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Interview with Jessie Ventura

Aired January 14, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, straight talk from Governor Jesse Ventura, political maverick, former Navy SEAL. Pick a topic. We'll take calls.

But first, a bruised President Bush takes to the road. The hunt for Osama bin Laden goes on, and the Enron mess gets messier. Perspective on the day's top headlines with Bob Woodward, best selling author and assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post." Both next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

A great lineup of guests coming all week long, I'll be telling you about that. We start with Bob Woodward in Washington, the Pulitzer Prize winning assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post." He will be with us again on the night of the State of the Union Address, following that address for analysis.

But we'll start with the big news today. What do you hear about the pretzel and the President?

BOB WOODWARD, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: Well, we don't know. The only witnesses are the two dogs, and no one's ever going to take their deposition.

What I found fascinating about it was the instant aggressive disclosure of what happened, how it happened, all of the detail, and it gave you an unusual slice of what life is like for President Bush. It's not always parties and standing around and giving speeches. Sometimes it's watching a football game by yourself, which is exactly what he says he was doing when this happened.

KING: And so you're applauding the administration, Ari Fleischer and the like, for getting it out?

WOODWARD: I think so. There were questions when he had some lesions taken off his face. There have been questions about Presidential health always, and the only way to meet it is with early disclosure and full disclosure. The problem, of course, is if there's something more to it than what we're learning.

But based on what's available, it was a weird accident. Doctors say it can happen. They obviously check up on Presidential health in the White House more than anybody gets their health checked. They have doctors and nurses on duty, specialists, so if there's something more to it, that's going to come out. KING: Does your investigative mind tell you there might be, or are you just taking this as fact?

WOODWARD: No, you never take it as fact but I - kind of the bizarreness of it makes it all feasible. The idea of choking on a pretzel, you know, I'm sure people are going to be asking what kind of pretzel, did it have salt, was it this thick or that thick, and we may have pretzelgate somewhere down the line.

KING: Ha, pretzelgate. Now let's turn to Enron. By the way, are you looking into this?

WOODWARD: No. No, I'm not, not at this point. Based on, again what's available and what's nice about these things, you never know so you have to take the snapshot at the moment. It seems like about a two on a scale of 10.

The idea of Enron executives calling the Treasury Department or Treasury Secretary or the Commerce Secretary does not strike me as strange or improper as long as nothing was done.

Put yourself in the place of Paul O'Neill, the Treasury Secretary. You are among other things, an intelligence officer. You need to know what's going on in the business world and there's no way you can refuse those calls. In fact, you have to encourage them.

Look at the other side of this. Suppose Enron had gone bankrupt like it did, that it had taken the American economy down or the stock market down, then the questions would be, what did Paul O'Neill know and why didn't he do something about it.

KING: On the other side, Bob, if this were President Clinton, if Enron were located in Little Rock, would the talk show hosts be having a field day?

WOODWARD: Well, again you have to take what the evidence is and -

KING: I mean at this stage, don't you think they'd have wrapped him around? Calls to the President?


KING: No, you don't think so.

WOODWARD: The idea that they're calls. There are calls all the time, as you know. You make calls. You get calls. You are an intelligence officer too. Any reporter in Washington tries to gather information, sometimes above board, sometimes it's clandestine and indirect; nothing unusual about that.

It's part of the job. What do you think the Commerce Department does? It looks out for American business. They have segments of that department that spend all their time helping American business.

KING: Might some of the criticism have said, why didn't you warn us when you knew they were in trouble?

WOODWARD: Well, that's a fair point and of course the people who got screwed here, earlier on one of your shows there were people who literally lost their life savings.

KING: Right.

WOODWARD: Their entire pension plan was in it. That's the scandal, and that is a business scandal clearly and vividly, and needs to be investigated and people need to be held accountable in that company, the people who made the decisions.

I saw Bill Sapphire, the New York Times columnist, was calling it Andersongate after the accounting firm that did the accounting work for Enron. That's the direction where the investigation should go in my view at this point, given this information.

KING: Speaking of that, CNN has learned that months before they declared bankruptcy, an unidentified employee warned the company's top executive, "I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals." Does your investigative nose tell you that Anderson is in big trouble?

WOODWARD: Again, somebody's in big trouble and it may not be a name or a series of names that we know and recognize. But the investigation should be just as thorough and there should be the kind of business accountability that is expected of government. We shouldn't just say, well if it's not a White House scandal or a government scandal, it's not a scandal. These people lost their life savings and we're talking about thousands of people.

