Thinking Politics in Bush Country

Jesse Ventura | Huffington Post | Posted April 2, 2008

This excerpt from Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me! reveals some of my feelings about the Bush administration, but readers should not think that my criticisms of today’s political world are aimed only at their spectacular failures. Democrats are no better than the Republicans. And corporate America, the religious right, and the media have all contributed to the quagmires we find ourselves in overseas and at home. That’s why we need a political revolution, to take power from the political parties and their big money supporters and return power to the people.

“I like to tell people, Laura and I are proud to be Texas — own a Texas ranch, and for us, every day is Earth Day.”

-President George W. Bush

Traveling across West Texas on Interstate 20, after you pass by Abilene and Big Spring, before long the big oil derricks loom on the horizon. Every direction you look, the landscape is all scrubby desert and completely flat — except for the endlessly rocking motion of the black pumps. And as you close in on Midland, the dusty air is permeated by a propane smell. There’s no escaping it, even inside the camper.

I turned to Terry and said, “I really don’t see how people can live in this. But I imagine, like anything else, you become accustomed to it.”

“They have my deepest sympathies,” Terry said.

“This is about the last place on the planet I’ve seen that I’d want to live,” I said.

I didn’t remember until later that this was Bush Country. The elder George had come to Midland for the first Permian Basin oil rush in the ’50s. George W. Bush grew up here, and later came back just in time for the second big oil boom in the 1970s. Midland was his wife Laura’s hometown, and this is where they met. It’s where the younger George declared himself a candidate for congress in 1977, when his dad was running the CIA. And Midland is where George W. has expressed a wish to someday be buried.

My first impression of him had been a positive one. After the Supreme Court awarded Bush the 2000 election, his people approached me to be part of his transition team. I sat in on three or four conference calls. I thought, this guy’s going to be all right. He was very personable, a man it seemed like you could go out and drink a few beers and go fishing with.

Not too long after his inauguration, Terry and I went to Washington for the annual National Governors Convention. On a Sunday night, there’s always a huge party in the White House. You’re dropped off at a side entrance, and your security team goes to the basement and waits down there with the Secret Service until it’s over. When it’s your time to go into the ballroom, a military man in full dress uniform greets you. Your wife takes his arm, he escorts her, and you follow right behind. You stand in a line with all the other governors and their wives, waiting to meet the president and the First Lady.

I watched as the governors’ names were announced and they shook hands, exchanged a greeting, and talked for a moment. Well, as the line progressed, President Bush glanced over and saw that Terry and I were up next. Before they could even say — “Governor and Mrs. Jesse Ventura, Minnesota” — Bush, with a big smile on his face, blurted out in front of everyone: “I have to meet the most patient woman in America.”

Apparently George was up on all the controversy I was causing. Every time I’d open my mouth, I’d be in trouble. So I thought that was a great line. He didn’t care about me, he wanted to meet the woman who could put up with me!

It must have been about a year later that Bush came to visit Minnesota. I took my son, Tyrel, to meet him. The president looked Ty in the eye and said, “So can you kick the old man’s butt yet?”

“Oh, no!” Ty exclaimed.

And the President said, “I can’t either.” Referring, I presume, to George, Senior.

From these moments, I knew that Bush had a good sense of humor. But my first inclination that he was not a man of his word came that same governors’ meeting in 2001. Monday morning is a business session, where all 50 governors sit down with the president. He discussed domestic policy — where he sees it going, what he expects from you, and what you should expect from him. He stated at the time that he was a strong believer in giving more power to the states, which I applaud. He was going to be, he said, an old-style Federalist president. I believed him.

Yet just about every move he’s made since that day has taken power away from states. Cases in point: 12 states have now passed laws to allow medical use of marijuana. The federal government under Bush says no way; it won’t let the states do this. Two states have voted for dignity in death. If I’m living in Minnesota and terminally ill, I could have the option of moving to Oregon and fulfill my wishes not to prolong the agony. Again, the Bush administration says, oh no, you can’t.

It’s a shame that Bush has turned into what he has. That deception about returning power to the states was only the first of many, the foremost being how his administration lied to the American people in justifying our disastrous invasion of Iraq. Leaving the Midland region that day, I couldn’t help thinking about our dependency on oil, whether it’s from the Middle East or the West Texas variety. We should be taking the billions being wasted in Iraq and putting all this money toward renewable energy sources that won’t destroy the planet. We should be doing everything we can to draw energy from the sun, the wind, and the water.


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