For former WWE star and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the year 2014 has been busy indeed. In the 10 months or so since he last spoke with Salon, the political iconoclast and host of Ora.TV's "Off the Grid" has not only spent time dodging drones south of the border but has also found himself locked in a legal struggle with the estate of Chris "American Sniper" Kyle, which he ultimately won but which forced him to jump back 0n-grid for a time and live again in the United States. Now that that's all finished with, however, Ventura is eager to head back to his second home in an "undisclosed location" in Mexico.
Recently, Salon called Ventura to talk about current events ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to NSA reform to the war on ISIS to his views on water fluoridation. We also discussed Ventura's thoughts about running for president in 2016, a door he's kept wide open. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.
Are you looking forward to getting back outside the U.S. again?
Oh, I can’t wait. Number one, the weather! I don’t like winter; never have, never will ... Plus, I like going off the grid because I call it flushing my brain out. When I live down there [in Mexico] I have no television set, the only access to the world I have is the Internet, no telephone or anything like that.
So you were in the U.S. this summer when the media started getting crazy with Ebola and ISIS. I don't know if you felt the same way, but I remember feeling like there was a lot of hysteria being promoted around that time.
Our mainstream media amplifies a lot of things now. I remember when I was doing my "Off the Grid" show and Ebola had claimed only one life in the United States at that time — I think it’s up to two now, but at the time, it was just the original gentleman who came to Texas — and, right away, my knee-jerk reactions was, “Gee, how many people last month died of drunk driving?” I tried to tell people that you have a much bigger chance, driving home today, of being killed by a drunk driver than you ever do of getting Ebola and dying from it.
That’s our mainstream media today, though. They’re all about ratings, they’re all about hype, and they’re all about making money. That’s a sad thing, because there was a time that the media used to write off the news and they’d make up for it in their entertainment or sports division; but now, unfortunately, the news has become entertainment. Case in point: when they landed that space vehicle on that comet, the No. 1 story was Kim Kardashian’s ass. I mean, come on!
Well, in the interest of keeping this conversation substantive: How'd you feel about the Keystone XL falling short of breaking the Senate filibuster?
I was ecstatic over it. I’m sure that the next Congress is going to pass it, though, and I’m hoping the president will veto it. I think Keystone is a waste; they're deceiving the American people into thinking somehow we’re going to prosper from this oil and we’re going to be less dependent on foreign oil, but that’s not true. Why would they need to send oil down to the Gulf of Mexico? The Gulf’s already got lots of oil; BP showed us that when they had the leak. There’s plenty down there, so why would they be sending it there? They’re sending it down there to put it on ships and export it. This is nothing more than the oil companies getting a huge for-profit pipeline that I assume will be paid for by the American people and protected by our taxpaying dollars. How are we going to benefit one bit from oil being pumped down from the far reaches of the arctic of Canada to be loaded onto ships down in the Gulf?
Originally, they were going to go through Canada and do it in British Columbia. But British Columbia wouldn’t allow it, so that's why they’ve switched directions now and they’re heading south through the United States with it. The people of this country are being deceived into thinking somehow they are going to benefit from this. They talk about the jobs; I got news for you: Once the thing is built, there’ll probably be only about 50 jobs when it’s done.
And then I would like to know, Who is responsible for the security of this pipeline? This thing will be a natural terrorist target. They’ve got people so scared in the country now that ISIS is going to invade us and do a Normandy invasion on Virginia or somewhere; they’ve got this country so paranoid. My wife said something to me the other day that was extremely profound, and I hope people in this country pay attention and read a bit of history. My wife and I do a great deal of reading and she looked at me the other day and said, “You know, the people of the United States of America right now are behaving identical to the German people in the '30s.”
Is that something you really worry about — the U.S. becoming a fascist state?
I worry about it tremendously. We’re forever incorporating Nazi things into our lives. Fluoride in the water, that was originally done by the Nazis! I don’t particularly like anything the Nazis did too much, and they were the first ones to put fluoride in the water. They tell us, “Oh, it's for your teeth” and all that — well, isn’t that your parents’ job, to teach you how to brush your teeth and use mouthwash? Why do you need the government putting some type of chemical in your water?
I don’t know if you know this [but] fluoride is the main component of Prozac! What you’ve got is people drinking Prozac-water. Well, what does Prozac do to you? It calms you and dumbs you down so you’re less emotional. There’s a reason for all that stuff; what do we need fluoride in our water for? There’s no reason whatsoever to put chemicals in our water.