KING: Do you think it's a good idea to have a criminal investigation as well, conducted in the Senate and the House?

WOODWARD: Well, of course, the House and the Senate can only conduct legislative investigations.

KING: I mean, but it's part of a criminal and what you say in the Senate and the House can be used in a criminal investigation.

WOODWARD: It can, though a lot of smart lawyers will get the people testifying and will get immunity for them so it can't be. But yes, the House and the Senate should look at this. This is the people's business in a very real sense, and because it doesn't seem to be about the White House or there's not a sex angle that we know about, doesn't mean that people shouldn't be interested in it.

KING: John McCain -

WOODWARD: Money is the great lesson in all this investigating reporting and it certainly fits here.

KING: As you discovered in Watergate. John McCain said on this show Friday night, this is ample proof of the need for campaign finance reform just on the face of it. Do you agree? WOODWARD: You know, I don't know. I think we need some sort of work on the campaign finance system to say the least. Again, that goes back to Watergate 30 years ago, believe it or not. But the idea - I remember talking to Ken Lay a number of years ago. He's the head of Enron, and I was talking to him about the money he gave Democrats and Clinton, and whether he was involved in Gore's fundraising calls.

So what Enron did, most of the money went to the Republicans, but there was a good deal of protection money to the Democrats also.

KING: When we come back, we'll ask Bob Woodward about the War on Terror, U.S. action in Afghanistan, what's going on at Guantanamo, and then Governor Jesse Ventura.

Tomorrow night, drugs and the royals. They never stay out of the news. On Wednesday night, a complete show about the movie "Blackhawk Down," and the war that occurred in Somalia. Barbara Walters will be here Thursday, along with her new cohost John Miller. And Russell Crow on Friday. We'll be right back.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought for a while when they told me that I was going to receive a gift here that old Chuck was going to bring a pretzel, those kind that are easy to chew. If my mother is listening, mother I should have listened to you. Always chew your pretzels before you swallow.


KING: We're back with Bob Woodward. Front-page story in your paper today by Dan Egan and Michael Dobbs. They're saying that the danger persists after the hobbling of al Qaeda, that special consent of bin Laden may have pre-approved more attacks. You had your report in late December about the FBI having more than 150 separate investigations into groups and people. Are you concerned?

WOODWARD: Yes, and the people who look at the intelligence and the information are profoundly concerned. The worry is still there. Remember there was all this back and forth after the public alerts were issued by the FBI or by the White House saying, be on alert. Something might happen. We can't tell you when or where or how.

And then there was the shoe bomber on the plane coming from Europe. Now five or six months ago, if somebody was going to light their shoe on fire, the passengers would not have jumped on him. In this case, they did jump on him. They jumped on him and it's very evident from what the passengers who did this said, because of the heightened alert status, the realization, the trumpeting by the government that there may be other attacks and that you can expect them.

The doctrine that the people in al Qaeda and bin Laden's groups have is, strike when people's guard is down. So it's quite plausible, certainly not provable, but that these people to the extent they exist and the cells are still operative are sitting around and saying, "well let's take six months off and let the guard in the United States go down. Then it will be much easier to strike."

KING: Any word on bin Laden and whereabouts?

WOODWARD: No. I've watched a lot of television shows and looked at stories tonight about where bin Laden is, and you can come up with about 45 different explanations. And what I find fascinating is, there will be very serious reports on network television saying that a CIA analysis says that bin Laden has left Pakistan and Afghanistan and probably left by ship.

Now, then there will be other reports saying, no he's certainly in Pakistan. And Colin Powell, who's been through the wringer as many times as anyone on this issue of what do you know and when do you know it, I think spoke the truth when he said "no one knows, at least no one in the U.S. government has any real idea where bin Laden is."

And I think people should probably filter out the reports that come from analysts. Analysts are people who are looking at little pieces of data, trying to surmise. Sometimes their work is great and quite wise. Other times, it is just the best guess.

One thing I think you probably can be sure of is, if the U.S. Government, the military or the CIA or FBI, anyone knew where bin Laden was, they'd go kill him.

KING: All right.

WOODWARD: And the report would be, bin Laden dead. The most significant report on bin Laden is probably going to be that, not that he's in this cave in this mountain, because if they know that, they have authority to kill him.

KING: Major speech by Senator Joseph Lieberman today. He said "the unique threat to American security by Saddam Hussein's regime is so real, grave, and imminent, we must be prepared to act alone." What do you make of that?

