Joe Conason's Journal

The madness of King Jesse. Plus: Imus, Drudge whine about partisanship at Wellstone's memorial, but miss the big picture. And Ann Coulter is still fired!

By Salon Staff

Published October 30, 2002 1:32PM (EST)

The madness of King Jesse
Does Jesse Ventura think of himself as a monarch? Appointing an "independent" to Wellstone's seat instead of a Democrat -- as he now threatens to do -- would be the ex-wrestler's final big tantrum. He was "offended" by the partisan tone of one speech, or so he says, and now he intends to punish Wellstone's supporters. What may really be bothering him, and what probably brought tears to Mrs. Ventura's eyes, was the lusty booing he received when they showed his face on the Jumbotron. People shouldn't have booed, but it must be hard to suppress that impulse if you're a Minnesotan confronted with Ventura. At that moment, the contrast between this cloddish egomaniac and the late senator must have been unbearable. It's like the difference between being a real wrestling champion and winning staged bouts on TV.

The governor was offended. Mrs. Ventura cried. That's far more important than the feelings of the Wellstones, who merely lost their mother, father and sister.

Anyone who wants a future in Minnesota politics would be well-advised to turn the temporary Senate seat down if offered it by the governor. Nobody who takes it will be remembered fondly for wasting the time and money, or for humoring a childish politician who hasn't quite outgrown the WWF. (A friend suggests that, if residency isn't required, Jesse can appoint the Rock.)

Normal hype
While reading about Ventura's madness on the Fox News site, I came across another Minnesota-related article, headlined "Coleman Ready to Win Wellstone Seat." That stopped me, since today's polls indicate the opposite. But there was nothing in the story to justify Republican optimism. Do the site's editors think their readers only look at headlines?

Still dumped
Remember the daily editor in State College, Pa., who very publicly dropped Ann Coulter's column? When he left his job recently, her fans thought he had been let go because of that incident, and that she would soon be reinstated in a triumph of bad taste. Alas, the publisher says he agreed with former editor Bob Unger about Coulter. She's still "fired."
[1:31 p.m. PDT, Oct. 30, 2002]

Minnesota Democrat family values
I stayed up late last night to watch C-SPAN's rebroadcast of the Wellstone service, a moving and wonderful tribute to the senator, his wife, his daughter and the staffers who died last Friday. Tom Harkin delivered a stunningly beautiful and rousing eulogy that would have made his dear friend very proud. The friends and family members who spoke offered the kind of comforting intimacy that is one of the main purposes of a funeral. The evening was mostly a remembrance, not a rally.

Yes, the senator's campaign treasurer Rick Kahn went over the top in his appeal for votes to cement the Wellstone legacy, but his raw emotion is entirely understandable. He has lost his closest friends and cannot let them go.

Now I understand that Imus, Drudge and various other etiquette experts are criticizing the event for being too political, too celebratory and not somber enough for their elevated tastes. Rush Limbaugh can be expected to weigh in with the same kind of carping (and Vin Weber, the former Republican congressman turned lobbyist, is whining about the political tone of the memorial, too). Not that anyone should care about this babble, but I do wonder why the media busybodies would presume to attack the Wellstone family at this moment. Is it not properly up to the Wellstone sons -- who gave an excellent account of themselves last night -- to decide how to mark the passing of their father, mother and sister? Has none of them ever attended a memorial service where joyous love prevailed over despair? I suspect they simply couldn't bear the sight of his fellow Democrats celebrating Wellstone's life, vowing to fight on in his name, and just not giving a rip what Imus, Drudge or the rest of the greasy GOP media might say. (In their present mood of fraudulent high-mindedness, these critics might better direct their anger toward the sleazy Howard Stern imitator in Minneapolis who openly wished for Wellstone's death on the air last month. As far as I know he still hasn't had the decency to apologize.)

Both David and Mark Wellstone chose particular words that reminded them of their parents and sister as they spoke about their years together. The phrase that kept occurring to me, as I watched the Wellstone sons, was "family values." The marriage of Paul and Sheila Wellstone began 39 years ago, and would have endured until their deaths no matter when the end came. They raised three terrific children who went on to create their own families. From their devoted parents the sons and the daughter learned real values, not Sunday lip service. Having been required to research the lives of prominent Republicans lately for a book project, I will say only that the contrast with the Wellstone example provides another reason to laugh through the tears. Remember that when the likes of Vin Weber, Newt Gingrich's enabler, presume to lecture Democrats about decorum.

More relevant anyway is the opinion of Bob Dylan, who mentioned the loss of "a great man and a great senator" last Saturday night during a Denver concert before he played "The Times They Are A-Changin'." The native Minnesota poet doesn't talk nearly as much as Limbaugh or Imus, but says more in a line than they've said in their entire lives.

Now back to the news: Mondale is eight points ahead of Coleman in today's Star-Tribune poll.
[9:35 a.m. PDT, Oct. 30, 2002]

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