On Wednesday, Sept. 18, “Hardball” kicked off a new season of College tour with Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. Chris Matthews went one-on-one with Ventura in front of a live audience in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota. This episode is re-airing on Nov. 27, due to popular demand.
WE TALKED to Gov. Ventura about why he is retiring, war with Iraq, homeland security, and how the Bush administration’s war on terror is going.
We also asked him what’s in the cards for his future: a return to Hollywood or perhaps a higher office?
With one of the most colorful resumes in American politics, the iconoclastic governor of Minnesota served as a Navy Seal, professional wrestler, Hollywood actor, radio talk show host and a volunteer football coach.
In 1998, he won a surprise upset against two political dynasties: a Mondale and a Humphrey. In July he announced he would not seek re-election. Never one to shy away from controversy, Ventura shoots from the hip and always speaks his mind. Hope you didn’t miss it.
“Hardball” was broadcast live at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT from Northrop auditorium on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. The show was free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Northrop auditorium is located at 84 Church St. SE in Minneapolis. For more information, call the Northup auditorium at (612) 624-2345 or visit their website.
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READ BELOW FOR A TRANSCRIPT OF THE SHOW:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I’m Chris Matthews from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Tonight, the kickoff of the HARDBALL “College Tour”. For a full hour, the most independent man, the most independent politician in America. We’ll talk about going to war in Iraq. We’ll talk about how to fight al Qaeda and why this man is quitting politics.
Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, let’s play HARDBALL.
GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: Let’s play HARDBALL.
VENTURA: Yes. Hey. Now, Chris, you know, we won more national titles, I think, than any other university in the country this year.
MATTHEWS: Did you win wrestling?
VENTURA: Wrestling. In fact, The Rock just won the WWE...
VENTURA: ... Heavyweight title, a graduate of Minnesota-golf and hockey.
MATTHEWS: How about the major sports?
MATTHEWS: Just kidding. Title nine, it’s great.
OK, let’s go. Let’s talk national politics and we’re going to get into you because you are a fascinating fellow. Let’s talk about the president and this war that seems to be still coming. If you were president and there was talk of that a couple years ago, do you support a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq?
VENTURA: I need to know more information. And I think that the president needs to make it very, very clear to the people of the United States of America if indeed Iraq does have these weapons of mass destruction. You remember, I come from the generation that was lied to. They’ve now admitted the Gulf of Tonkin was made up, that got us into the Vietnam War. So I tend, in my generation, I believe we tend to be a little bit more skeptical...
VENTURA: ... shall we say. I’d like some hard facts, not just be told that we think they have, that we think they have it. Let’s see some hard facts that they do.
MATTHEWS: Well, you like to study human motivation. Why do you think they would lie to us? Why would they want to fight a war if there wasn’t weapons of mass destruction? What would be the motive? Is it - is it to finish a war his dad didn’t finish? Is it to help Israel? Is it to keep the oil and get it cheaper? What’s the motivation for lying to us?
VENTURA: I think it could be a combination of all of those things. You know, American policy, we haven’t been always forthcoming, you know, with the American public, and I think we need to be. I think if indeed we take this step forward, we certainly need and must have the country behind us.
MATTHEWS: How about the United Nations Security Council? We’ve got some other big five countries that won World War II with us-France, England, China and Russia. If they don’t go along with us, if they say they think this guy has lived up to the inspections, he’s allowed enough inspections and they say we’re not going to war, should we still go?
VENTURA: I don’t think so. I think we need to have our real strong allies have got to be with us.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the way you look at it as an American citizen here, about to be one, a complete American citizen...
VENTURA: Oh I can’t wait.
MATTHEWS: ... not a politician.
VENTURA: Three months and a wake-up.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, in your gut, what would make you happier, to pick up the paper in the morning and see that we got bin Laden or we got Saddam Hussein?
VENTURA: bin Laden.
VENTURA: Well, because he’s the one I believe that orchestrated the direct attack on the American people at the World Trade Center, and you know, maybe that’s part of it, too, Chris. You know, we failed to actually get bin Laden, or we don’t know if we did.
VENTURA: We maybe have. We maybe haven’t. And now all of a sudden, we’re switching to Saddam, who they know where he’s at. I would think that we would continue to try to locate bin Laden and do what we need to do...
MATTHEWS: How many here-I didn’t expect to do this, but how many here agree with that sentiment? That we should go after the guy that did it to us 9/11 before we go to Iraq?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the contingency-you’ve been a warrior. You’ve been a SEAL and that was a long time ago. You don’t like to talk about the state of the art, what they’re doing now. But here’s a question. I mean a lot of us saw “Black Hawk Down”. We saw what happened in Mogadishu.
