Q: How big a problem is terrorism in your opinion?
VENTURA: Terrorism isn’t that big of a problem. It’s been created into a problem because we have to have a common enemy. Before it was the communists, then the war on drugs, now it’s terrorism. We’ve got to have a boogie man. Boogie men keep the people in line, keep ‘em scared; which means government can then oppress you.
Q: Do you think though that there is a danger that an atomic bomb in a suitcase can one day be detonated in America?
VENTURA: Certainly. It could happen, but I don’t think it will. We should disarm completely so it can never happen. Get our asses out of the Middle East. Bin Laden says he attacks us because we’re there. Any country that ain’t over there, they ain’t bothering. Who wants to be with them people anyway? Why do you think Columbus found a new way around the world? Because they didn’t want to go through there in the first place. When you’ve got a bunch of idiots, why be around them? If it’s for their oil, then let’s be truthful. Don’t tell us we’re there to give them freedom. I’d take a different view on the Middle East if the government would say this to me: If we don’t have a presence there you ain’t going to be able to drive your Porsche twin turbo. Then I might say, well, maybe there is a presence required over there. But when they tell me: We’re there to deliver democracy, then I know it’s total bullshit.
I was in the Philippines the day Ferdinand Marcos declared marshal law. He took a democracy and turned it into a dictatorship. We had three air wings at Clark Air Force base, and we did nothing for the oppression of the Philippine people. Why? Because he was our little dictator who did what we wanted. We like dictators, as long as they do what we want. With Saddam Hussein, I was watching TV when the original Frankenstein came on. As I watched I thought, shit, this is Saddam. Dr. Frankenstein—us—created the monster—Saddam. The monster then got independent and started doing shit we didn’t like, so Dr. Frankenstein and the townspeople had to kill him. We created Saddam, he became too powerful and wouldn’t listen to us anymore, so we had to kill the monster we created.
Q: Would the world be better off if Saddam was still in control of Iraq?
VENTURA: Yes. Saddam was not a hard-core fundamentalist Muslim, he was more secular. Women didn’t have to wear veils when he was in charge. Women were going to college and getting educated. Women are now being put back into the Stone Age over there. The radical clerics have taken over with their religious point of view. The minute religion dips itself into government, your government is going to suck.
Q: Are the terrorists winning?
VENTURA: Yes. They’re not winning on the battlefield, but because America’s changed. And that’s what they set out to do. We’re letting them win. With the Patriot Act and this fear of terrorists–you’ve got about as much chance as getting hit by a terrorist as you do winning the Powerball. My son said something interesting: he said, ‘Gee Dad, Osama bin Laden worked for the CIA in the late eighties and early nineties, who said he still doesn’t?’ We haven’t caught him, have we? I find it kind of weird that we can’t find a 6’6” Arab. There ain’t too many of them. They don’t have a good basketball team.
Q: When you spent the night at the White House as President Clinton’s guest, you outlined your scenario to solve the Middle East problem, which was to bomb the holy site in Jerusalem which both Arabs and Jews hold sacred. Clinton thought you were slightly crazy, didn’t he?
VENTURA: They’re two children playing with a toy and they’re misbehaving. What do you do? You take the toy away. [In Israel] the toy is a mound of dirt. You could blow it up because both sides agreed never to excavate it, so they’re never going to see what’s there anyway, so what good is it?
Q: Bombing holy sites might seem a bit sacrilegious.
VENTURA: I’m not very religious, but God ain’t gonna hold that against me. I don’t believe you have to pay homage to God. I believe there could be a creator, but I’m also a big believer in science. But we’re not advanced enough in science to know. I want to go to that creationism museum in Kentucky, where they got us with the dinosaurs. When I get there with my booming voice I’m going to bellow out, ‘Oh my God, you mean the Flintstones was a documentary?’ That will be my way of saying, ‘This is bullshit.’ Because they’re teaching children that we coexisted with the dinosaurs. You know how they convinced them of it? They say, ‘You don’t see the word dinosaur in the Bible, but you also don’t see the word computer or jet airplane.’ Now, two of those things are created by man; a dinosaur wasn’t. They’ve got these kids believing the dinosaurs were all vegetarians and that they worked for us and we rode them around like horses. Then when we sinned, that’s when the dinosaur became a meat eater. I heard that 40% of Americans don’t believe in evolution. They say it’s just a theory. I say, So is gravity.
Q: So I take it you don’t put much stock in prayer?
VENTURA: I don’t worry about God because I envision God like the George Burns character in Oh God! I envision him being this kind person who gave us everything we need and now it’s up to us. If God knows we’re not perfect, he knows we’re gonna fuck up. He’s got to have a good sense of humor, because how could he have created us if he didn’t? If I get up there and he says, ‘Well, you didn’t believe in me.’ I’ll say, ‘You created me. I’m a dumb shit.’