If Prozac is calming us down and the media is hyping us up, isn't that working toward cross-purposes?
To me it’s a case, again, of the people being deceived. Going back to the pipeline, this is nothing but oil; big oil will profit from it and it will do nothing to get us less dependent on foreign oil. People need to be clear on that. We should be the country out there leading and getting us off this archaic oil. Oil as fuel is old news; we need to look to the future. We need to look out and be the leader in the future, not the follower. But it seems the United States is nothing but a follower today. We’re not a leader anymore.
How about the other recent big vote in the Senate, on the NSA reform bill? That fell short, too. Were you surprised?
The bottom line is, this country has lost sight of the fact that [politicians] work for us. We’re supposed to be the boss; they’re supposed to be the employees, believe it or not. Have you ever heard of the employees putting the boss under surveillance? Well, that’s what they’re doing. We’re the boss, but we've lost sight of it and allowed them to assume that control. It’s ridiculous; we need to take it back. There’s only one way to do it, but the lemmings of this country are too much of lemmings to accomplish it, and that is simple: stop voting for Democrats and Republicans.
Sen. Paul caught a lot of flak for voting against the reform bill, but he had a different reason for it than some of his colleagues; he felt it was not strong enough. Did you buy that? Or did you think Paul's vote was just another example of why we need to get rid of the two-party system?
We’ve got to get away from the two parties. We were warned by Jefferson, Adams, Washington and all the forefathers of this country, that when political parties take over the government, that will be the downfall of America. Well, they already have. I get in trouble because I said we’re the fascist states of America — but people don’t like to hear the truth. Think about it: corporations run our country now. In light of the Supreme Court decision, corporations control our elections. Look at this last election cycle; all the negative ads out there were put out by corporations and all the billions of dollars corporations pumped out there ... The point of the matter is that our elections have been taken over ... There’s a positive out of this: They’re opening the door for me.
Yes, that was going to be my next question — whether you're running for president in 2016.
If I want to run, they’re opening the door for me. Look at the midterm elections and the percentage who voted. What was it, 36?
Don't know the exact number off the top of my head, but I do know it was the lowest turnout in 72 years.
Yeah, that means that if I were to run, I would have a majority pot of 64 percent of Americans who — all I would have to do is get them motivated to go out and vote, plus I would steal from [the two parties'] existing 36, just like [I did] in Minnesota. They’re opening the door; the Dems and Repubs have alienated everyone so badly in this country that literally not even four out of 10 people even bother to vote.
Are you getting contacted by folks interested in seeing you run in a couple of years?
I get asked about it all the time. The key to the whole thing is that there’s two things you’ve got to have. Number one, you’ve got to have ballot access in all 50 states. The Democrats and Republicans will take you into lawsuits and tie you all up so you can’t get that. Is that America? Are they doing an American thing when they do that? No, not at all. Why do they fear a third candidate? If they’re on the side of right they shouldn’t have to fear anything, but they’re not on the side of right so they have great fear of a third candidate ...
The second key is, you have to be allowed in the debates, and [the two parties] control that also. The only people you see are their two pre-selected elitists that they pick, and that’s who you’re allowed to pick from. I often laugh because they have open elections in Cuba but the only thing is, [Castro] is the only candidate. Well, we give you one more! Boy, that’s big, isn’t it? I’m laughing; the big rumble out there in 2016 is going to be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton? Well, then I want to question why we bothered to fight the British for our freedom since it seems to be that we have royal families now. They’re the only families that can govern our country, and all the rest of us aren’t up to the task so it comes to these royalty blue-bloods we have, the Clintons and the Bushes and all of them.
Those two impediments, though, do you think they're surmountable?
No, you probably can’t clear them if you need to, that’s the problem!
So would you run to raise public consciousness of these facts?
What good will it do? The United States people just sit on their hands and do nothing. Look at 1992: Ross Perot was allowed to debate. He got one out of five votes, right? In 1996, he wasn't allowed in ... Clinton and Dole cut a deal to eliminate him. In ‘92 the presidential elections were controlled by the National League of Women Voters and Perot scared them so bad that they took it away from them and created the Federal Debate Commission, which was headed by the former heads of the Democratic and Republican parties. Does anyone find a conflict of interest there?
So when people ask you to run, why don’t you tell them you’d like to but ... and then tell them what you just told me?
I do! I say, How can I run when the chances are they won’t let me in the debates? They’re not going to let me in because I proved in Minnesota — I was pulling less than 10 percent at the primary, but they allowed me in the debates, and eight weeks later, I was the governor. Do you think they’re going to let that happen again? No. They learned; they’re not stupid. They put up more obstacles. The only way I’d be allowed to debate is if people picked up the picks and shovels and walked to Frankenstein's castle.