Do you think a special ops team, a light team to could go into that country of Iraq and rally the people against Saddam Hussein, take over the country, occupy it, or do we need a Desert Storm overwhelming course like Colin Powell says we need?
VENTURA: I think we need an overwhelming force. No, a Special Forces unit, you could-it would be very, very difficult to be successful. And you certainly don’t want to sacrifice trained-you know with the amount of training you give the SEALS, to Army Rangers, to all the Special Forces, you don’t want to waste them.
And you don’t-and they’re not the type of people that you send in.
We’re not suicidal.
VENTURA: And that type of mission could probably be a suicidal type mission to where you’re asking people to literally, almost kill themselves to accomplish it. No, I agree with General Powell that if you’re going to go into a war, it has to be more like a Desert Storm type war.
MATTHEWS: The reason we have this Powell doctrine, it was written because of incidents like Mogadishu, where we put our guys into a downtown area, where everybody hated our guts.
MATTHEWS: They all crowded around us. They all shot at us, and we lost a lot of guys. Then, a body was dragged through the streets. We hated to see that. Do you think urban warfare calls for a real second thought here? In other words, could it degenerate into a situation, a bunch of GIs are pinned down, special ops pinned down in the middle of Baghdad?
VENTURA: It certainly could if you went that route. You know it’s clear to me that the best, I think, you’ve got to bomb the hell out of them.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think it’s guys like you...
VENTURA: Well no-you-well you’ve got to set them up. You’ve got to...
VENTURA: ... you’ve got to get them on the defense. You’ve got to get them to where they’re hurting.
VENTURA: And then at that point, I think, is when you send in a ground troop. And always remember, to the best of my knowledge, any war that’s ever fought is still going to end up with the man on the ground taking dirt.
VENTURA: You know at some point and time...
MATTHEWS: Maybe that’s why-let me ask you an open question. In this debate that’s gotten very hot, and it should have, the last couple of weeks, General Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to President Bush, the first, General Schwarzkopf, who’s retired now, but speaks out on this network and other networks, Colin Powell, we know we can read his-I think you can read his body language.
He’s suspicious of this war. Why is it that men who fought in combat are the ones who seem to oppose the war, and the-excuse the expression - - the pencil necks, all for this war? The intellectuals all seem to be for this war, the guys who were never in a schoolyard fight all want to fight a war, and the guys who have been through hell don’t want to go back. What is it about that difference that you see?
VENTURA: Well because it’s easy to fight a war if you’re not the one fighting it. You know I view a lot of them-I have a name for them. They’re called chicken hawks.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And you see a lot...
VENTURA: Well no, I mean-we a chicken hawk here in town, a talk show host, Jason Lewis (ph).
VENTURA: You know. It’s the truth. He’s the one who wants to send everybody and when did he serve? You know he never went out and served. He should have, you know. And you know it’s easy to talk if you don’t do it, but I think it’s because if you take veterans like you just spoke of, Chris, there’s nothing glorious about it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me ask you about...
VENTURA: It’s not...
MATTHEWS: ... a general view of the world.
VENTURA: ... let’s remember this. It’s not the movies.
VENTURA: You know it isn’t Hollywood here, you know where the good guys always win. The hero always prevails, and gets the girl and rides off in the sunset.
MATTHEWS: Well let’s get the first guy riding in here now. First questioner, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the last several weeks, the Bush administration has been sending mixed messages to the American people and the international community about its objectives in Iraq from full-fledged inspections to disarmament to a regime change.
Governor Ventura, assume you’re the president of the United States of America, we know that-we know that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He’s used chemical weapon against his own people. What would you say is the first step towards formulating and implementing a coherent foreign policy towards Iraq and what’s the first step that you would recommend?
VENTURA: Well first of all, that’s a difficult question because I’m not privy to all the information that the U.S. government would have. I only govern a state, and it’s difficult enough doing that. Certainly, you know, again, it’s a case of, I believe they have to-you really have to catch them red-handed. They’ve got to do something first.
You know, we’ve had a lot of failed policy. I believe that the policy that we’ve had towards Cuba is a failed policy against the government of Cuba of the sanctions that only our country has against them. It’s time to change that also, in my opinion.
