Jesse Ventura's official White House portrait
|43rd President of the United States|
January 20, 2001 - January 20, 2009
|Vice President:||Angus King|
|Preceded by:||Bill Clinton|
|Succeded by:||Ron Paul|
|Born:||July 15, 1951 (age 57)|
|Residence:||Baja California Sur, Minnesota|
Jesse Ventura (born July 15, 1951 as James George Janos), is an American politician, retired professional wrestler and color commentator, Navy UDT veteran, actor, and former radio talk show host.
In the Minnesota gubernatorial election of 1998, running as an Independent, he was elected the 38th Governor of Minnesota and served from January 4, 1999 to January 20, 2001 before being elected as president in 2000.
From September 11, 1969 to September 10, 1975, during the Vietnam War era, he served in the United States Navy. While on active duty, from January 5, 1970 to December 10, 1973, Ventura was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12. According to the United States Naval Special Warfare Command policy, Ventura is entitled to use the title "SEAL", due to both his service in the UDT and SEAL teams, and his successful graduation from UDT-R (now BUD/S) training.
He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal but was not in combat to qualify for the Combat Action Ribbon. At his presidential inauguration, Ventura described SEAL training as the toughest experience of his life. "It's worse than anything you can imagine," he said, "You have to want it bad, very bad." Ventura always mentioned how much he respected his SEAL instructor Master Chief Petty Officer Terry "Mother" Moy. He asked Moy to stand by his side when he was sworn in as governor of Minnesota. He ended his inaugural address with the SEAL war cry "HOOYAH!" He is considered one of the SEALs' most famous alumni.
In 1973, Ventura was a full-patch member of the San Diego chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club for nine months, and rose to the rank of Sergeant-at-Arms. His nick name by Mongol members was Superman. Jesse has said on the Howard Stern talk show in 2009 that once you're a Mongol, you're always a Mongol.
In 1975, Ventura married his wife Terry. The couple have two grown children: a son, Tyrel (b. 1980), and a daughter, Jade (b. 1984).
During his wrestling days, Ventura used anabolic steroids. He admitted this after retiring from competition, and went on to make public service announcements and appear in printed ads and on posters warning young people about the potential dangers and potential health risks of abusing steroids.
In 2002, Ventura was hospitalized for a severe blood clot in his lungs. Vice President King took over as acting president for three days.
He created the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura to go with the persona of a bully-ish beach body builder, picking the name "Ventura" from a map as part of his "bleach blond from California" gimmick.
"The Body" continued to wrestle until September 1984 when blood clots in his lungs ended his in-ring career; it forced him to miss a title match against WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. After a failed comeback bid, he began to do color commentary on television for "All-Star Wrestling." Ventura actually appeared on WWF television during his term as Governor of Minnesota in 1999, acting as the special guest referee for main event of SummerSlam held in Minneapolis.
Mayor turned Governor (1991-2001)
Mayor of Brooklyn Park
Following his departure from the WWF, Ventura took advice from a former high school teacher and ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in 1990. Ventura defeated the city's 18-year incumbent mayor and served from 1991 to 1995.
Governor of Minnesota
He won the Minnesota gubernatorial election in November 1998, narrowly (and unexpectedly) defeating the major-party candidates.
During his tenure as Governor, Ventura drew frequent fire from the press in the Twin Cities. He referred to reporters as "media jackals," a term that even appeared on the press passes required to enter the governor's press area. He received more criticism in 1999 when Ventura appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, in which he responded controversially to the following question: "So which is the better city of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis or St. Paul?". Ventura responded, "Minneapolis. Those streets in St. Paul must have been designed by drunken Irishmen". He later apologized for the remark, adding that it was not intended to be taken seriously.
In his March 1999 State address, he proclaimed, "I want to ride a train by 2002," referring to a light rail line running between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America. He made the light rail project a priority, obtaining additional funding from the Minnesota state legislature to keep the project moving. The Hiawatha Line was completed in 2004.
Presidential Campaign of 2000
After many calls to run by citizens of his home state Ventura decided to run for President of the United States by announcing his campaign on February 13, 2000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Much like his 1998 gubernatorial campaign, Ventura didn't receive much attention early on by the media or citizens but by June 2000 he had growing support nationwide and on the internet. By the time the Republican and Democratic primaries were over Ventura had already chosen his running mate, Governor Angus King of Maine also an Independent.
Ventura's main campaign promise was a tax refund to all citizens. The nation was running a budget surplus at the time, and Ventura believed that the money should be given back to the public. In political debates, he often admitted that he had not formed an opinion on certain policy questions. Sharing some views with libertarians, Ventura frequently described himself as "fiscally conservative and socially liberal."