WOODWARD: I don't know. The Bush Administration in weighing that very carefully has, for the moment, decided as best that we can tell, not to strike Iraq immediately. Everyone goes around and says "well after Afghanistan, what is the next target?"

We know the next target. The next target is worldwide, taking down bin Laden's organization in dozens and dozens of countries. That is what they are doing. That is the unseen CIA war that's going on now. Now and then, pieces of it will spring up in the news, like in Singapore where they broke up a cell and so forth. There was one in Italy. There have been examples in France, Germany, all around the world. That is the next phase and the ongoing phase of the war.

KING: Given let's say, Bob, the economy's up a little, down a little, stays about the same as it is now and the war effort continues on, what's the effect on November elections?


KING: If it were now?

WOODWARD: If bin Laden, etal do not strike again, there will be the sense that the prevention efforts have worked and I think that has a spillover effect politically, that is if the economy remains neutral.

Your very frequent guest, James Carvel who said it in '92, it's the economy stupid. It applies 10 years later, that the economy is a dominant factor in American politics as it should be, and at the same time, this war if it takes a negative turn, if there are other attacks and it seems that something more should have been done, I don't know what more could be done, but people might look at things and say, "where were they? Were they on the ball? Were they doing their job?"

KING: You've written a book about Alan Greenspan. Is he still as formidable as when you wrote that work?

WOODWARD: People have criticized him. People have criticized him when he was Fed Chairman during the presidency of the first President Bush. There was voluminous criticism. In fact, Bush senior publicly criticized him and said that he thought Greenspan might have cost him the election.

What Greenspan and the Federal Reserve have done in the last year is extraordinary, taken interest rates down below the inflation rate. It has had some impact on the economy. A lot of experts think that it has not had that great an impact at this point.

But if there is a recovery, or if there is economic stability, people look at Greenspan's record, just the facts show that it's quite an extraordinary one. Did he make some bad calls? Perhaps, and he's the first to admit that.

KING: Let's get in a quick call for Bob Woodward, San Juan Capistrano, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Yes, I'd like to ask Mr. Woodward if reporters aren't investigating, how are we ever going to find out what really happened on the Enron situation?

WOODWARD: Oh, many people are investigating it. I am not personally at this point and I may regret that. Maybe I should be, but there are people at the Washington Post, all sorts of news organizations digging into that very hard. We have run extensive stories on it, and some of our very finest reporters are on it.

KING: So you're only saying that as of now, that's a business scandal?

WOODWARD: That's right. That doesn't mean it's not as significant. In terms of human pain and agony and loss of resources and life savings, it's certainly much greater than the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and that is going to be reported on and should be.

KING: Thank you, Bob, and we'll see you on the night of the State of the Union Address, two weeks from tomorrow. WOODWARD: Thank you.

KING: Bob Woodward, Assistant Managing Editor, Pulitzer Prize winner of the Washington Post.

One of the most intriguing figures in American politics, Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota is next. Don't go away.


KING: It's always good to welcome up to LARRY KING LIVE, he is never dull, the governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, former Navy SEAL He comes to us from the governor's mansion in St. Paul.

There seems to -- certainly in this war, a special role for special forces, we've had many of them on this program in special operations. You were a Navy SEAL. What is -- what kind of breed of a person is that, that wants to do what they do?

GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: Well, you have to have a lot of courage, Larry. You have to have a lot of self-confidence, and you have to enjoy the job you do, because certainly they don't do it for the money. I remember when I was in, I think my top pay was about $650 to $700 a month. And so, and that you used as kind of beer money, you had a place to sleep, three hot meals and spending money. And that's about all you do it for. They are a breed of people who realize that there is a role for what they do, they are highly motivated, and for life experiences you can't beat it.

I mean, I look back today, Larry. You know, I had 34 parachute jumps, I dove 212 feet under the water, I fast-roped out of helicopters. And it's a very exciting life. And it's that of a young man, generally, that has to do it, but it's a challenge that you face as a young person and certainly in serving your country and if you are like me, you generally want to do the best. So one of the reasons I joined the SEALS, Larry, actually, I'll tell you this, I was deathly afraid of heights when I grew up. And I knew by joining the SEALS I'd have to jump out of airplanes, and that would certainly cure my fear of heights.

KING: I would say. As you view Afghanistan, what's the particular problem faced there militarily?

VENTURA: Well, they seem to be doing a great job. It turned out to be another, I thought it would be much more difficult than what it has been, not saying that it hasn't been difficult. Certainly I don't know, I'm not there. But much the same as the Gulf War, we were prepared for certainly a higher body bag count, we are not getting it.

