by Max Brantley
A report from Jaman Matthews, who was at the Clinton Library tonight:
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura spoke tonight at the Clinton School. He is also on a tour to promote his latest book “American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies That the Government Tells Us.” According to Ventura, the book is now No. 6 on The New York Times best-sellers list (and has a 4.2 star rating on Amazon, better than “Moby Dick”).
It was a banner night for the pronoun “they.” The word was invoked often, usually with dark and ominous overtones and with no referent except some vague government boogeymen.
Ventura, with his deep voice, ex-wrestler’s build and shabby fringe of hair, looked and sounded remarkably like Frankenstein’s monster in a T-shirt and blazer. He managed to fill the Great Hall at the Clinton Library to capacity with everybody from elected officials to guys with “9/11 was an inside job” T-shirts. The latter camp seemed to far outweigh the former.
When Ventura asked for a show of hands as to who believed the JFK assassination was the work of a lone gunman, only three people raised their hands. Of course, the other nonbelievers could simply have been scared of disagreeing with Ventura.
The speech itself was a rambling affair. Ventura began with a plea to legalize drugs, especially marijuana, moved to ridiculing the border fence, then immigration, the outlawing of which would first destroy California agriculture and then the entire Mexican economy. Not that a Minnesotan would care about Mexico’s economy, but Ventura now lives in Baja, which he reminded the crowd at every opportunity.
There was little of the actual conspiracy theories—the usual JFK business, why haven’t we caught Osama bin Laden yet, etc. But the crowd already knew these by heart. For Ventura, who famously lambasted religion as “ a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers,” this should have been uneasy territory—a room full of devotees who read your books as if they were, well, gospel truth and are willing to accept irrational assertions. But the irony seemed lost on both the prophet and his believers.
When he got to the end of his circuitous speech, he admitted that, when he ran for governor, he never used a prepared script. That I could believe.
-- Jaman Matthews