But again, that’s a difficult question. I’m not trying to avoid an answer, but I really don’t really have the knowledge to give you an answer on that because, again, I’m not privy to the national security and what the CIA and intelligence community, what they actually know. And I think that’s very important just to let the people of the United States know what we actually know.
MATTHEWS: Well that’s a real difference. It’s not just a question of intelligence. This administration takes a different view than you do. They’ve got an axis of evil that includes Iran, Iraq and Cuba, they basically see as hostile states.
They’ve added to that Syria and let’s see, what else, Libya and they’ve thrown in Cuba. And then they’ve recently thrown in Sudan. They just keep adding up these countries they seem to want to go to war with. That’s a different philosophy than you going on a Cuban mission to try to...
MATTHEWS: ... establish trade relations.
VENTURA: I don’t think you necessarily, because people don’t like the United States, I don’t think that really gives us an excuse to try to eliminate them. We...
VENTURA: We are the power of the world today. You know, the fall of the Soviet Union has put us and probably China as the two most powerful nations in the world today, and whenever you’re on top, everybody’s gunning for you. A lot of people don’t like you. You’re going to get enemies, but it doesn’t mean because you’re the most powerful country in the world, that you just arbitrarily go around and eliminate everyone that disagrees with you.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the argument coming out of the administration that some of its friends, that if we go to Iraq, we take it over, we throw out the government, we arrest thousands of people running that government, we can turn it into a democracy by force.
VENTURA: I don’t believe that.
MATTHEWS: That’s what they seem to believe.
VENTURA: I don’t believe that at all. It’s-to me, it’s up to the Iraqi people will make the ultimate decision of what their country will be, and it’s not up to us to install a puppet government that just...
VENTURA: ... simulates ours. I mean I was in the Philippines the day Ferdinand Marcus-I was actually there, declared marshal law. They have a similar government to ours, where you serve two four-year terms. He was at the end of his second term and didn’t want to leave.
So, what did he do? He took away the power of the Supreme Court, took away the power of Congress. He took away the people of the Philippines’ right to bear arms. In fact, he gave them a 10, I believe it was about a 10-day grace period to turn in all weapons or it was the death penalty. And yet, you didn’t see the United States voice any big concern over this because he was a puppet...
VENTURA: ... dictator supportive of us.
MATTHEWS: I get you.
VENTURA: And we have a very hypocritical double standard when it comes to that.
MATTHEWS: Young man, you’re next. Go for it. You’ve got a little bit of time here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes Governor Ventura, my question for you this evening is whether or not you support the belief that President Bush should seek congressional approval before going into Iraq?
VENTURA: Absolutely. Absolutely. For something of this major step, it-to me it would be very, very bad policy not to have the country and its elected officials solidly behind you.
VENTURA: I believe you’ve got to do that.
MATTHEWS: Sooner or later tonight, Governor, you’re going to say something I disagree with. I’ll let you know. You’ve been great. Thank you.
We’re going to come right back and talk-how about we deal with and this is a big question here in Minnesota and across the country-look at the paper today. Cells suspected here. We’re going to figure out how to get-to deal with al Qaeda here in the United States.
Back with Jesse Ventura after the break.
MATTHEWS: You know, Governor Ventura, thanks for coming back with our HARDBALL “College Tour” here in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, one of the great universities in this country. I almost came here.
I was telling you about this article in the paper, the local paper here, and it just-maybe this is what’s going on in the country.
al Qaeda cells suspected in this area. How do you deal with the fact that tomorrow morning in Portland, Maine some fellow could get on a plane, get a connection flight to Boston, hijack a plane with box cutters or something new, shoelaces or whatever, and who knows? People are original, and do the same damn thing again on the Chrysler Building or the Statue of Liberty or the Sears Tower in Chicago. How do we stop it...
MATTHEWS: ... without profiling...
MATTHEWS: ... for example.
VENTURA: ... it’s difficult because we live in a free country. And we don’t want to give up our freedoms, because if we’re forced to give up our freedoms, then they’re winning.
VENTURA: And so it’s a price we’ll have to pay. How do we stop it? I think we stop it by having very aware citizens. People don’t get complacent, don’t think that it’s ended with this one attack.
VENTURA: And really-and citizens should be aware, because you’re the targets. This is not a war against our military. They clearly have shown that. They’re not attacking our military bases. They’re not attacking our military personnel. They’re attacking you, our civilians. Therefore, you, whether you like it or not...
MATTHEWS: Well how does...
VENTURA: ... are part of this war. What it means is be aware. If you see something that just doesn’t seem right to you, call. Call somebody up.