And so it's clear that having air superiority like we've had over there is the best thing you can do for ground troops, because they certainly softened up the al Qaeda and the Taliban to the point where the ground troops really are going in there pretty much unmolested at this point in time expect for a few small skirmishes here and there. But it's still got to be pretty hairy work, especially as you go into those caves and stuff, not knowing what's in there. I'm sure they're taking proper precautions before they move in.

KING: What do you make of the story of the American, John Walker, member of the Taliban?

VENTURA: Well, I think Larry, he's a very confused young man. He's only 20 years-old. And I'm not trying to make light of what he did. You know, you got a lot of people here talking about charging him with treason, the death penalty, and all of this stuff. Well, I think the worst thing they could do to this young man is take away his citizenship from the United States and let him live where he wants to live over there.

If that's his choice, I think to me, personally that would be worse than a death sentence. And, but as far as, you know, you still have to look, let's remember this, too, about him, Larry. In most states in the United States, he's not even old enough to drink a beer. And so when you put it in that perspective, you know, yes, he did wrong. Yes, he made a mistake. Yes, he should be punished for it, but I think a lot of people are, you know, pretty -- want something pretty severe to this young man. And I think, you know, after looking at the conditions he was living in, he obviously likes to punish himself.

KING: What do you make of the idea of moving all these people to Guantanamo?

VENTURA: Well, I guess we got to store them somewhere while we interrogate them. And Guantanamo's probably as good a place as any. I think we'd get more out of them if they moved them up here to a cold climate in Minnesota. You know, that might get more. Cuba's kind of a nice climate, and a lot of sun tanning down there. But that's probably -- I am certain our military officials looked at where we could put these people, what was the most secure place to put them and where the interrogation of them could work the best and the probably settled on Guantanamo Bay as being that place.

KING: And what's your read, we talked to Bob Woodward about Iraq, do you think eventually we'll have to go there and maybe Yemen and Somalia again?

VENTURA: I think it's a distinct possibility. The key to all of this, again, and I agree with the Bush administration, I agree with General Powell that we have got to rip these people out wherever they may be. And that doesn't rule out the Philippines, also. You better put that in the equation, but we have got to go after them and we have got to go after them with high intensity. Because it's clear that laying back and not paying attention to them has dire results to us, as we all know of September the 11. So it's going to be a long, drawn out process, Larry. I think it's going to take well 10 years to really get the job done, but I think it'll be done pretty small scale.

And I have no knowledge, but I probably think they'll move into Somalia next, because they do have -- the government there seems to be wanting us to go come in there and root them out. And they don't seem to have the ability to do that. I think if they do Iraq, they'll save that for last, because certainly if we do wage something on Iraq we could lose some of our Middle Eastern support, and so you may want to choose to go to Iraq last on the list.

KING: Why do you mention the Philippines?

VENTURA: The Philippines? Because you have very much al Qaeda's in there. They've infiltrated in the Philippines. They've been down in the southern island, since the day I was there in the early 70s. They've had the problems there of the Muslim battling the Christian religion over there. You had the communist Filipinos, or what we called them hucks -- was the slang term for them when I was there. And so I think they could be very well cemented into the Philippines for lack of a better word, because the Philippines is pretty dense jungle.

KING: Enough to require us to go there?

VENTURA: I think it very well could be, unless the Philippines can handle it on their own. But they've been one of our strongest allies throughout the years dating back to World War II. I'm certain the Philippine government, naturally they'd have to request us to come in there or -- you know -- I don't think we'd just go in there on our own.

KING: You are an Independent so you speak objectively. What's your rating of this president as commander-in-chief and the hierarchy of Rumsfeld and Cheney and the like?

VENTURA: I think that as far as fighting this war, they are doing an excellent job. I don't think we could have better people there to do it. I have the utmost respect for General Powell. He excited me when President Bush chose him for the secretary of state position. As you know, I supported him to run for president. And -- but it's a good -- I think it's a good position for General Powell to be in. I think Rumsfeld is doing a good job, they certainly have the experience.

But, now having said that on the international scene, I will tell you where I feel the president is falling short. And that is in keeping states' rights intact. We met with the president when he first came in office, he said it would be federalism with granting rights to the states, that the states would be empowered more, and the opposite has taken place. We are getting more federal government intervention, we are getting states rights taken from us daily, all the time. A couple of cases in point, medicinal marijuana. You've had six or seven states that have passed this, saying we would like doctors to have the ability to prescribe this to patients.