I read Christopher Hitchens book God is Not Great. It’s a hell of a book. He said, and I believe, that God and religion dumb us down. Makes us stupid. Because as we go through life with our limited knowledge, anything throughout history we couldn’t explain we attribute to God. That makes us stupid, because we’re not going to learn what does it. ‘God does it, what the hell, why learn about it?’
Q: No afterlife for you then? No coming back as a 38DD bra?
VENTURA: I think there is energy after we die. I never believed in ghosts until I became governor. The Minnesota governor’s residence is haunted. No doubt about it. The two owners who built it were a lumber baron and his wife. They had a young daughter who was jilted by her lover and committed suicide in the house in her late teens or early twenties. She’s the one who haunts it. I had one experience with her when I was writing my first book. Julianne Mooney was my ghostwriter. We worked in the evenings, 7-10 P.M. in the library of the governor’s residence. It was her last night, on Friday, when all the hired help was gone. The only ones in the house were the state trooper, Julianne and me. We worked about an hour. At 8 P.M. from the kitchen I heard this huge smashing of dinnerware, massive. We worked another hour and I walked her down the hallway to the side parking lot, where she got in her car. I walked back into the kitchen and to the pantry. The cabinets were spring loaded, so if you didn’t lock them open they would automatically shut. The cabinet was totally open and one shelf was broken and all the dishes were in a broken pile on the floor. I felt the shelf above, and you could have done pull-ups off these shelves. They weren’t flimsy. If someone who worked there did that, wouldn’t they have cleaned it up? They wouldn’t allow the governor to see it. I called one of the chefs on the phone and told him what happened. He laughed and said he’d take care of it. That was the ghost.
When we won the election, within the first two weeks it’s traditional for the First Lady to invite to lunch all the still living First Ladies. Terry did that and a couple of them asked her if anything strange had happened yet in the mansion. They told her to beware.
The dead girl’s picture is on one of the walls, and Terry and Jade once walked up to it and spoke to it. She said, ‘We’re not here to cause any harm. We understand it’s your house and we’re only temporary residents.’
My son Ty had the most experience with the ghost. I think she was attracted to him. He was about the same age as she was and he’s very handsome. He was working for Sean Penn then, so he would leave for months at a time. When Sean would stop working he would come back for a couple of months. Whenever he would come back, she would get very active. When he’d leave, not so active. He had friends stay over a few times and the next morning they’d ask, ‘Ty, what were you doing last night? We were trying to sleep and the damn door handle was turning all night long.’ It wasn’t Ty. They also were up on the third floor and felt this cold thing go by them. I read a book on ghosts and there’s always a drop of temperature of around 20 degrees whenever a ghost is around. So I believe the governor’s residence is haunted. And that comforted me, because it made me feel that there is something after death.
Q: Do you worry about dying?
VENTURA: Sure. I wish you didn’t have to watch your body deteriorate. I wish you could stay completely healthy until the day you die, and then just die out of the blue. My body is deteriorating in many different places now and I know it’s going to get worse. That’s frustrating, losing your life style, mentally adapting to things you can’t do any more.
Q: It’s always difficult for a former athlete to deal with aging. When you were wrestling, did you take steroids to bulk up?
VENTURA: I tried them for a very short period of time. I did a huge poster that went out to all the schools that said I’ve tried them, don’t use them. I only used testosterone, male hormone. I did it no more than four times, once a year, at the height of my wrestling career when you damn near had to use it. Vince was running us hard. Jesus, if you hadn’t been on the juice you would have showed up in the next town thirty pounds lighter than what they saw on TV. Testosterone is a six-week cycle, two shots a week. The first time I did it I was bench pressing 315 pounds; in thirty days I was benching 390. You can’t do that naturally in a month. I’d look in the mirror and go, “Shiiit!” It’s very addictive.
Q: How do you feel about the use of steroids in baseball, especially under the Congressional scrutiny of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds?
VENTURA: I look at the bigger picture. What is the government involved in this for? It’s baseball’s problem. In 1990 the government went after pro wrestling for steroids. Vince McMahon had already admitted that wrestling was sports entertainment, not a true competition. So why would they give a crap whether we were using steroids or not? Here’s my point: the government indicted McMahon then and tried to put him into prison for being the head of the WWF where the steroids were. Why isn’t Bud Selig being indicted? Because baseball gets treated differently than wrestling does. Steroids don’t affect the game unless you’re gambling. You may get disappointed because you may play a team full of steroid users and they may beat the crap out of your team, but it’s just a game. You don’t lose or gain anything. But if you’re gambling, then you are concerned. Because then you’ve got players cheating and you’re losing money.