MATTHEWS: What about a person who sees four clean-shaven guys. They don’t seem particularly interesting. They look like they came from the Middle East, perhaps, and they’re all getting on a plane together, and they’re talking among themselves kind of quietly like people do, like this woman hears these people down in Georgia the other day, and the police go after these guys.
I heard her testimony. It sounded credible to me. She did what Governor Ridge said to do, what you just said to do. How do we live in a society where people are calling up the police and saying I saw some Arab looking guys and they seemed to be talking about something secret, and I heard them say something about September 13 and maybe blowing up the world. How do you deal with that?
VENTURA: It’s difficult, but I think you have to deal with it that way. And I think the people, if they are put in that position, I’m saying like the Arab people, they have to understand, too, that they’re going to be put in that position. And if they have done nothing wrong, then they should have nothing to fear.
MATTHEWS: And just take it?
VENTURA: Better-yes, better to be safe...
MATTHEWS: Just take the surveillance.
VENTURA: Yes. Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question for you, Governor Ventura, what step are the state of Minnesota and the governor’s mansion taking against the al Qaeda and terrorism here at home? What’s going on there?
VENTURA: Well the mansion’s not doing anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well...
VENTURA: I can tell you that right now.
VENTURA: The mansion just reopened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh OK.
VENTURA: And I’m not even occupying it.
MATTHEWS: He just moved out of it, I’ve been telling the national audience.
VENTURA: You know, it’s there, but I’m not occupying it, and I won’t occupy it anymore because I’m leaving office and there’s no sense to. What step are we taking? We’re taking every possible that we can. You know, I’m very proud of our Minnesota National Guard. We have the best in the nation.
And you notice that whenever the call comes out, who do they come to first? Minnesota. You probably aren’t aware that, remember the day 9/11 happened, and the president was flying around? Well, when he left Nebraska to go back to Washington, it was Minnesota’s F-16 planes that were riding his wings.
VENTURA: And so-and we’re doing everything we can possibly do. Charlie Weaver, the Commissioner of Public Safety, we’re ensuring that steps are taken to protect the nuclear power plants. We’re ensuring that Mall of America and places where large groups go, generally, which are potential targets, that the security forces there are paying attention, that they’re doing everything feasibly possible. Is it perfect? No. It can never be because we live in a free society.
MATTHEWS: More questions on protecting the homefront with Governor Ventura when we come back with HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Dick Armey’s at the top of the Republican Party, so why is this guy quitting? We’ll find out when Dick Armey joins us on the HARDBALL “College Tour”.
ANNOUNCER: Wednesday night at 9:00 on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, as you just saw, next week we’re going to George Mason University in Virginia in our college bowl-our “College Tour” host or guest is going to be retiring Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dick Armey of Texas, interesting story, another retiree.
Governor Ventura, I have to ask you a couple of questions. One, would you arm pilots?
MATTHEWS: Would you? Why? Would you take the risk of letting a guy go up there who might be a cowboy?
VENTURA: Well first of all, I’d send him through training first, you know, and have them become well qualified and trained, but yes I would over the fact that that’s the last door. I mean if they get through that door, I think that pilots should be able to defend the aircraft and...
VENTURA: ... defend the people on the aircraft.
MATTHEWS: Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a relatively base question, but I’m curious as to what point in time we’re going to be able to stay that our war on terror at home or abroad is successful after we’re done cutting civil liberties here and bombing the hell out of whoever else we deem fit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When are we going to stop?
VENTURA: Well, again, always remember at any time of war, you’re going to lose some civil liberties. It happens. It’s a fact of life. And then hopefully, when the war is over, those liberties then, again, get restored. But it’s going to happen. You know, whether it’s right, wrong, you agree with it or not, it’s going to happen.
At what point do you know it’s over? In this war, it’s very hard to tell, because I agree with the president that this is a war that’s going to be fought for a long, long time. And I can’t give you an answer when it will be over. I don’t know. I really don’t. But certainly, I think that I believe we’re going to get hit again. I really believe we...
VENTURA: I don’t know how big, but I think it’s-I think...
VENTURA: ... that they will...
MATTHEWS: We’ll be back with more with Governor Ventura. We’re going to talk to him about his career, why he’s leaving politics.
By the way, this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, the new “CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW” is going to be airing on your local station. Consult your local station, and we’ll be right back with the governor and what he’s up to-Jesse Ventura, back in a moment.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, more from the University of Minnesota and Governor Jesse Ventura. I’m going to ask him why he’s quitting politics.