And yet the heavy hand of federal government comes in, smacks down on the table and says no, we know what's best for you. And we'll decide what's best for your state. I think that's all wrong as well as the assisted suicide up in Oregon. Two times the people have voted for it. The people have spoke in the state of Oregon, yet Attorney General Ashcroft comes in with his heavy hand and says, no we're not going to allow this. So the president has greatly disappointed me on state's rights. But as far as on the rights of fighting an international war, he's doing an outstanding job. KING: We have to get a break. Come back. Lots to talk about with Jesse Ventura. What's going to happen to baseball in his home state and what about Enron? Don't go away.


KING: Before we get to some calls and talk about Enron, let's talk about baseball. Where are you now? You've got someone trying buy the Twins. The governor -- the commissioner is trying to put the Twins out of business, contraction. And pitches and catches report next month. What's happening?

VENTURA: Well, Larry, I think the season's going to go on this year. I think it's far too late for them to contract right now and, in fact, I think I heard just a day or two ago they put contraction on hold and the soonest it would happen would be after the next season. So we've bought the Twins at least one more year.

What's happening up here, of course, is there is a -- an African- American businessman from Alabama named Mr. Wadkins, I think his name is, and he has said he wants to buy the twins and he'll build a stadium without public money. And I say, hip, hip, hooray to him. Sell to him. Let's see what he can do. Because he would certainly would be a godsend to me, Larry, because I have enough problems with a $1.9 billion deficit that I'm dealing with now after three years of surpluses, you know.

In light of the war and the national recession we are now facing the opposite situation and quite frankly, I don't have the money, nor will I give public money to build professional sports stadiums. These people can build their own. I'm certainly opened up to user fees and stuff like that. But don't come into my checkbook and ask for it.

KING: Do you think you'll save it in the long run?

VENTURA: I'm hopeful that we will. I think with new ownership I think that it is a positive thing. I hope the gentleman from Alabama is serious. He claims that he is. He said he's gotten 5,000 e-mails from Minnesota Twin fans and he said he looks forward to coming up here and buying the Twins and building his own stadium and a museum with it.

I think he has something to prove, Larry, because Mr. Wadkins is African-American and he will be the Jackie Robinson of baseball ownership. He will be the first black owner of baseball, and we'd love to have him here in Minnesota. So if he is out there listening, the governor says, welcome aboard. Come on up to Minnesota.

KING: And since Bud Selig has been in the forefront of the fight to get more blacks in the dugouts as managers, as general managers, as -- this should be duck soup for him.

VENTURA: Well, not necessarily, because as you know, Larry, you have a little conflict of interest with Mr. Carl Polat over some $3 million loan that took place, which is against the rules of baseball for one owner to loan another owner money, and then there's a tie-in with the Colorado owner. So the Web's spinning deeper. Maybe you should have Bob Woodward come out and investigate it.

KING: Are you calling for Mr. Selig to resign?

VENTURA: I'm not calling for him to resign, but I don't think he should be the commissioner. Because he supposedly, nod, nod, wink, wink, his daughter is now running the Milwaukee Brewers. Well, who would profit most by the contraction of the Minnesota Twins? The Milwaukee Brewers would because the western Wisconsin fans follow the Twins. Now if the Twins disappear, those fans would naturally turn towards Milwaukee.

KING: Let's grab a call for Jesse before we take some questions about Enron.

Seattle, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Governor, do you think that Enron's influence on our nation's energy policies and their buying and selling of politicians has been as destructive and scandalous as what they did to their stockholders, and also if this were happening under Bill Clinton do you think it would be a bloody media circus by now?

VENTURA: Well it is hard to say. The media definitely slants left, there is no doubt about that and they tend to protect the left a little bit more. And that's clear in how they report things. Because they will always report conservative so and so. You never hear him say liberal so and so with a name.

But I'm not really, you know, I have to be perfectly honest, Larry, Enron hasn't been high on my list, facing a $1.9 billion deficit, which I had to put a supplemental budget out to. It certainly, though, cries for campaign finance reform. We are not going to get clean government until we clean up the apparatus which controls government and that is the money that flows into it. Because people need to realize that you are not electing a Democrat or a Republican because special interest goes to both of these parties.

They foot the bill to both of these parties, and they don't care who wins because they've got both their bases covered. The only people that don't take special interest are people like myself, independents, or people like Ralph Nader, who refuse to do it.

