Transcript: Jesse Ventura Sounds Off

This partial transcript from The Edge with Paula Zahn, April 24, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Leading The Edge tonight, Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. His job approval ratings are at their second lowest level since the ex-wrestler took office some two years ago. But despite his controversial style, 57 percent of Minnesotans stand behind Governor Ventura. And Governor Ventura joins us tonight from St. Paul, Minnesota.

Welcome back to THE EDGE. Good to see you.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: Hi, Paula. How are you?

ZAHN: I’m doing fine. I guess things aren’t doing so fine in your state. Very quickly, we know you have applied for emergency relief funds from the government. What will it take to have your state declared a federal disaster area because of the intense flooding you’re experiencing?

VENTURA: Well, I’ve got a feeling that that’s going to happen without any problem, because the flood levels have already reached in many areas the same as they were in 1997 when we got hit with the flood of the century. Apparently, we got the flood of the new century, which came four years later now, although I don’t think the devastation will be nearly as bad because the great thing about it, if you can call it great, was the people were better prepared this time. They knew what they had to do. Our National Guard participated. We had tremendous public outpouring of virtual, physical help from all over the state of people packing sandbags and getting the job done. So hopefully, the damage will be held to a minimum, but certainly, there will be damage.

ZAHN: I wanted to quickly put up on the screen what Joe Allbaugh had to say, who is the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And he said, quote, "The question is: How many times will the American taxpayer have to step in and take care of this flooding, which could be easily prevented by building levees and dikes?" Does he have a point?

VENTURA: He has a great point, and I couldn’t agree with him more. We need to build them permanently in certain spots and get the resources to do that. And we have to remember too that I believe part of the problem for the flooding today, Paula, is you know, many times it’s urban sprawl. It’s the sprawl that takes place in different parts of different states, because all of a sudden, we’re paving things over, we’re changing the way water runs. And man enters into the equation and the end result is you probably get more flooding which then you have to deal with.

ZAHN: So you understand why some Americans who do not live in these flood-prone areas are outraged that they have to keep on bailing out some of these less fortunate people who live in flood plains?

VENTURA: Well, then again, you know, they shouldn’t be outraged over it. You know, there’s pros and cons about both, but it also falls into the disaster situation of you can’t fully control Mother Nature. If a tornado comes through and hits your town, well, you have to get bailed out for that, too. And what then? You live in the tornado area. Are you going to move out of it? Of course not. Those are elements you just have to deal with. And we as a people have to learn to accept that, that sometimes these tragedies are going to happen, and we all have to pull together and get through them.

ZAHN: But very quickly before I close out this line of questioning, even you acknowledge there is more these individual states could probably do to prevent the severity of this kind of flooding down the road.

VENTURA: Well, certainly there’s more we could do, and there’s more we should be doing as well as with the federal government. Maybe the best way to do it is not send so much money to the federal government and allow us to keep more of our money in our own states. And then we’ll have more resources to take care of these problems.

ZAHN: Well, you move me then to my next line of questioning, which is on to President Bush’s first 100 days in office. He is getting pummeled from the left and the right for various reasons. The right accusing him of not working hard enough to convince Senator Jeffords to go with the Republicans his tax cut plan. The Democrats saying that he didn’t give them a chance to negotiate. Who’s right?

VENTURA: Well, again, I’m not behind the scenes. I don’t work in Washington. So I can only believe what’s reported to me by the media. And as you know, I only believe about half of what the media reports to me on a general basis.

ZAHN: Oh, you should be watching this show more often. Hopefully, I get a better ratio than that.

VENTURA: Oh, well, I watch what I can, you know, and I’m working in that. But, you know, the media is not always accurate so I can only go by that. And remember, politics is going to enter into it as it always does, and both sides are going to blame the other side, and everyone is going to conveniently point their finger at the president because that’s part of what happens when you become the leader of the executive branch. I know it well right here in the state of Minnesota.

ZAHN: Well, you just expressed the wish that perhaps maybe you could fight flooding more effectively if you had more money, you know, kept in your state. But let’s talk about the personal taxpayer. Do you think what the Senate may arrive at is somewhere between a $1.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion tax cut is acceptable? I mean, once it gets through the conference committee process.

VENTURA: I support the president’s budget. He’s talking about projected surplus. And in the reality of the situation, of this surplus money, he’s only giving us 20 cents on the dollar. I don’t think that’s outrageous. Yet these other people apparently only want us to get 10 cents on the dollar. I personally would like to see a quarter on the dollar cause we’re talking surplus money here, money that they didn’t expect to have that has come into their possession because we’ve had a very robust economy. Well, my belief is that get that back into the private sector and keep the economy looking good.

ZAHN: Of course, though, I’m sure you would admit too that no one can prove with 100 percent certainty what that surplus will ultimately be.


ZAHN: But on to the issue of Christie Todd Whitman. Over the weekend, she indicated that perhaps the administration was backing off its plans to drill in the ANWR in Alaska. And then Ari Fleischer came out a day later and essentially said there was some confusion, essentially that wasn’t true. Is she long for the world as the ahead of the EPA?

VENTURA: Is she wrong for it?

ZAHN: Is she long? I mean, do you think she’s getting ready to be taken off her duties at the EPA? What does this suggest to you?

VENTURA: It doesn’t suggest a thing to me. It just suggests probably there was a bit of lack of communication from one side to the other. I highly doubt that the president is going to replace anyone that quickly in his first one hundred days unless they did a gross misconduct of some sort. And Governor Whitman certainly hasn’t done that in my eyes. And I think that the president will give her due course to do her job. I think that it’s the media making much ado about nothing, which they love to do because if they can create controversy, that sells. And the media loves that because it makes them money.