Now, for the latest news.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the HARDBALL college tour. As you can see, we’re at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. By the way it’s pronounced Minnesota, I think. Anyway, we’ve been talking to Governor Jesse Ventura. He recently announced he’s going to quit politics. It’s hard to believe. Maybe he’ll go to the movies. I’m going to find all that in a moment. But here’s David Shuster with a look at the sometimes controversial career of Governor Ventura.
VENTURA: Now it’s 1998 and the American dream lives on in Minnesota because we shocked the world.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could argue
that shocking might describe Jesse Ventura’s entire term as governor. From
his inauguration to his colorful pronouncements on personal
VENTURA: I have a big plaque that has a handgun on it. It says, “We don’t dial 911.”
SHUSTER: And the Kennedy assassination.
VENTURA: There were 50 eyewitnesses who claim to have seen smoke and gunfire from the grassy knoll. There isn’t one eyewitness that can support the Warren commission.
SHUSTER: But nothing created as much controversy as an interview in the fall of ’99 with “Playboy” magazine. Ventura said quote, “organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak minded people who need strength in numbers.”
VENTURA: There’s not necessary a bad connotation on being weak-minded.
VENTURA: No, no. There is not. If faith and religion fulfill that void for you, then you obviously do need it.
SHUSTER (on-camera): That explanation didn’t help. The chairman of the reform party called on Ventura to get out. And eventually, he did governing as an independent.
(voice-over): All the while, Ventura called the press jackals and squeezed in an appearances on a soap opera.
VENTURA: I wouldn’t do that, if I were you, Victor.
SHUSTER: The short-lived XFL.
VENTURA: Now they’re probably the most improved team in the XFL.
SHUSTER: And WWF’s summer slam.
VENTURA: There’s a lot of media saying that I’m a disgrace for being here.
SHUSTER: He also found time to make Minnesota schools among the best in the nation, extend health insurance to children, and decrease poverty. And he produced more budget surpluses than deficits. But this year, Ventura’s approval ratings dropped below 50 percent, as lawmakers ignored his final budget plans. In June, after clashing with the media over negative reports about his son, Ventura announced he would not seek re-election, saying his heart was no longer in the job.
I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL
MATTHEWS: We’re back, governor. What do you make of that report?
How fair would you grade that from A to B to C?
VENTURA: I’ll give it a B.
MATTHEWS: Pretty fair.
MATTHEWS: Pretty fair. Let me ask you about, any of that you regret like the religion comment about organized religion comment in light of 9/11?
VENTURA: Why in light of it? What’s this war over? That’s right. In fact if you look at all the wars throughout history, the great majority of them are over religious beliefs that one side doesn’t believe the other side and all of this. I mean, look at all the wars.
MATTHEWS: You think that was basically behind the hell we went through, fanaticism, religious fanaticism?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the media because all we read about back east is your fights with the media back here. You don’t like them too much, do you, the local media?
VENTURA: They don’t like me.
MATTHEWS: How did that get started?
VENTURA: Because they were embarrassed when I won. I believe that...
MATTHEWS: But somebody said you were the biggest thing to hit Minnesota since Paul Bunyan. That’s pretty big.
VENTURA: I don’t know about that. They like to portray themselves as experts and they want to have the public believe they’re experts and yet there wasn’t one media person in Minnesota that predicted I would win.
So it was embarrassing to them. And so then, of course, they brought up, can he govern? I think we’ve done very well and I think I’ll judge that over the fact that Hubert Humphrey, one of my opponents, after I named my cabinet and my administration, came up to me about four months later and said governor, this is the best administration in the United States.
MATTHEWS: That’s Hubert Humphrey’s son, Skip Humphrey.
VENTURA: Right. Skip.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your own feelings though, because I think, I’m just guessing here. You tell me if I’m wrong.
Gene McCarthy was one of my heroes. He was a senator from Minnesota, the great anti-war candidate and he quit the Senate in 1970. He just walked away from it. He said you know, it’s a job and I don’t like the job. It’s not just walking around with a toga on being a U.S. senator. I don’t like doing what I have to do for a living. He didn’t have his heart in the job.
Is that true for you? You didn’t have the heart and then getting up in the morning and being governor.
VENTURA: No, not at all. I’ve loved all four years of it. It’s been exciting. It’s been an education beyond belief. I don’t regret a bit.
MATTHEWS: The nuts and bolts part.
