As Minnesotans we have naturally thought about possible comparisons between the Honorable Jesse Ventura and Arnold S. now that Arnold has thrown his hat into the circus ring. Our fellow Northern Alliance bloggers James Lileks, Mitch Berg, and the guys at Fraters Libertas have already weighed in thoughtfully on the subject. Here are our thoughts.
There are obvious parallels and similarities between Jesse and Arnold. Indeed, until his election as governor, Jesse has always seemed a small-time Arnold. Both have evidenced a driven intensity to succeed. Both were athletic champions of a kind — Arnold the genuine article. Both parlayed their athletic careers into show business success, Jesse most notably via Arnold. (Jesse’s biggest film success was a bit part in Arnold’s Predator.) Both have had political ambitions, although Jesse entered the fray 12 years ago as the mayor (1991-95) of Twin Cities suburb Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Minnesota’s sixth largest city, before seeking election as governor. Even their poliltical profiles as fiscal conservatives/social liberals overlap.
But the contrasts between them are more significant than the parallels. The first is character. Jesse is monumentally solipsistic in a way that distinguishes him even from a celebrity like Arnold. He never made the commitment of aligning himself with one of the major political parties. In Jesse’s world, everything is about Jesse. Even the political party with which he cast his lot became his mirror image — the Minnesota-only Independence Party, which (like the Reform Party) exists only as a vehicle for whatever ego manages to hijack it in a given election. So far as we are aware, he has devoted himself to no causes larger than himself and his greater glorification in the course of a relatively long public career. Jesse’s understanding of public policy issues extends roughly as far as any issue affects him personally.
The second contrast is Jesse’s fraudulence. Jesse is the former James Janos, a high school swimmer of some accomplishment. As soon as he entered the world of professional wrestling, however, he adopted the stage name of Jesse Ventura. A former professional “wrestler” who abandons the ring to go into movies and then politics comes wrapped in multifarious guises that should raise the guard of observers; Arnold’s career in bodybuilding provides a kind of bedrock that Jesse simply lacks. His claim to have served as a Navy Seal appears to have been almost as phony as a sleeper hold.
The third contrast is temperament. Because of the difference in character referred to above, Jesse must be one of the most thin-skinned individuals ever to occupy a gubernatorial office in the United States. Every criticism of him became the ground of a vendetta he conducted from the office of the governor — no criticism was too small to trigger his rage. He proved himself temperamentally unsuited to public office. Our reading of Arnold is that he has the personal qualities to succeed in office. Regarding his substantive political views, however, we refer you to our friends at Infinite Monkeys and The Remedy.
HINDROCKET adds: It also should be said that Ventura was nowhere near as conservative as people outside Minnesota perceived him to be. He achieved notoriety largely as a radio talk show host; in that role, he was decidedly conservative but with a strong libertarian streak. That was how he was perceived nationally throughout his career. Ventura was elected Governor largely on the basis of his pledge to give the entire state surplus back to the taxpayers–a pledge which he repudiated as soon as he took office. As governor, he proved to be anything but a fiscal conservative. He justified hanging on to the surplus by saying the State would do more good with the money than taxpayers, who would probably blow it on beer and pizza. During his administration spending spiralled out of control. Admittedly, during his last two years in office he veered in a somewhat more conservative direction; in particular, he took on the education establishment in a way that was heart-warming. But Jesse’s reputation as a fiscal conservative–or any kind of conservative–is vastly overblown.
Let’s hope that turns out to be a distinction between Ventura and Schwarzenegger, and not a point of similarity.
BIG TRUNK adds: Please also check in on this subject with our Northern Alliance ally King Banaian at the SCSU-Scholars blog.
UPDATE: Tomorrow’s Minneapolis Star Tribune is a day late in catching up to the Northern Alliance: “Schwarzenegger shares many of Ventura’s pros, cons.”
UPDATE 2: Robert Rosenthal has written to provide us a link to a site summarizing the evidence supporting the proposition that Jesse has properly described his service as a Navy Seal.
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