Column: One-time Ventura voter can’t find reason for loyalty

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 6, 2001

I’m not ready to completely abandon Gov.

Tuesday, March 06, 2001

I’m not ready to completely abandon Gov. Jesse Ventura, but I’m close.

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In many ways he has been the breath of fresh air this state needed. But he also reminds me of Bill Clinton (only without the sleaze factor): every time you think you can relax, that things can’t get any worse, he says or does something else incomprehensibly tacky. So even though I’m not embarrassed to say I voted for Jesse Ventura, I’m not certain that he’s worth voting for again.

Why is that, you ask? I’ll try to be brief. Because he spends his time writing and promoting books of questionable literary (and social) merit. Because he thinks college students who need special help to be successful in school just aren’t motivated to succeed. Because he’s doing color commentary for the XFL. Because he said that religious people are &uot;weak-minded&uot; individuals who use their faith as a &uot;crutch.&uot; Because of his demand that journalists who wish to participate in press conferences wear a special badge that identifies the wearer as a &uot;media jackal.&uot; Is that enough? Perhaps Gov. Ventura should wear a badge of his own identifying him as a &uot;media magnet&uot; who has a chip on his shoulder, a chip which leaves him angry and suspicious of anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure all of the exposure he’s getting is a good thing. I see his reputation for blunt-spoken honesty being undermined by the claims he makes about his outside income. Does he really expect us to believe that he would be earning all that money from book and TV deals if he hadn’t been elected governor? There are times when it is hard to escape the feeling that Jesse Ventura decided to try becoming Governor Ventura just to breathe some life into his showbiz career. If you accept a leadership job in the government, whether it’s governor or the head of the Department of Transportation, I think you need to be content with what you earn doing that job. &uot;Moonlighting&uot; leads to divided loyalties and can distract your attention from things that are more important to the people who gave you the job in the first place.

A while back I wrote about how the governor seems to harbor a grudge against people who use their college educations to do more than make themselves rich. As I listened to his growling and complaining since the resistance to his budget plans became louder and more widespread, I noticed a couple of other things. Gov. Ventura seems to despise the higher education system in our state, and he is especially fixated on the University of Minnesota. As he responded to questions on a radio talk show, he kept going on and on about professors and programs at the University of Minnesota.

I also noticed how often he demonstrates his contempt for journalists and the work they do. He goes out of his way to dismiss the motives of news gathering organizations, saying they’re just trying to make a profit. Certainly there are corporations and individuals who are more interested in profit than in the public good – they are in it for the money. But not everyone who publishes newspapers or produces news features for TV is like that.

The level of antagonism Gov. Ventura seems content to generate against the journalists who report on him makes it harder for people who don’t have &uot;close, personal relationships&uot; with the Governor to get an accurate picture of him and his agenda. The &uot;feud&uot; with the media and his personality become the news, instead. The journalists who cover the governor’s office act as stewards of the public trust just as much as Ventura and other politicians do. Without their eyes and ears, most of us would be blind and deaf when it came to knowing what our government was up to. One reason we have freedom of the press in our constitution is to protect the public’s right to know what the governor, the president or any other public figure is doing on the public’s behalf.

If Gov. Ventura cares about political life in the state of Minnesota, he’ll leave the &uot;jackals&uot; alone and start building the Independence Party into a legitimate vehicle for political expression. Not too many current voters are going to give up their allegiance to the two-party system if there isn’t a realistic alternative. And it’s going to be a lot harder for new leaders to rise up from the roots if the &uot;body&uot; at the top isn’t cultivating those roots. The Independence Party needs its most famous and popular member to get people fired up about this alternative to two-party hegemony. He can’t do that from the broadcast booth for the XFL.

David Behling is a rural Albert Lea resident. His column appears Tuesdays.