So it sounds to me like you're not going to run, because it’s just too much of a hurdle, but you’re still thinking about it. Is that right?
Oh, I think about it. The Libertarians don’t name their candidate; you’ve got to go to their convention in June and then they nominate. If I did desire to get ballot access, I've just got to go to the Libertarian convention and get their nomination; but I need an agreement with them. See, if I were to run, I’d tell all my media exactly what I will run on and win on. You know what that is? If I were to run — and I’d have to have an agreement with the Libertarians but I think they’d go along with it — no one governs me. I don’t belong to nothing; I’m just using their party to get ballot access. I would run under the premise that I would offer and challenge the American people to make history with me and elect the first president since George Washington, the father of our country, who does not belong to a political party. Imagine that! I believe you could win on that.
People hate both parties so much, you'd definitely have a lot of voters at least intrigued by the opportunity.
Well, I’ve got 64 percent of them out there waiting who didn’t vote. Then again, I’d have to give up Mexico and "Off the Grid," wouldn’t I?
Yeah, it's not particularly fun to run for office —
I find it fun. I love it; I love competition and I love exposing the Democrats. They have no weapons. When I debate them it’s not fair because they’ve got so much negative baggage that you can destroy them.
That's true; it's probably a different experience, campaigning, if you don't have to adhere to a party line.
Not only that. Here’s what makes it fun for me: I run with the intent of winning but I know that it would be extremely difficult [to win], so if I lose, who cares?
It's not life or death for you.
Exactly. That’s how come I can do it with a smile on my face and with excitement and enthusiasm. I don’t fear losing, even though I’ve never lost; I've beat the Democrats and Republicans, both teaming up together, twice. That’s why they fear me.
Before I let you go, I wanted to ask you about Americans' apathy, which you've mentioned previously. Do you feel that it's different now from how it used to be in your lifetime? That people are more disengaged than before?
Yeah, I think so. People are so apathetic now, and the Dems and Repubs are winning because that’s what they want. They talk to you about big voter turnouts but they do everything to suppress voting because it’s easier to control a smaller number, like this last election. This was no mandate for the Republicans; it simply was the white men voting. The numbers were so small, the minorities didn’t bother, and that’s why the Democrats who usually get the minority votes got slam-dunked. In the presidential [election], more will come out. Maybe they’ll go from 36 percent up to 42 percent; there might be 5 percent more that come out. Obama was extremely smart, politically, in passing the immigration thing because he’s now sewing up the Latino vote for the Democrats — and there’s a lot of them.
Yeah, it feels like the Republicans just handed that political victory to him.
Republicans stand for what they stand for, and that is the white male and big business ... That’s who they pander to, that’s their voting base. They’re also extremely religious, with these pseudo-religious people who I find laughable.
The religious right, you mean?
Look at it this way: If we truly were a religious country and followed the teachings of Jesus, why would we be waging war all over the world? It’s fraudulent. People in this country tend to follow Jesus but they don’t really, because the polls say they want us to go to war again with ISIS. I’m astounded over that. Haven’t they learned? If it wasn’t for us, the Middle East wouldn’t be unstable. Do you think if Saddam Hussein were still head of Iraq there’d be ISIS? No. I think it was all done by design; they took out Saddam to destabilize the area and put us into a 20- or 30-year war so that the war machine, the military-industrial complex, could get the money. When 30 percent of our taxes go to defense, we've got to spend it on something, don’t we?
It can feel like the anti-war movement has just been gutted over the past few years, despite public opinion — except for ISIS — being more dovish than it's been in decades. How do you explain that disconnect?
They used a great tactic: They scared the people, just like the Germans did in the '30s. We are following the identical recipe that the Nazis used on the German people. Get ready for another false-flag operation; something's going to happen and they’re going to blame it on ISIS here in our country. The false-flag operation will run just like Germany did it with the Reichstag fire ... All wars are started with false-flag operations, so I’m fully prepared, within the near future, for something to happen and the American people to all jump up saying, "Yes! Let’s go kick their butt!" And away we’ll go to another big war over in the Middle East, which will accomplish nothing. Can you imagine all the money we’ve put down the sewer drain in the Middle East right now? We could have repaired our infrastructure here completely in our own country; we’d have healthcare for everyone, and yet we choose to pour it down a rat hole. We’re following the Roman Empire. We’re just like them.