed a lot of hands? Whatever …), but it was those packs of ravening media jackals that brought that unconventional political candidate into the hearts and minds of Minnesotans four years ago.

Jesse Ventura didn’t have either of the big two political parties behind him, nor did he have fistfuls of cash, platoons of public relations personnel or an established good old boy network to put out the word about his suitability for office.

He did, however, have the media jackals and, like them or not, they’re pretty good at letting people know about political candidates. That doesn’t mean the news media promotes political candidates. They just inform potential voters about them.

And anytime you’ve got an outspoken ex-Navy SEAL who just doesn’t give a damn about the established political order, you’ve got a story that practically writes itself – particularly when the voters are as fed up with politics as the candidate.

Unfortunately, media jackals don’t simply slink off into the shadows after each election. They hang around and report on what successful candidates are doing – or not doing – for their constituents, and that’s apparently what led Gov. Ventura to throw in the towel.

Don’t despair, though. I think Jesse’s got some life in him yet and, although he’s kissing Minnesota politics good-bye, there are lots and lots of other places he may fit in.

California, for example.

Sure, this year’s race for governor will end with a sigh of ennui from California voters a few months from now. No matter which graduate of the Daisy Hill Weasel Farm voters choose, they’re going to be disappointed after about three days.

That gives Jesse Ventura plenty of time to establish residency in some place like Oxnard, shake a few babies and let the media jackals know that he’s in town. He’ll be tan and fit and on the ballot for 2006.


Are you ready for Gov. Ventura? I know I am. I just hope he issues some cool “Media Jackal” press credentials when he takes office in Sacramento four years from now …

Originally published July 7, 2002