VENTURA: The nuts and bolts part, I’m honored to have done it to the best of my ability. But I’ll tell you what the underlying thing. It’s a couple of things for me. First of all, I’m a great believer in term limits. I think what’s wrong with our country today is career politicians. And I think you set by example that you come in, you serve when you’re done serving, go back to what you used to do.
MATTHEWS: What about Wellstone? He was going to...
MATTHEWS: Wellstone who taught here promised and I liked the guy, but he promised he’d serve what two terms.
VENTURA: First it was one.
MATTHEWS: And then he just changed his mind like Bill Clinton said I wasn’t going to run for president. Then he just ran. What about these promises?
VENTURA: Well, again, it’s, you have to remember a career politician makes decisions based upon themselves, what’s best for their career. And they will continue to do that when elected because what’s the most important thing to them? Getting re2Delected. So therefore, they base their decisions on what do I need to do to get reelected. They dodge hard thing at times. They dodge controversy because that’s not positive for getting reelected.
MATTHEWS: If you were running for re2Delection, would you be different?
MATTHEWS: You wouldn’t?
VENTURA: No. Absolutely not, no.
MATTHEWS: How many people here think the governor should run for re-election?
MATTHEWS: There’s a couple guys down here. Why don’t you get up in line and tell us why you’re booing in a couple minutes so we can get it intellectually developed here. OK, you two guys. Come on up and tell us why you’re booing.
VENTURA: No, they were cheering.
MATTHEWS: Who was booing? This guy here. Well, come up on. You’re the smart guy before. You knew all those interesting questions. Get in line. Get in the microphone line. Come on show some cajones here. Get in line.
MATTHEWS: And you’re first at bat. Come here, buddy. You’re first. Come on quick, this way. Right here. Come up, right up front. Jump that fence. Why did you boo the governor when he sits 20 feet from you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all due respect...
MATTHEWS: No. You weren’t showing any respect so let’s go on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re right. I wasn’t.
MATTHEWS: OK, so let’s move on from there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earlier in the show tonight you took what I thought was a very cheap shot at Jason Lewis when you said that he was-a chicken hawk.
VENTURA: Chicken hawk, yeah.
MATTHEWS: He’s a local radio guy, a local TV guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he never served in the military. Yet he’s for war. Well, isn’t that kind of like saying you’re against crime even if you’ve never been a cop?
VENTURA: No. Because everyone has an opportunity to serve their country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) police officer. It’s a hollow argument.
VENTURA: It’s a hollow argument? Well, I just-I take shots at him because he takes them at me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he’s right.
VENTURA: And you’re entitled to your opinion. But wait a minute. If you’re going to fire at somebody, then be prepared to be fired back at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think your entire administration has been characterized by speaking from the right and ruling from the left. And there doesn’t seem to be any sort of consistency.
VENTURA: Really. Well, name me one tax that’s gone up while I’ve been in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to commend you on that. I think you’ve been very good on the budget.
VENTURA: Oh! Our young Republican here.
MATTHEWS: OK. Are you finished? Let’s move on. Let’s give everybody a shot. Thank you. You’ve got nerve. Next guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I’m originally from Wisconsin and one of the thing that kind of attracted me...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one of the reasons why I came here was because I knew you could kick Scott’s McHelm’s (ph) butt any day.
But anyway my question is, now that you’re reaching the end of your term, what accomplishment are you the most proud of and what accomplishment do you think you can maybe live without?
VENTURA: Well, there’s been a lot. I think I’m very proud of the property tax reform we did. Many governors had attempted it and tried it in eight years and were unsuccessful much. We got it done in two to three.
I’m very proud of the rebate checks we gave back when there were surpluses, that when government had too much money, that they didn’t, you know, there was surpluses during Governor Arnie Carlson’s (ph) time. He didn’t give them back, young Republican, wherever you went. He didn’t given any money back in the form of checks. I’m very proud of the fact that I pushed very hard to cover all children with health care. I think that that’s a very important issue. Again, the Republicans didn’t want that.
MATTHEWS: So there’s a great deal. And I’m very proud of the fact that they told, can he govern and I think I proved I can.
MATTHEWS: Would you have done better governor...
VENTURA: And it’s a case of why do you have to be a lawyer to govern? Why do you have to be one of these political figures to govern? We’re supposed to be a country of citizen government. Where it doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from. You bring your life experiences and you do the best to your ability.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, governor. My question actually pertains to what you’re just talking. How can a governor who is an independent be effective when he is against-he is in opposition to the both parties?
