Ventura surely was not a military hero

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 23, 2001


Monday, April 23, 2001

Gov. Jesse Ventura ran for office on his Navy service and continues to flaunt it to make himself appear superior to lesser mortals (and anyone who disagrees with him fits his definition). If we can rush this into print, his denigration of deer hunters because they haven’t "hunted man" will still be the most recent. Jesse Ventura just is not experienced in the military and his attitude about what little service he did have more disqualifies him from public office.

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Having called on the carpet an outdoors writer for something he wrote that Ventura didn’t like, he dismissed deer hunting as a cowardly going after "Bambi" and "no big deal." Rather, the governor pontificated, "Until you’ve hunted man, you haven’t hunted yet" because "you need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter."

I have to tell you: This Rambo attitude is the direct opposite of the professional responsibility taught throughout the armed forces, and it is precisely this attitude that is cause for denial of reenlistment, unfitness discharge, and even courts marshal. Nothing quite proves so starkly that Jesse Ventura is unfit for military service than this obscene arrogance. Claiming qualification on the basis of military service and betraying himself as unfit for even it, voters have something to go on when considering any attempt at re-election by this professed one-term governor.

Storekeeper Ventura was not a SEAL but, rather, he was trained in underwater demolition, popularly known as "frogmen." True, it was rigorous training with many wash-outs, and this former enlistedman deserves reasonable credit for having made it. True, underwater demolition was eventually absorbed into SEALs (in 1983, after his single term), and informal, casual conversation could tolerate such loose usage. However, this is not the use Ventura is making of the matter, because he is exploiting the coincidence in a transparent effort to trick people into making the inference.

Rather than taking quiet pride in this much of a training accomplishment, Ventura continues to boast of how he and his buddies thought themselves better than anyone and everyone else and felt he had the right to walk all over other people. He boasts of legal offenses, breaking regulations, and disobeying orders. He brags about what he could do, but seldom showed interest in what he should do. This, then, is the sort of thing he expects us to believe qualifies him to be governor.

He developed the impression that physical strength and aggressive behavior is the key to success. His attempted intimidation of the legislature frequently betrays he still cherishes this delusion.

Ventura’s "Vietnam experience" is a similar ruse but totally without mitigation. When a person says "I was in Vietnam," the normal reaction of the average person is to presume the speaker means he was engaged in combat or in close support of combat. Ventura counts on it. But when people have begun to probe into specific meaning, he slips away onto safer ground. The fact is that, with no combat operations underway, his group continued its frogman training in peaceful waters off the coast doing nothing closer to harm’s way than to measure water depth. Jesse Ventura is no combat veteran. Like the deer hunters, he has never "hunted man." So, even that argument is hot air.

He served for one four-year term as a low-ranking enlistedman with no leadership experience. No one, not even an officer, can understand the military in this time or this way. Ventura is more a former member of the Navy than a veteran sailor.

A truly monstrous betrayal of ignorance is his boast that the Navy "promoted me to two-star admiral" when he became governor. The fact is that if the Navy should ever wish to host him for something, he would be given the same protocol courtesy and accommodations that it gives to any rear admiral – and to any governor and a mass of other public officials.

Ventura laid it down in his book (the title of which is profitably omitted) that he quit the Navy when he felt he was not getting sufficient glory. Taking his word that his Navy service prepared him for the governor’s office, we can then expect he will quit the capitol for the same reason.

None of this – and I have been holding onto it for a couple of years and it is now provoked by this latest offensive outburst – is to say that Jesse Ventura cannot become or, indeed, is not now a not-bad governor. It is to say, rather, that if he should be qualified for the office, his miniscule military service is not the source. Indeed, he needs to divest himself of many unprofessional attitudes and bad habits of which he boasts from his few frogman days.

Wallace Alcorn’s column appears Mondays.