KING: Are you worried that Enron might lead to greater things? Are you concerned -- you said it's not on your high list. Are you concerned? VENTURA: I don't have enough knowledge of it. I realize it's a horrible scandal. I think some people, from what I've heard, definitely need to be prosecuted for some of the things that went on, and it's horrible what they did to their stockholders and their retirement people.

You know, definitely I feel there should be some type of federal investigation done and the people that committed these acts should pay a price for it.

KING: What got Minnesota into such trouble? VENTURA: What got us into debt trouble?

KING: Yes.

VENTURA: The recession, which started in March, which they didn't admit to it until this fall and certainly September 11. You know, people don't realize the impact this had on a state like Minnesota. We are the hub of Northwest Airlines. I don't need to say anymore there. Anywhere that's a hub got hit hard because the airline industry got smashed because of September 11.

We are also a state that's very big on tourism. Tourism is as powerful in Minnesota, if you can believe it, as agriculture. The money is about equal for both. So when people stop traveling, Minnesota takes a hit. We are just now starting to recover from it. But we will recover from it because people are getting back to normal life lives now.

KING: You going to run again?

VENTURA: I'll decide after the session. I got one more legislative session that starts in about two weeks, a capital bonding session and then of course adjusting our budget, and redistricting and all of that. But when that session is over, then about June or July or so I'll make that decision. But I'm fortunate, Larry. I only spent $300,000 to get elected. I've already raised that much money again and as an incumbent I will spend even less, so I don't think I even need to get into the race until August and still be very competitive.

KING: Any strong challengers on the -- you would be running against both parties again, right?

VENTURA: Yes, absolutely I would be. Are there strong challengers? There is a few people. Tim Polemi, the majority leader of the House is running and the state auditor, Judy Ducher is running as a Democrat and so I am sure I will have a couple formidable foes, but they can't be any worse than Hubert Humphry and Norm Coldman in '98.

KING: Would you say -- it's obvious, the way you are talking -- you are leaning toward staying on, or wanting to stay on?

VENTURA: Excuse me, Larry. Well, Larry, for me it is a challenge. I won't be governor just to ne governor, but I find that the deficit has rejuvenated me a little bit. For three years I dealt with budget surpluses and giving back rebate checks. Now this is a whole different kettle of fish that we got here. It is debt now, I am forced into cutting government, I am forced to raise slightly a few taxes to fill in the whole, and so it is a challenge to me to govern both ways in surplus and in debt, but I would tell you right now I am leaning towards running again.

KING: Seems obvious to me.

VENTURA: But I could change my mind too. KING: You can do anything you want.

VENTURA: Absolutely.

KING: We will be right back with more of Governor Ventura and more of your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: We are back with Governor Ventura. Ellijay, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Governor Ventura, as you say, both parties are getting all this special interest money. They are in office now. What can the American people do since these people are already in office?

VENTURA: You can vote them out of office, that's what you can do. Remember something, your future is in your hands. And the people of this country better start going back to the voting booth. I think it's pretty pathetic when you have states out there that can't even get 50 percent of their population to participate in voting. That's where the people can speak is by going to the polls and voting. That's how I won my election.

Nobody gave me a chance. They said I couldn't win. And, yet, the voter turnout was so high, it inspired people who had been disenchanted voters and young people to come back and vote. And that's how you can do it. You can get involved in your local school board, your local city elections. Be involved and vote and take part in the system. That's what makes for good democracy.

KING: I never get personal on this show, Governor, but it applies to you, so I'll bring it up. Tomorrow I have got a great thrill coming. I get to carry the Olympic torch tomorrow here in downtown Los Angeles. I'm told that Olympic organizers say because of a timing issue, they had to omit four states this year, North and South Dakota, Hawaii and you.


KING: Minnesota. How did you feel about that?

VENTURA: Well, I don't like it at all, Larry, because it would be one thing maybe if it was the summer Olympics. But why does the torch need to go through Texas, southern California, Florida, Alabama, and all of these states for the winter Olympics, and yet, you would skip Minnesota?

And let me make this for the argument. Imagine if Minnesota athletes decided to skip the winter Olympics for the same reason? You would never have the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980 because there were at least 10 Minnesota players on that team as well as head coach Herb Brooks who brought the greatest thrill to modern day United States Olympic history. And I'm a bit outraged over the fact that they try to tell us, well, because of demographics or scheduling, we can't get the torch to Minnesota. Well, how would they feel if our Minnesota winter athletes decided, well, because of scheduling, we think we'll not participate in the winter Olympics.