ZAHN: Wait a minute. We aren’t the ones that under cut her. And I’m certainly not defending the reporting of everybody involved in this, but you know, when it came to CO2 emissions and arsenic levels and this latest issue of ANWR drilling, she said one thing and then the administration came back and said, no, that’s not true. Wouldn’t you think that was being hung out to dry or you think that was just sloppiness?

VENTURA: Well, maybe a little sloppiness, maybe a lack of communication, but until -- you know, that I can’t answer, Paula, because I don’t sit in on federal issues and I’m not there sitting in on the meetings that happened.

ZAHN: Would you like to someday?

VENTURA: Would I like to? No, not a bit.

ZAHN: OK. That was a roundabout way of, you know, asking if you ever wanted to run for president again, but we’ll get to that on the other side of the break. Please stand by, Governor Ventura.

VENTURA: I’d rather be ambassador to Tahiti.

ZAHN: Governor Jesse Ventura’s got another book out called, "Do I Stand Alone? Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals."

Are we all media jackals?

VENTURA: You have to answer that yourself, Paula, by looking in the mirror every night when you go home.

ZAHN: I’m not, I’m not, I’m not. I hope not. All right. Let’s move on to the issue of the one 100-day marker by which President Bush will be measured. He’s sort of someone said, quote, "celebrated his concession to this arbitrary but unavoidable marker that his aides had once hoped to ignore." He has invited all 535 members of Congress to celebrate with him at the White House on Monday. I know you said earlier on you did support his budget plan. Quickly assess some other things. First of all, how he’s dealt with the military. Military spending, the proposals are not as high as a number of even Republicans had wanted.

VENTURA: Well, again, that’s a call he has to make in putting his budget together, but I do support paying our military more money. I think we could get that money taken right out of foreign aid would be a good spot to give it from. It becomes kind of an embarrassment when people in the military have to go on food stamps and that nature to protect our country. And I think that they should get a pay raise, absolutely.

ZAHN: Give us your quick overview on how things stand in our military. A lot of people were outraged by what happened to our crew in China. They look at this horrendous accident in Hawaii. They see people like Senator Warner complaining that the levels of funding certainly were not what they anticipated under a Bush administration. Your assessment?

VENTURA: Well, again, when you’re in the military, you do things for real. It’s not the movies. It’s not retakes and all that stuff. And accidents are going to happen. There’s an old saying we call "Mr. Murphy will show up," which is anything that can go wrong will go wrong. And I’m more concerned, Paula, about this situation down in Peru. What troubles me there in this whole drug deal situation is that we’ve now gotten to the point where we simply execute people without a trial? I mean, even if this plane had been laden with drugs, that’s OK to shoot it out of the air? I’m appalled over that and I’m outraged. And I think we need to take a hard look at all the rights that we’re giving up in this supposed war on drugs which I consider a miserable failure.

ZAHN: Well, do you think there’s something the Bush administration could have had in place that would have prevented this from happening?

VENTURA: Yeah, we could stop fighting this ridiculous war on drugs in the manner of how we’re fighting it. We need to fight it on the demand side, not the supply side. You’re never going to win it fighting it on the supply side. You must fight it on the demand side. Case in point: We had a case here where I sit on the pardon board with the attorney general and head of the Supreme Court in Minnesota. We had a first-degree murderer who tried to get a pardon. It was denied but we get their prison record. Here is a person locked up 24 hours a day in our most secure penitentiary, who had 21 violations for drugs in prison. Now if we can’t keep drugs out of prison to a first degree murderer, how are we supposed to do that in what’s supposed to be a free street corner in society? You have to stop the demand for these drugs. Yet we continue to fight this ridiculous battle, fighting the supply which is unwinnable and obviously money involved. People are making money off it and that’s why it happens.

ZAHN: All right, I wanted to quickly move the focus back to you and your latest approval ratings. They remain high at 57 percent, but they’ve slipped a full 14 points. And I’m going to put up on the screen something that you said that seemed to be a lightning rod for some folks that don’t like you. You said, "Until you’ve hunted man, you have hunted yet, because you need to hunt something that can shoot back you to really classify yourself as a hunter." Do you think that has something to do with your drop in these most recent polls?

VENTURA: No, I wouldn’t say that. Again, that’s a case if it was a conversation that was then printed, you know, to make money for the media as usual. But in the case...

ZAHN: So wait, before you go any further, are you sorry you said that or you stand by what you said?

VENTURA: No, not a bit, not a bit. You know, that’s my opinion. And my opinion means no more or no less than anyone else. And I do support hunting. I support the people that do it. All I said is that in the rest of the conversation was I personally can’t do it. I can’t go out and shoot a deer. I can’t go out and shoot a bear because my opinion is that, you know, unless -- true hunting is when you’re hunted back, and that’s all I said. They made a big deal out of it. So what?

No, I'll tell you why my approval rating may have dipped a little. Because I wasn’t elected to be a shrinking violet. I was elected to reform. I was elected to move boldly in and look at government, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve done some bold initiatives in my budget. And any time there’s major change, people get frightened, people get scared. And that’s going to happen. Approval ratings, it’s like a ride on a roller coaster. One week you’re high, the next week you’re low. I don’t worry about that.

ZAHN: Sounds sort of like the equivalent of what we have when it comes to the ratings business in television. Governor Ventura, it’s good to have you cover so much territory with us this evening. Thank you again.

VENTURA: Well, thank you, Paula. Always my pleasure and look forward to doing it again.

ZAHN: And good luck with the flooding. We hope things don’t get any worse.

VENTURA: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.

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