“Ventura” isn’t Spanish for idiot, but maybe it should be

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Che Guevara mural in Havana

We took a brief look yesterday at credentialed crank Jesse Ventura – at, in particular, his friendship with Fidel Castro and his enthusiasm for the Castro regime, whose praises he sang in a 2012 interview. That interview wasn’t the only occasion on which Ventura has publicly eulogized the Cuban dictatorship. In another conversation with a reporter, he offered up what he saw as irrefutable evidence of Fidel’s humility: “The main downtown building in Havana has this huge flat wall and it has got a huge portrait on it. It’s not Castro. It’s Che Guevara. The biggest photograph in downtown Havana was a mural on a wall of Che. Now if Castro was such an egomaniac and all this, wouldn’t he put himself up there instead of Che?”

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Ventura at the University of Havana in 2002

During his visit to Cuba, which took place in 2002, Ventura spoke at the University of Havana, where he urged students to dream big and work hard to achieve success.” A few months ago, Humberto Fontova, a Cuban-American author and eloquent Castro critic, had the perfect reaction to Ventura’s comments:

Here one blinks, looks again—and gapes. You long to believe otherwise, you grope for an extenuation, you hope you misread—but it’s inescapable: A man elected as governor of a populous and prosperous U.S. State (and a “Harvard Visiting Fellow”) cannot distinguish between the subjects of a Stalinist police state and the attendees of an AmWay convention.

Ask anyone familiar with Communism. To achieve “success” in such as Castro’s Stalinist fiefdom, you join the Communist Party, you pucker up and stoop down behind Fidel and his toadies and smooch away. (Either that or jump on a raft.)

Castro isn’t the only brutal dictator for whom Ventura has a soft spot. In his 2012 interview, the ex-wrestler quoted fellow Fidel fan Oliver Stone as having told him: “Governor, you’d love Hugo Chávez because he’s you. You and him are alike. You’re men of the people.” In 2010, appearing on The Larry King Show with Stone to help the director promote one of his unctuous “documentaries” about Chávez, Ventura said that although he’d never met the Venezuelan caudillo, he believed that Stone’s propaganda film about the guy “should be mandatory viewing for every high school senior in the United States of America.”

Plainly, Jesse Ventura is one “libertarian” who’s somehow forgotten – if, that is, he ever knew – the meaning of the word liberty. Hell – this is a guy who loves severe juntas so much that his name is actually an anagram for “severe juntas.”

 

Jesse Ventura, “libertarian” – and Castro fan

Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura speaking about his book "They Killed Our President" October 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Ventura, who is considering a long-shot independent run for the White House, said he would immediately clear the intelligence leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden if elected. Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003 and is an avid proponent of conspiracy theories, said it was "wonderful" for individuals within government to expose abuses. Ventura's book "They Killed Our President," alleges that the 1963 Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy in reaction to his efforts to reduce war. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Jesse Ventura has long been a familiar figure in the American media. Open and outspoken, colorful and controversial, he’s had a remarkably varied career, working in turn as a Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, film actor, and one-term Governor of Minnesota. Since leaving office in 2003, he’s spent much of his time criticizing top U.S. officials and floating conspiracy theories in countless TV and radio interviews. He’s played coy about where he stands on many of these theories, sometimes vehemently denying, for example, that he’s a 9/11 “Truther” – a believer, that is, that the Bush Administration plotted the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon – and sometimes explicitly endorsing “Truther” theories. From 2009 to 2013, he hosted a TV show about conspiracy theories, and in recent years he’s co-written a couple of books on the subject, one of which argued that the JFK assassination was an inside job.

conspiracyIt’s tempting, of course, to dismiss Ventura as a marginal crank – an obvious crackpot whom nobody could possibly take seriously. But we’re talking here about a guy who’s in a position to get his books published, get his TV shows aired, and get himself booked on any number of high-profile TV and radio shows. A self-styled libertarian, he presumably has fans (at least one of his books was a New York Times bestseller) and thus at least a degree of influence, and during the last year or two has often offered himself up – and he doesn’t seem to be kidding about this in the slightest – as a candidate, if not in 2016 then in 2020, for president of the United States.

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor.  The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009.  AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)   Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

Which is why, despite the man’s manifest preposterousness, it’s worth drawing attention to one aspect of his life that’s perhaps relatively obscure – namely, his outsized, highly un-libertarian enthusiasm for none other than Fidel Castro. “I can only judge Fidel by the hour I spent with him,” Ventura told an interviewer in 2012 – an extraordinarily unserious and irresponsible thing to say, of course, when you’re somebody who’s eager to be regarded as a serious thinker and responsible political player. You can only judge a head of state with a decades-long record – one that includes mass torture and innumerable executions without trial – by the hour you spent with him? Really? 

ventura-01[1]Of all things, Ventura enthused over Castro’s handshake: “I will always remember his handshake. Always. And I’ve shaken how many hands? But I will always remember his.” Although famously prepared to believe the most absurd conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, Ventura credulously parroted the transparently mendacious propaganda about Cuba’s purportedly magnificent health-care system. And although he rode to victory in Minnesota by claiming to be an ardent believer in libertarian values, he was quick to defend Communism as merely “a different form of government.”

His summing-up on the topic? “Castro never lied to me. My government has.