Image courtesy CBSNews.com
You gotta love Jesse Ventura. The former governor of Minnesota, former wrestler, and sort-of former (and possibly future) U.S. expatriate is now either threatening to change his citizenship to Mexico -- or run for President of the United States.
Ventura, like so many of us who fly, is fully enraged at the practices of the TSA, the Transportation Security Agency. The TSA exists for an important reason: to keep the traveling public safe from terrorist attack.
The problem, of course, is that meeting that mission is hard. Almost impossibly hard. Unfortunately, when faced with a hard-to-solve problem, American government officials can lean either of two ways: solve it, or get all bureaucratic and stupid.
Unfortunately, as we've sadly seen over and over again, the TSA hasn't exactly distinguished itself as the bastion of American safety and security we'd like it to be. Instead, we've had to endure walking shoeless and beltless to our flights, had to endure pat downs, and -- in a series of almost Monty Pythonesque episodes -- had to watch the TSA practice the art of the reach-down in the most absurd way.
Parachuting into the middle of this chaos is former Navy SEAL, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who has apparently been the victim of too many TSA pat-downs and ain't havin' no more of it, no sir.
Ventura recently filed a lawsuit against the TSA, which was thrown out last week due to a truly bizarre trap-door in the law. Apparently, the way Congress wrote the law, you can't sue the TSA in federal court. Instead, all challenges must be brought directly to the Circuit Courts of Appeals.
I'm not a federal litigation expert, but this restriction apparently makes it way harder to apply normal legal checks and balances to the TSA.
The problem is that Ventura has a titanium implant in his hip, which sets off the security scanners. Whenever he flies commercial, he's been subject to invasive pat-downs, which also seem to drift towards his fiddly bits. To say Ventura was peeved would be an extreme understatement.
But now, after taking his argument to the courts, he's been smacked down by the weird legislation that prevents him from taking his case to a jury.
In anger, Ventura declared he's changing his citizenship to Mexico -- or running for President. He believes that the only way he'd get his day in court is to become President and, well, change the court.
So, the question is this: does Ventura stand even a cold chance in hell of making it to the Presidency?
To evaluate this question, we need to break it down into component pieces: (1) Can he appeal to enough Americans to get on the map? (2) Can he raise enough money to be a credible contender against the hundreds of millions of dollars that'll be spent by his competitors? (3) Is there any way that an independent would ever win the White House? (4) Can he build the "machine" necessary for a national campaign? And (5) can he control his mouth and temper so he doesn't shoot himself in his own foot?
Let's look at each of these in turn.
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Can he appeal to enough Americans to get on the map?
Yes, undoubtedly. No one expected him to win the governorship in Minnesota, and yet he did. He didn't win big, but he did beat out some better known candidates. Ventura has exceptional skills in reaching people and with our disgruntled populace, he's sure to strike a chord with a measurable group of people.
Can he raise enough money to be a credible contender against the hundreds of millions of dollars that'll be spent by his competitors?
This is where his chances drop precipitously. This next election may well cost the GOP and the Dems a billion dollars each. It's highly unlikely Ventura could raise even a tenth of that.
He did win in Minnesota with a fraction of the money of his then competitors, but playing in Duluth and Eden Prairie isn't exactly like playing on Time Square. It's far from clear that Ventura could carry even a single cranky red state, and he might upset the fragile sensibilities of blue staters.
More to the point, you can get a lot of traction and a lot of votes for a billion dollars, and charm, anger, and personal fortitude can only get you so far against such a concentration of economic resources.
Is there any way that an independent would ever win the White House?
Five years ago, I would have said "No." Now, I think I have to say, "Yes."
Barack Obama was not exactly an establishment candidate. He broke all sorts of records and barriers and made it to the White House. He got elected, in part based on much of America's disgruntlement with George W. Bush, in part because otherwise right-leaning voters were nervous about the McCain/Palin combination, in part because finally voting in someone of color was long overdue, and in part because he was a far more appealing candidate than McCain.
Unfortunately, while Obama was not the establishment candidate, he has been a very establishment President. All those disgruntled Americans who voted President Obama into office are still disgruntled -- and neither the GOP nor the Democrats are showing any sign of changing the bad business-as-usual climate we've seen over the last few decades.
The Tea Party and Occupy movements may just be the tip of the iceberg. I'm starting to think that our two major parties -- driven so much by the power and money of lobbyists, banks, and big-money interests -- have completely lost touch with the vast majority of voting Americans.
And, while I do think it's nigh on impossible to battle against the entrenched power of big business, big banking, big capital, and big health, I do think there's a crack in their defensive battlements -- in that they've SO angered so many Americans.
Ventura as President. Likely: no. Possible: yes.
Can he build the "machine" necessary for a national campaign?
Ventura's a very bright dude and did manage a state-wide win. But it's not clear he's got the management fortitude to organize what's essentially a very large enterprise and run it on a national basis.
Fortunately, you can hire such talent and Ventura's been quite good at recognizing and directing excellent talent.
So, assuming he can pay that talent, I'd rate this one as a definite maybe.
Can he control his mouth and temper so he doesn't shoot himself in his own foot?
That's a question for all the candidates, isn't it? Cain might not be able to keep his foot from his mouth (or possibly his hands to himself, if there's any truth to the harassment accusations he's currently fighting). Bachmann certainly can't. Romney has good message control, but it's so good he looks more like a robot than a President. And, of course, President Obama is excellent on the campaign trail, but whether he can succeed in an environment not bathed in adulation is the big open question.
So, while it's not clear Ventura can keep his mouth on mission, he has no less of a chance than any of the other candidates to keep his mouth in check, our President included.
Bottom line: can Ventura win?
Honestly, I think he has very little chance, but I do believe he has a chance -- if he decides to run pretty much now and plays for keeps.
Honestly, if Ventura were to run on a simple message -- dismantle the TSA -- he's likely to attract a far larger group of voters than anyone might expect. There's real anger in America about the TSA, and Ventura could be the lightning rod for that anger.
It'll be a tough slog and a tough fight, but -- after all -- when you want someone who can handle a tough slog and a tough fight, there isn't anyone better than a Navy SEAL.
No doubt, it'll be interesting to watch. And, I'll tell you what, I'd pay serious money to watch Jesse Ventura debate any or all of the other candidates. Now, that would be something to see!