KING: You feel the same for North and South Dakota?

VENTURA: Sure. Certainly.

KING: Cold weather states.

VENTURA: I think that the winter torch should at least go to every state that has snow. How is that?

KING: OK. Hawaii would be hard to make the run across the Pacific. I guess that probably put them in a tough spot.

VENTURA: Yes, but they managed to get it to Alaska, didn't they?

KING: Did you bring your complaint to any of the officials?

VENTURA: Yes, I did. I wrote an official letter to the Olympic committee and I got a nice little standard conciliatory form letter back that told me how important Minnesota was. And they referred to the 1980 Olympic team, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it didn't do anything for our ego up here.

KING: With all the -- there's other questions coming. We'll take some phone calls as well. With all the things you've done, you've had many careers, what do you think of politics?

VENTURA: It's the dirtiest game I've ever been involved in, Larry.

KING: Dirtier than wrestling?

VENTURA: Way worse. Not even comparable. You -- you'll get back stabbed and your throat slit in this business quicker than you can blink your eye.

KING: Did that surprise you?

VENTURA: In some ways, it did because I think every American wants to truly believe in their government. But you have to remember something. With the Democrats and Republicans, all they are looking for, Larry, is the next election, how to get the power, how to control the power and how to keep the power. And that's what it's all about. They don't look much beyond the next election cycle, at least in state government with your state legislators.

KING: Maple Grove, Minnesota, as we go to some more calls for Governor Ventura, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I wanted to ask the governor how his prior occupations and training have helped him to figure out policies for the state of Minnesota?

KING: Was your background good for this job?

VENTURA: Remember something, our country was formed on not electing just lawyers and not electing political science majors to elected office. When our forefathers created this great country of ours, they wanted it to be representative of a vast number of people, be you a bricklayer, a street sweeper, you know, a -- whatever you do, you know, a house builder. Whatever your job is, I think you bring life experiences to it. So I don't think that one particular occupation makes a better politician than another occupation.

And you know, looking at me, my time in the Navy gave me a toughness to get the job done. My time in pro wrestling made me very comfortable in front of cameras and gave me the ability to speak to large groups of people because in my day in wrestling, there wasn't guaranteed contracts. You got paid by how many people you put in the stands. So you had to be a communicator. And so I think that worked well for me and then of course people forget that I was mayor of Brooklyn Park, the sixth largest city for four years. So I did have political experience at a city level, which is really like being a grunt or a ground force because when you are a mayor, you have got to look the people right in the eye at city council meetings. When you get higher up on the echelon, you don't have to have that much contact with the general public.

KING: Fairfield, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Governor Ventura, what's your view on resurrecting the World Trade Center?

VENTURA: Well, I think that should be left to the people of New York City. It was their buildings -- their building to begin with. And I think I'll leave that to their good judgment whatever they want to put there. If they want to put a monument there, a memorial there, I'm certainly in favor of that. If they want to put two big buildings up again, you know, I can't argue with them on that. I really believe that's a New York City decision to make.

KING: What was it like for you when you went?

VENTURA: It was devastating. It looked like -- it looked like they took the two buildings and, as a friend of mine said, threw them in a blender, if you can imagine that. It's the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. You get angry on one part of your feeling, yet you get a sense of pride in America on the other part when you see those workers and the volunteers and the American spirit rise to the top. So it's with mixed emotions that you go out there and see it.

KING: We'll come back with more moments with Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Russell Crowe on Friday night. Don't go away.


KING: Let's cover some more bases with Governor Ventura. Britain's Prince Harry smoking pot and drinking. A whole big mess. We are going to do a whole show on it tomorrow night. The royals are always -- what do you make of that?

VENTURA: Well, it tells me that little Prince Harry is human. That's what it tells me. He is like every other young person out there. He's going to go through this life and experiment a little bit in this life. But I don't think because a young man smokes a joint now and then or at a young age that it necessarily makes him a bad person, Larry.

In fact, if you grew up in the '60s and didn't try it, you were weird. KING: Jesse, try to respond to the questions, OK, and stop the flimflamming around.

VENTURA: Larry, I'm not overly concerned about it. Yes, as a parent, certainly the prince should move in and do what a parent should do with a son. But as a youngster, kids are going to try things. I think you have to look at yourself in the mirror, like I do with my son. I was a far worse child than my young son is today. He's an angel compared to me.

KING: Fort Wayne, Indiana, hello?

