Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 1999/ 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Marianne M. Jennings
Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
IN ADDITION TO SHARING his hopes for reincarnation as women's
lingerie, Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, in a no-holds-barred interview
with policy journal extra ordinaire, Playboy, indicted the faithful,
"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need
strength in numbers." I'd match Jesse in full wrestling regalia with anyone
who has done time in the church nursery. Such a soul, having survived two
hours of toddlers without hooking them to cupboards by their 2T suspenders (I
believe longsuffering with toddlers is part of the Beatitudes -- blessed
beyond belief are those who show up for church nursery on Sunday), could put
Ventura's Navy Seal training to shame.
Having never jumped on the Jesse bandwagon, I issue a firm "I told you
so." My hesitation with Governor Ventura was not the wrestling, the common
man phenomenon or even his special interest man ad that reminded me of the
Mr. Bill skits from Saturday Night Live. It was that while he was darn
entertaining, his contribution to the body politic didn't promise much. So
far, his record in Minnesota is government as usual but with a great deal of
color, charm and water cooler chat for the fine folks of Minnesota.
fellow member of the endangered species of the outspoken, Jesse is a worthy
comrade, but crosses the line between honesty in fact and the derogatory.
When Jesse confronted students at the state capitol and told a whining
college mother, "There's no such thing as a single parent — it takes two to
parent," I was with him. Jesse challenges with common sense. But, the
comments in Playboy were not worthy of curmudgeons.
won't cost him the national scene for the same reasons the press reports
Donald Trump's braggadocio regarding the presidency and ease of attaining a
first lady, Warren Beatty's musings on socialism even as he enjoys producer
opportunities and accompanying rewards of capitalism, or Cybill Shepherd's
possible bid for president in between hot flashes and mentor, lawyer Gloria
Allred, who I believe created hot flashes to frighten men. We mock Pat
Buchanan but take seriously a woman who has been married three times, ran a
television show into the ground and was responsible, along with Burt
Reynolds, for At Long Last Love, a movie musical more embarrassing than
Jesse and the lightweights are taken seriously for three reasons. One is
that Oprah Winfrey is teaching a course at the Kellogg Graduate School of
Business at Northwestern University (Jesse only discussed his Playboy
interview at Harvard -- no course, yet). The number one MBA program in the
country has Oprah and her erstwhile fiance teaching Dynamics of Leadership in
a ten-week course. There is a difference between Oprah and a PhD professor,
but lines today are so blurred that Oprah emerged from class with, "I haven't
been this nervous since I danced with Tina Turner."
Oprah and Stedman have
war stories but can't thread them together into universal and timeless
principles that teach students how to manage. Celebrity and qualifications
are so intertwined that the difference is indiscernible. Jessica Lange
testified to Congress about the plight of farmers because she played a farm
wife in Country? Rosie O'Donnell on gun control, Alec Baldwin on lynching
Kenneth Starr and Woody Harrelson on anything?
The second reason Trump, Jesse, Warren et al. don't sound so wacky is
because we have come to expect clowns and crooks in public office. The
Clinton administration has charted new bang for our entertainment buck and
most crimes committed without indictment. On the heels of Monica came Oscar
Goodman's election as mayor of Las Vegas. Mr. Goodman is a wealthy criminal
defense lawyer who has represented the best of the mob. His mother once
assured that Mafioso types are fairly harmless because "My son's clients ... just kill each other." While I am grateful for their discernment, someone
should introduce Mama Goodman to defaults in loan sharking.
Goodman was elected mayor brought no outrage nor did his odd notions about
religion, "I have done the Lord's work for my clients. Now I'm going to do
the L-rd's work on behalf of this city." There are many things the lights,
naked women and craps of Las Vegas bring to mind, but the Lord's work is not
one of them. But, then again, the lines between and among sin, judgment and
right and wrong are so blurred that murder, fraud and check-kiting may just
be products of newfound disabilities, not crimes.
The final reason that such left-field (literally and figuratively)
candidates emerge is our equation of material success with wisdom. If having
brains were a requirement for acquisition of wealth, no one, in the words of
P.J. O'Rourke, could explain Beverly Hills. The number of ditzes per capita
there is exceeded only by the number of blondes in Malibu. And one of them
thinks she has a shot at being president. Why not? She handled Bruce Willis
in the scripted Moonlighting. What more do you need to be president?
Hosting a talk show lands you a graduate school position and defending the
Mafia makes you king of Las Vegas. Jesse and his fellow clowns rule more and
more with less and
JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State
University. Mr. Cantoni is a former HR executive and the president of Capstone Consulting
in Scottsdale, AZ. Send your comments by clicking here.
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©1999, Marianne M. Jennings