JESSE’S HEAD I’d like to drink beer with him. Well, that’s not saying much because short of Sidney Blumenthal, the Devil, a few very bad-smelling people, and a serial killer or two, I’d drink beer with pretty much anybody. But I’d go out of my way to buy Jesse Ventura a beer. That means something because journalists don’t like buying other people beer.
Sure, he said that religion is a “sham” and “crutch” for the “weak minded.” Yeah, that was really, really, stupid. But I still like the guy.
First, let’s go through the other stuff he said: about fat people not being able to push away from the table? Hey, look, if I keep eating and non-exercising at this pace, smaller pundits will start orbiting around me. And it’s all because I can’t push away from the table — or get off the couch as it were. Really, who cares about a fat joke? I know, I know fat people care. The Tailhook comment? Well, Tailhook was the product of a changed military culture. The rules changed and a bunch of guys messed up. Ventura was from the old culture; should we really be shocked that he thinks this way? Surely it’s reasonable to say the whining and droning after Tailhook was overblown.
Then, of course, there’s that stuff about JFK being killed by the military-industrial complex because Kennedy was going to pull us out of Vietnam. Of course, on the merits, that’s pretty silly. Kennedy upped our involvement in Southeast Asia, and he was a pretty reckless Cold Warrior and … oh, well, forget it. First iron law of Goldberg File: NO JFK ASSASINATION THEORIES. But the point is, Ventura’s wacky, he’s kooky, he’s a nut. He’s the kind of guy you want at parties, he’s the kind of guy you can puke in his car and he won’t mind, he’s the kind of guy who rarely wears underwear but when he does it’s usually something pretty unusual (not that I want to know any more about that — but sometimes you just have to quote what two movies?).
All of those qualities that got the guy elected — honesty, humor, hubris, huevos — are the qualities you want in a poker buddy. If you’re poker buddy said, “You know, Sam Giancana killed Kennedy because Joe Kennedy had put a horse’s head in his bed 20 years before,” you’d say “Whatever, Jesse.” If your poker buddy said “Fat people can’t stop at just one — cow,” you’d say very funny. I’d say, “hmm…cow.”
But the point’s the same: Jesse’s an ordinary guy. And ordinary guys are allowed to say that religion is for the weak-minded. Most religious people have non-religious friends. And at some level the believers know that the non-believers think faith is a bit cozy. Ventura’s comment may be bigoted — but barely; it’s between the 40-yard lines. It’s not like the bile of some of the religion haters who wrote me in defense of the Brooklyn Museum. It’s not like the bigotry of people such as the playwright Tony Kushner, who wrote in The Nation that the Pope and Orthodox rabbis are “homicidal liars.”
Some of my best friends are atheists and agnostics and some are very devout; I’m somewhere in between. But I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t want to have a beer with Jesse Ventura.
The problem is the guy is the governor of Minnesota and, at least until recently, people talked about him as the next president of the United States. And you can’t go around talking that way. It’s dumb. It’s unfair to Jesse because that kind of schtick got him elected, but now as governor — just like those horndogs at Tailhook — the rules have changed. Moreover, if he weren’t being constantly — and ludicrously — touted as a possible president, he’d never be under this kind of scrutiny and never be constantly prodded to give one exciting interview after another.
Can you imagine the president of the United States saying that a junta of corporate and military interests killed a president? Or that a couple of hundred million Americans are “weak minded” for going to church? Can you imagine the president defending this interview — as Ventura did — by saying, “This is Playboy. They want you to be provocative.”
“Ohhhhh … they want you to be provocative. Who knew? Never mind then, Mr. President. By the way, what do you think of the Jews in Hollywood or the work habits of black people?”
The larger point is that all this talk of “citizen-politicians” notwithstanding, just because you’re famous and can turn a phrase doesn’t mean you’re qualified for the presidency. Speaking solely in terms of presidential qualifications, pretty much everyone considering the job from outside the two parties is a joke. Warren Beatty is a joke. Donald Trump: joke. Ross Perot: joke. Cybill Shepard — according to Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard — is something of a tart, but, yes, she’s also a joke. I’d play poker with all these guys and I’d even like to buy a few of ‘em a beer — and Cybill Shepard a lot of beers — if you know what I’m saying. But vote for any of them for president? Now you’re really joking.
QUIBBLES & BITS I’d like to call your attention to a few things. Even though the redesign of the entire site is coming in just a few days, and getting around will be a lot easier, there’s no time like the present to tell you guys about new stuff. Mike Potemra is authoring a new feature called “Nota Bene.” If you click HERE you can see for yourself what it is. But if for some reason wolverines ate both of your hands and you like to keep nose-clicking to a minimum, I’ll give you a hint. Mike reads everything and he is very smart (He could be one of those CIA guys in Three Days of the Condor. He has a long memory and keeps score in the culture wars. Everyday he finds interesting things and brings your attention to them (Nota Bene is Latin for “Note Well” (and, of course, it’s French for surrender). When possible we’ll have links to the stuff he’s talking about. Nota Bene is a little like Slate’s “In the Papers,” except it’s more highbrow and geared to the stuff the Slate guys might miss. Besides, it’s my understanding that Mr. Buckley likes that Slate thing a lot and I wouldn’t want to compete.
Also, “What’s That From?” [Link defunct] continues to be very popular. We have a small controversy about a line that may or may not be from Tony Curtis’s medieval epic, The Black Shield of Falworth, which is holding us back from announcing a winner for September. But for Goldberg File readers who want more obscure movie quotes, it’s the best place to go.