‘RT’s work has never been more important than now’ – Jesse Ventura
At the risk of sounding like a pimply teenage groupy overcome by the experience of meeting his rock ‘n’ roll idol, the shock and awe of standing face-to-face with Jesse Ventura, discussing world events and sharing a few laughs was a bit of a mind-blowing experience.
I began following the political career of Jesse Ventura, a Vietnam War veteran, professional wrestler and political commentator, ever since he sent shockwaves through the gangrene US political system by being elected as Governor of Minnesota in 1999. The most amazing thing about this accomplishment was that Ventura won the election as a political outsider, that is, beyond the two-party Democratic-Republican duopoly as a member of the Reform Party.
Upsets like that just don’t happen anymore in the corporate-controlled jungle of American politics.
It was not difficult to spot Ventura at the historic Metropol Hotel in the heart of the Russian capital. Pushing 65 years old, Ventura, who stands 6’5”, wears his hair long and has a marked preference for bright t-shirts as opposed to drab suits, was easy to spot among the attendees at the conference.
Cursing the dying battery in my old Samsung voice recorder, I nevertheless took my chances and cornered the hulking Ventura halfway between the bathroom and the dining room. A very cruel maneuver, but I wasn’t letting my political hero escape without a few words. Ventura, however, proved every bit the gentleman I imagined him to be and was very generous with his time, speaking at length on a variety of issues even though it was lunchtime.
Commenting on the number of high-profile people who appeared in Moscow for the gala event – UK politician George Galloway, US presidential hopeful Jill Stein, ex-director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn and even Julian Assange, who made a guest appearance from the Ecuadorian embassy in London via video – Ventura said RT served a “crucial public function by giving air time to folks who are rarely seen on television in the US.”
“It’s pretty obvious to me why RT is criticized so much in the West, and that’s because you are providing a platform for people who tend to be shunned by the mainstream media for a variety of reasons,” Ventura said. “Back in the US you see the same old faces, the same old talking heads repeating their same old lines. At least with RT people can hear the other side of the story.”
“Journalism demands balance,” he advised.
I asked Ventura what has changed in the world since RT began broadcasting 10 years ago, and he said there is now a larger media platform for voicing opposition to “NATO-led wars.”
“Ten years ago, it was 2005, and the US military had already occupied Iraq on the totally false claim that [former Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. Not only did American journalists never challenge that accusation in any serious way, but they actually worked around the clock as cheerleaders for war, harshly criticizing anybody’s patriotism for questioning the flawed intelligence put forward by the Bush administration,” he told me.
“Had RT been a media player at the time, I think there would have been much more debate on the rush to war, much as there is now over the West’s determination to overthrow the legitimate government in Syria.”
I asked Ventura what he would do differently if elected president of the United States.
“I would immediately end all of the overseas wars we are conducting,” he said. “I would bring our troops home.”
He then had some tough words for Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who has been climbing in the polls despite “committing mistakes that would have destroyed the career of other candidates” [for example, Trump created a stir when he said he would “ban Muslims from entering the United States” – a comment that has not hurt his popularity among his constituents].
“Republicans always look to former US president Ronald Reagan as their guiding light on foreign and domestic issues, yet it was Reagan who famously told Mikhail Gorbachev to 'tear down this wall'” [a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989].
“Yet today we find that the Republican Party wants to build their own wall between the United States and Mexico,” Ventura noted with a knowing smile.
“Walls can never work to improve the situation between people,” he said. “We’ve tried to build walls among people many times in the past yet the situation never really improves. We need to engage with our fellow man, not build barriers between them.”
Could Jesse Ventura, as president of the United States, work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to solve the great issues of the day?
“Certainly,” he replied with a laugh. “Great minds think alike. We’d get along fine.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.