VENTURA: I think you can be effective like I am, a centrist. What Jason Lewis doesn’t want to admit there is, centrists. I’m fiscally conservative but I’m socially liberal. You can’t be fiscally conservative and socially liberal and belong to these two parties. You have to be liberal liberal or conservative conservative. But I end up in the middle.
So when the two sides fight with each other, eventually they have to come to a compromised position which is generally where I’m at. It just takes them three months longer to get where I’m already at.
MATTHEWS: OK. We’re going to come back and talk to the governor about an interesting topic, the culture of the United States. Has it changed? Has it gotten more coarse? “The Sopranos,” 13 million people this weekend. The “Godfather,” Britney Spears, the whole shebang coming back. He’s going to be our (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Back in a moment from the University of Minnesota, the college tour.
MATTHEWS: We’re back here talking about something that’s got to be the hottest issue, at least it was back in ’60’s and that’s the draft.
Governor, you’re talking about the fact that if this were 1966 or 1967, everybody in this room would have a deferment. Other kids, the working kids, would be out there fighting the war. Talk about what you think should happen right now about this coming war maybe.
VENTURA: Well I think if you’re going to have a draft, there would be no deferments because we need smart people to win wars.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it’s the best and the brightest are pushing this war? Do you think the guys that are pushing this war are the intellectuals who write all the magazine articles and columns and the people who work around the president, the intellectuals? Do you think they would be pushing the war if they were all eligible for the draft?
VENTURA: Or if their kids were.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they would be?
VENTURA: No. I don’t think they would be. I think that it was clearly shown during the era of Vietnam that the people in power, it wasn’t their children going to war. It was the blue collar poor people and the blue collar people that went into the military and the wealthy didn’t.
MATTHEWS: How many people think we have a fair system where working kids fight wars and the intellectuals plan them?
MATTHEWS: How many want a draft?
VENTURA: I don’t want one either. I want a professional military. I served, I volunteered for the Navy. I volunteered for the UDT SEAL program but I want to serve with people that want to be there. I want the guy next to me to be as motivated as I am.
MATTHEWS: How do you make it a fair system at a professional? How do make it fair and professional? How do you democratize war so that everybody has to sacrifice something?
VENTURA: Well, you could raise the pay.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn’t that just bring in more poor kids?
VENTURA: But they’d be doing it by choice.
MATTHEWS: Anybody in here want to fight in this war again Iraq? Who wants to fight in it? Stand up if you want to fight in it? Who wants to go to Iraq and fight with Saddam Hussein personally? Stand up, personally stand up and fight. What the hell kind of war is this? This guy wants to fight.
Does that surprise you? We got 10 recruits out of the whole student body here. Doesn’t that tell you-but how many people support a war with Iraq? How many support a war but don’t want-how many support a war but would never want to go? Who wants the war but doesn’t want to go in it? Nice seating position. Don’t stand up.
Anyway, let me ask you about yourself in this culture we live in. You’re a pretty tough, sometime coarse guy. You did the “Playboy” interview. You talked about bras and things like that. I’m not getting into (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
VENTURA: You know, Chris, that was supposed to be humor.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is, you know and somehow the media...
OK, let me ask you about our culture.
VENTURA: A humorous statement and tried to make it serious.
MATTHEWS: Back in the ivory tower and look down on this mess we call our culture.
VENTURA: It’s not a mess.
MATTHEWS: Tony Soprano is the most popular guy in American culture.
13 million people watched him this week. The networks can’t touch him.
The “Godfather” about the mob, the number one movie of all times according to the latest polling.
Britney Spears comes on television with the purpose of identifying herself with this sexual interest of guys our age.
OK, that seems to be what’s going on. Maybe I’m speaking too much here. But the fact is, but the fact is, we have a society where the music lyrics, when I get in my car and I turn the radio on, because my kids have got it set to a certain station, they have a CD in there, incredible stuff.
VENTURA: You. Wait, wait, wait. Wait a minute. We went through that in my generation, too. They wanted to ban Alice Cooper. They wanted Ozzy Osbourne, all of them. It’s no different today than then.
MATTHEWS: Do you really mean that? Have you listened to these lyrics?
VENTURA: It’s simply music. It’s entertainment. People are brighter than that.
VENTURA: The same...
MATTHEWS: Elvis Presley He wasn’t allowed to shake his hip on national television.
VENTURA: Wait, wait, wait. You talk about “The Sopranos.” If I were going to stop my children from watching anything today, it would be the nightly news because and let me explain why, because the violence on there is real. The violence on the “The Sopranos” is Hollywood. It’s nothing more than “Dirty Harry,” whatever else you’re there to be entertained.