CALLER: Governor Ventura, I believe that Chicago Bears are going to win the Super Bowl this year, but I was wondering your view as to who is going to be in the Super Bowl, and who is going to take it all the way?

KING: Well, the Vikings what happened to the Vikings?

VENTURA: The Vikings of course are going through rebuilding with the salary cap as it is. You know, you are going to lose great players. We lost three or four all-pro linemen to the salary cap and then of course the tragic death of Korey Stringer and all-pro. It's going to take its toll on a team. And everyone is going to go through cycles. But not to just score with the caller who called, but I'll tell you who I'm hoping for. I am hoping it is the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I think that would be a great super bowl with a couple of great blue collar towns with a couple of terrific dochs. I'm really impressed with the job Bill Cowher has done in Pittsburgh and the Steelers impress me a lot and I think it would be great to see the Bears and Steelers for the title.

KING: That would be the blue collar classic, wouldn't it?

VENTURA: Yeah, I'd love it.

KING: Be your kind of Super Bowl.

VENTURA: Well, look at it this way. Last year the Bears, you know, you asked me about the Vikings, last year the Bears were terrible. And so it shows that in one year you can make a complete switch. You can go from last to first.

KING: Did you like doing football when you did the XFL?

VENTURA: Yes, I did. But Larry, a lot of people didn't realize I did football in the NFL. Back in 1988 and '89, I broadcast for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1990 I was broadcasting for the Minnesota Vikings. So I had three years of NFL experience, but I loved XFL football. I liked it because you had no egos in it.

All the players were playing for the same amount of money, and they were only rewarded when the team won. So you don't end up with a Randy Moss who says he's only going to play when he feels like it. In the XFL, all the players played for the same money. So it really eliminated the egos. I personally think it's a shame that the league didn't get treated a little bit better by the media.

And when I say that, Larry, I'll give you a great example. You couldn't find a story on the XFL in the Minneapolis papers when the games went on. You could only find it under scores. There was no written stories. Yet, when the league folded, it was front page three days in a row. So you tell me there wasn't a bias. If the league didn't mean anything, then how did it warrant three days of front page when it did indeed fold?

KING: Governor, we have about two minutes left. What has been the impact, in your opinion, of September 11 on the culture? How have we changed as a country?

VENTURA: Well, Larry, I think we've changed as a country in the fact that, you know, really and truly this is the first attack the on the continental United States in modern day. I don't think any of us really believed it would happen in out lifetime. I think we all felt very secure because of it. I think September 11 has caused us to become much more vulnerable. But it's brought us in touch with reality again that we can't take anything for granted.

It makes you say to yourself, you know what? You never know in this life. Make sure you hug your kids, you give your kids a kiss, that you love your wife and all of that stuff, because who knows what tomorrow can bring to you, and who knows what can happen? And I think that's the feeling of hurt that it's really brought to the United States of America.

KING: Finally, what is your appraisal of Governor Ridge, former fellow governor of yours from Pennsylvania, and the job he is doing?

VENTURA: I think Governor Ridge was an excellent choice. He is a Vietnam combat veteran. He knows the military, he knows about security. He was a dynamic governor. I couldn't be more pleased to have Tom moved up there. The only thing is I'll miss him at the National Governor's Association, likewise I will miss Tommy Thompson, Christine Todd Whitman. The list goes on and on. Larry, I'm becoming a senior governor in the country.

KING: That's right, I never thought of it that way. You are, aren't you?

And airline security, do you feel secure when you get on an airliner? VENTURA: I wish it was better. My friend, Richard Marsinco, the rogue warrior, the former C.O. of S.E.A.L. team 6, he always said to me, our airlines are in trouble because we have million-dollar equipment but we have minimum wage people running it.

We have to upgrade the positions and realize how important they are and we need to professionally train the people in our airports because Marsinco told me this was going to happen.

KING: Always great talking with you. Thanks, Governor.

VENTURA: Thank you, Larry. Look forward to talking again anytime. Have a good one.

KING: Governor Jessie Ventura, from the governor's mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota. I think he is going to run again.

When we come back I will tell you about guests coming this week. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night we will talk about the royals and drug problems. A complete show on Somalia, and "Blackhawk Down" on Wednesday. Thursday night, Barbara Walters and her new co-host on "20/20" John Miller. And Friday night, Acadamy Award winner Russell Crowe.

Right now, our own Acadamy Award winner, Aaron Brown stands by with NEWSNIGHT. He will be out on La La land tomorrow night -- Aaron.




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