Former Governor Jesse Ventura appeared on Larry King Live Monday evening to promote the paperback release of his latest book, Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me, and offered his trademark rapid-fire quips on a range of subjects, from Barack Obama’s first 100 days, to the drug war, to torture, to Minnesota’s US Senate race.
But while Ventura is spending many of his days surfing in Mexico, he says he is interested in a new position in government. When asked if he would ever run for office again, the former governor stated:
"No, but I would tell you this. I’d like to put out right now that if relations get good with Cuba, I wish Barack Obama – President Obama – would make me the first ambassador to Cuba if we get to that point."
Ventura summed up his qualifications thusly:
"Because I went there as a governor. I felt comfortable with the Cuban people. I met with Fidel Castro when I was there as governor. In fact, Fidel Castro’s quote to me, he looked me in the eyes and said, 'You’re a man of great courage.' And I said to him, 'Well, you don’t even know me, how can you say that?' And he said, 'Because you defied your president to come here.'"
Ventura called the United States’ non-recognition of Cuba as "ridiculous" and that the opening of U.S. relations with the Cuban government is "long overdue."
The former governor summed up his on-air application for the potential post by saying, "I would love to be the Ambassador to Cuba."
Ventura, of course, would not be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba, but the first since 1960, shortly before the US withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Cuban government in early 1961.
King also asked Ventura about the Minnesota Senate race and who will be the next Senator from the Gopher State:
"It appears Mr. Franken will. He’s ahead. And the last I heard it goes to the Minnesota Supreme Court in June and whenever they rule on it that should be the end of it because the feds should have nothing to do with it, Larry. Now, the Coleman people have said they’re going to take it to federal court but it should be thrown out."
Ventura did not think the drawn-out election process has been embarrassing to the state:
"It’s the procedure. When you have an election that’s that close, you want to make sure you get the right decision."
King then asked Ventura if he criticized Coleman for taking the case to the state Supreme Court:
"I criticize him only that Coleman’s always been a hypocrite. He never does what he says. He said election night when he won that Franken should drop out and he should be the Senator. Well, then the same should hold true after the recount."
When asked to assess Barack Obama’s performance as President to date, Ventura said it was, "Too early to tell," because he had "inherited something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – two wars and an economy that’s a borderline depression."
The former Governor said the current situation was the result of the policies of the Bush administration, who, Ventura believes, "Is the worst president in my lifetime." He added that Obama was "very intelligent – which is a change from our previous president."
Ventura characterized Guantanamo Bay as "our own Hanoi Hilton" and criticized Obama for not prosecuting those who tortured enemy combatants during the Bush administration:
"It’s a good thing I’m not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law."
Ventura, who says he was waterboarded during his Navy Seals training days, described the technique:
"Every one of us was waterboarded. It is torture. It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It’s no good. I’ll put it to you this way: you give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."
Ventura later said about the former Vice-President:
"I don’t have a lot of respect for Dick Cheney. Here’s a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War. Clearly he’s a coward. He wouldn't go when it was his time to go, and now he’s a chicken hawk. Now he’s this big tough guy who wants this hardcore policy. And he’s the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it 'enhanced interrogation.'"
Ventura, a long-time proponent of the legalization of drugs, also said he could solve the US-Mexican drug problems by lifting the prohibition on drugs to put the cartels out of business.
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