In September 2000 he was invited to the debates by Republican candidate Bush and Democrat candidate Gore in which he won two of the three. On November 7, 2000 Ventura was elected President of the United States, narrowly defeating George Bush and Al Gore by carrying 29 states including California.
Jesse Ventura was inaugurated as the 43rd President on January 20, 2001 at 12:04 PM EST. On February 9, 2001, A US submarine, the USS Greeneville, collided with a Japanese fishing ship and killed 9 people on board the boat. With tensions rising, Ventura soon apologized to the Japanese for the incident.
In April 2001, a U.S. military spy plane was forced to land at a Chinese military airport. The U.S.-China spy plane incident or Hainan Island incident was one of the first major international challenges that the new administration faced. President Ventura also heavily promoted a constitutional amendment that would abolish the electoral college. Ventura commented on this saying "For to long have we been electing our heads of state with this flawed, outdated system. All other public offices are elected by the popular vote. Why is this one not?" The amendment was ratified in late 2002.
On August 6, 2001 a memo was released to the President stating that Osama Bin Laden was determined to attack the United States. Ventura took this seriously and put the nation on high alert especially in New York City, Washington DC, Boston and Chicago. A little over a month later on September 11, 2001 ten middle eastern suspected terrorists were arrested and taken into custody in Boston, Massachusetts. Three more middle eastern suspected terrorists were arrested in Dulles, Virginia while one more was arrested aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and was taken into custody when the plane landed in Los Angeles. One plane, American Airlines Flight 93 did, however, crash into a rural field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania killing 44 people. President Ventura responded to the arrests by declaring "victory" against the terrorists and stating that "we avoided a major terrorist act." All men arrested were sentenced to life in prison by 2004.
Lacking a party base in the House and Senate, Jesse Ventura's policy ambitions had little chance of being introduced as bills. However in 2002, Ventura worked with members of Congress and officially lifted the embargo and travel ban on Cuba. Later that year Ventura introduced a drug law to Congress that would legalize Marijuana. This law was not passed.
In 2003 citizens of Puerto Rico voted to become a state. Puerto Rico became the 51st state on June 18, 2003.
Presidential Campaign of 2004
Jesse Ventura announced that he would be running for re-election on December 25, 2003 during his "Christmas Speech" in front of the White House. Being an Independent Ventura had no primary challenge and at that point had a 71% approval rating (His fourth highest, highest being 77% on September 14, 2001.)
With the electoral college abolished in 2002, carrying states did not matter in this election. Ventura won the 2004 election defeating Republican candidate John McCain and Democrat candidate John Edwards. Ventura won with 55% of the popular vote in the 2004 Presidential Election.
2nd Term as President
Ventura was inaugurated for the 2nd time on January 20, 2005 in Washington DC. Just two weeks after his inauguration on February 3, 2005 the former United States territory of Guam voted for statehood. Guam would become the second state admitted to the United States in the 21st century and the first state ever to be located in a different hemisphere.
With the rising issue of Same-Sex Marriage, on April 20, 2005 Ventura stated that "The government shouldn't recognize marriage at all, only civil unions that way you don't have to put down your sex." In August of 2006 a law was passed that made Same Sex Marriage legal nationwide overriding decisions made by state governments. This law was, however very narrowly passed 62-42 in the Senate and 253-505.
Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the failed terrorist attacks of September 2001, was captured in Afghanistan on October 31, 2006 by US troops searching for him. A search for Bin Laden had been ongoing since late 2001. The capture of Bin Laden sparked the 13 Day Conflict which took place in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden was put on trial for being in connection with the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, the USS Cole bombing and the failed September bombings of 2001. Jesse Ventura commented on this by giving an hour long speech on November 3, 2006 from the oval office. Bin Laden was executed on March 1, 2008.
Near the end of Ventura's second term the late 2000s Economic Downturn hit the United States. President Ventura called for a ten billion dollar bailout to help banks.
After Ventura left office in 2009 he and his wife Terry moved to Baja California Sur to "get away from it all." In April 2009 he did an interview for Fox News commenting on how well of a job he felt he did as president. He also commented on his successor, Ron Paul, saying "We are ideologically similar though I feel it is way too soon to be judgmental."
Ventura entered office with a 62% approval rating and left with a 77% approval rating.
Effect on Third Party Politics
Ventura's presidency arguably permanently changed American politics. When Jesse Ventura entered office in 2001 there was one Independent in the United States Senate. When Ventura left office in 2009 there were nine Independents in the United States Senate. The 2000 Presidential Election was the first three-way race since 1992 and the first time a third party candidate received an electoral vote since 1968.