Q: Do you see any light over the next four years?
VENTURA: No. We’re going to be biting the bullet even more. Whoever wins the election could be a one-term president. The hard decisions that have to be made will not be popular ones. They won’t blame George Bush, who’s responsible; they’re going to blame whoever is in office. That’s how shortsighted the U.S. people are. Bush is the worst president in my lifetime. He’s even worse than Nixon, who at least accomplished a few things. I can’t think of one thing this guy’s accomplished. The two parties have put us $9 trillion in debt. If that was the private sector, they would be arrested, jailed, and put in prison like the executives at World Com and Enron. But you watch, the history books kids’ use in schools, with Karl Rove in charge, will portray Bush as having stopped another Hitler in Saddam Hussein.
Q: Which candidate then would you like to see become the next president?
VENTURA: Barack. He’s the lesser of the two evils. But remember what Jerry Garcia said: the lesser of two evils is still evil. I’m not saying Barack is evil. He’s the best because he’s the newest. He hasn’t been fully corrupted yet.
Q: Does he remind you of you at all?
VENTURA: Barack Obama is trying to steal the people who normally would follow someone like me, with Change, Change, Change. He’s not going to be able to bring change, he’s still a Democrat. And Democrats are spineless. In 2006 the Democrats got a clear mandate from the voting public: they said get us out of Iraq. They haven’t done a thing. Their excuse: they can’t override Bush’s vetoes. Well that’s lying. They’re the Congress and the legislature, all they have to do is withhold the money and we’re out.
Q: Do you think Obama would live if he became president?
VENTURA: Maybe not. It depends on the amount of change he tries to do. Or even if not, there could be some redneck out there who has it in his head that he’s not going to have a black president.
Q: What about the talk of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as a running mate for John McCain?
VENTURA: It’s ridiculous. The guy hasn’t accomplished a thing. Since he’s been in office the Republicans have lost the House to the Democrats. The Democrats strongly control the Senate now. He vetoed two or three transportation bills, and as a result a bridge fell in the river, didn’t it? With thirteen deaths. How could they consider him?
Q: So who should McCain choose?
VENTURA: McCain would be best suited to take Mitt Romney. Here’s what scares me about the candidates right now. They haven’t ever been in the executive branch. They are from the legislative branch. If you look through the years, the best presidents are all from the executive: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton….and the worst have come from the legislature: George H. Bush. Although our President Bush was a governor, overall governors make far better presidents than do senators or congressmen. Right now whoever becomes president will have virtually zero in experience of running the government.
Q: Back in 2000, when you were governor, you considered running with McCain.
VENTURA: But now he totally flipflopped. If George Bush stopped walking, McCain’s head would be two feet up his butt. He saw what it took for Bush to win, so he wants to become Bush. That’s a sellout.
Q: How did President Bush lie to you when you were governor?
VENTURA: He lied to me the first time when we had the NGA convention; all the governors meet with the president to speak about domestic policy. He told us that he was going to be an old Federalist style president, power to the states, which I like. That way you have the opportunity to live in the state that most fits your lifestyle. Well, he’s done the opposite. We’ve had 13 states vote for medicinal marijuana yet the federal government says if any doctor does he’s going to jail. Oregon voted twice for dignity in death; the federal government has said you can’t do that. How’s that a Federalist president who’s going to give power to the states? Bush got in, he got powerful, and power corrupts. It’s George’s way or the highway.
Q: Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to the government. So why can’t we put Cheney and Bush away?
VENTURA: Because you have a bunch of legislators—congressmen and Senators—who are just as dirty as they are. And it requires them to do it.
Q: Let’s go back to when you became governor. What advice did Hunter Thompson give you?
VENTURA: He gave me a simple piece of advice, delivered by Warren Zevon: he told me, Governor, never, never answer the phone after midnight. When you think about it, it’s very profound. Because as governor, if the phone rings after midnight, the news ain’t gonna be good. I spoke with him once on the phone for two hours, it was entertaining as hell. That’s one of my regrets in life: I should have made time and gone out and visited him before he died. Hunter saw in me what politics was supposed to be.
I said to him that I spoke with Warren and that if I came out to visit him, we’d get to shoot propane tanks. That’s what he used to do: put a detonator on a propane tank and shoot it and it would blow up like an atomic bomb. His response was: ‘Hell yeah, I’ve got it set up now so we don’t have to leave the porch!’ I would have found it rather disturbing to be Hunter’s neighbor.
Q: When you did answer the phone at your private residence, while governor, you thought others were listening. Why do you suspect they were tapped?
VENTURA: I was a rogue Independent and not a puppet on a string. I was out of control to them. That scared them, that they didn’t have control over this politician. When the telephone company came in to undo it, they said, ‘We don’t know what went on here, but we can’t figure out what the hell this was.’