MATTHEWS: All right, we’re going to talk about this and everything else when we get back. More HARDBALL from Minnesota coming back.
VENTURA: Jesse “the Body: is here. Jesse “the Body” is to stay.
You’re going to see a lot of me whether you like it or not.
MATTHEWS: Well, we’re back at the University of Minnesota with Jesse, “the Governor” Ventura, but not for long. We had a hot conversation about, just a minute ago.
Miss, go ahead. Get your question to the governor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, my question for you is what is your stance on women in the military?
VENTURA; My stance on women in the military is the same as my stance on gays in the military. They should be allowed. Because it’s everybody’s country. Everybody has the right to serve their country, whether you’re man, woman, gay, hetero, whatever it is. You have the right to serve your country.
MATTHEWS: What about combat role, you care about that right ?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
MATTHEWS: I’m sorry. What do you think about women. Are you for it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I’m for it.
MATTHEWS: Are you for it? What about combat, with rifles shooting on alongside the other guys?
VENTURA: Again as I said off air, the problem arises, if they can qualify. They have to not lower the standards. You know, we’re not going to be politically correct here or whatever, you know, Title IX, whatever you want to call it, in the military.
MATTHEWS: But off-air, you were a little different. You said that men had to get used to it, but the straight guys had to get used to the gay guys too.
VENTURA: I’m getting to that.
MATTHEWS: It’s a culture issue there.
VENTURE: Once they qualify, if they can qualify and can pass all the standards that are required. Then the problem is men. Because men have always been brought up and it’s not our fault. It’s the culture that we’ve been lived in. We’ve been brought up to protect women and if that jeopardizes an operation, then I say no, it can’t happen.
MATTHEWS: Give me a scenario where it would.
VENTURA: Well, if you had a platoon with one woman in it, and if the woman, naturally, the men would seek to protect her and not let her carry her end of the log. And that could jeopardize the mission.
So until you break the male mind free that the female has the capability and can get the job done.
MATTHEWS: Just guys this time. Just men. How many agree with what you’ve just heard here? Men.
MATTHEWS: OK, now just women. Do you agree with it?
MATTHEWS: A higher pitch, but less numbers. How many women disagree with what he just said?
Mixed right. Interesting. You scored a point there. Let me ask you about-what’s your other question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Ventura, to quote Bill Murray, big head of the lawn. Why did you think about asking the Dalai Llama if he had seen “Caddyshack” or not?
VENTURA: Because first of all, I’m a fan of the film. And second of all, after I met him and realized he has a tremendous sense of humor. He’s a unique individual. And I wanted to ask him a question that I felt no one in the world had ever asked him before.
And I was correct, because when I asked the Dalai Llama, I asked him, your holiness, have you ever, do you ever watch movies? He said not often. I said have you ever seen “Caddyshack”? He said no. I said well you’re in it. You’re not physically in it. But there’s a scene all about you and I hoped that he would go home that night, someone would rent it for him and he would sit back and watch it and enjoy it.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddyshack,” have you gotten enough, yes or no, have you gotten enough respect as governor?
MATTHEWS: Would you recommend that Arnold Schwarzenegger run for governor of California?
VENTURA: Because if I got $20 million a film, I wouldn’t bother.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, he’s going to be on HARDBALL “College Tour” next month.
Let me ask you this. What are you going to do next and tell us the truth. What’s next for Jesse “the Governor” Ventura.
VENTURA: You just saw that clip. I’m going back in the ring.
MATTHEWS: WWE? Let me ask you-
VENTURA: I just got work out for three more years to get back there.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you and the difference between you and Bill Clinton is you light your cigars. That’s the big difference.
Anyway, on that sordid note in our crass society, I want to talk about what’s coming up next.
We’ve got some amazing-next week as I said at George Mason University in Virginia. We’ve got the House Republican leader Dick Armey who does say what he means, John Kerry who’s running for president, maybe the smartest of the Democrats who’s running for president at the Citadel in two weeks. That’s in South Carolina and he was a medal, the Vietnam veteran.
And after that we’re going to go to the guy who brought us “Basic Instinct,” Joe Eszterhaus. He’s going to be at the Cleveland Clinic about cancer. Anyway, join me tomorrow night, 9 Eastern for more HARDBALL and I want to thank you.
And it’s great to have you governor.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Ashleigh Banfield on location and here she comes
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