From the Desk of Garrison Keillor
A prolific writer, Garrison Keillor is a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and abroad. To the right, you find a selection of articles published since 1989, and a few unpublished pieces.



Let Jesse Be Jesse
From Time Magazine

October 11, 1999

Here in Minnesota, we are carrying on an experiment in democracy, having elected a governor whom we can especially enjoy because most of us didn't vote for him and are not responsible. This is something new in America, the ironic public servant.

Ordinarily a governor is elected with 51 or 55 or (if he is young and has luminous children and his opponent is a pencil-necked geek) 60 percent of the vote, and two months after his inauguration, he starts to brown around the edges and disillusionment sets in, starting with the people who once worshipped the ground he trod on and now see that, alas, he is a dumb cluck like everyone else and has no solutions for problems such as ignorance and cruelty and the aging process.

In Minnesota, our emperor started out with no clothes at all. He came to us from a branch of the performing arts in which large men who resemble comic-book characters pretend to fight each other, so when he was sworn into office and did not appoint barflies and dope dealers to office but donned a suit and white shirt and horn-rimmed glasses and managed to sound half-smart about a third of the time, his approval ratings turned three sheets to the wind and have stayed that way ever since.

His success has been discouraging to people in politics, much as the success of The Blair Witch Project is discouraging to filmmakers: if the public embraces something so shallow and tedious, what future is there for the professionals? But the source of the man's strength is no secret. It is that he speaks plain English with none of the circuitous posturing and preening that public officials are adept at, who cannot give you the time of day without saying that time is a topic of great concern to them and to all Americans and that they have long devoted themselves to finding a solution for the chronic problem of shortage of time. Governor Ventura just says it's twelve o'clock.

People are grateful for that, and surprised, and on the basis of this plain-spokenness, Ventura has leaped to national prominence. He scorns the religious right and the war on drugs, which nobody else dares to do. He is hard as nails on the subject of campaign financing. He is brave in so many ways and just when you want to admire him, he shows his tendency for silliness, and there is nothing more fatal in politics. I'm sorry, but it simply is true.

This summer, Ventura told farmers that he doesn't like to use the term "farm crisis" (the state estimates that one-eighth of the state's 75,000 full-time farmers will get out of farming this year) because it is too negative. A few weeks later, for a fee of a million dollars or so (he was oddly coy about the amount) Ventura climbed back in the pro wrestling ring as a referee, to be amongst men strutting around the ring pointing at their butts and yelling butt-related words for the audience to yell back at them. It wasn't a proud moment for Minnesotans. Then, in September, Ventura touted Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. Let's be clear about this: anyone who imagines Donald Trump in the White House has the brains of a stale bagel. Donald Trump makes Ross Perot look like a giant. Jesse Ventura was the first man, aside from those in Mr. Trump's employ, to ever make this imaginative leap.

The Governor, in plain English, is an arrogant yahoo who has never confessed to a single regret or second thought and who struts around St. Paul, a big small town, with a retinue of bodyguards, emitting a great air of celebrity, scorning the local press while courting the national media, and now, this week, in an interview in Playboy, he talks about prostitutes and not wearing underwear and smoking dope and how gorgeous Sophia Loren is and how he'd like to be reincarnated as a 38-double-D bra and how peaceful the red-light district in Amsterdam is and infers strongly that groping women is a prerogative of the warrior and says, in perfectly plain English, "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers." So much for St. Thomas and Martin Luther.

Minnesotans are polite people who tend to deal with provocation by side-stepping it, ignoring it, chuckling at it, trying to find a charitable explanation. Ventura is the loud drunk who comes to your party and insults everyone, and people do their best to grin and go along with it, but eventually you have to tell him to get the hell out. He isn't a danger to anybody. He's just big and loud and arrogant. He's a 38-double-D guy and all we needed was someone to run the government.


Past Articles
  • Phil Keillor Benefit for the Tenney Park Shelter (04/17/09)
  • Bill Holm, 1943–2009 (02/26/09)
  • Happy New Year, Friends (12/29/08)
  • Talk of the Stacks (11/17/08)
  • What Makes St. Paul So Great? (09/03/08)
  • GK On Historic Preservation (10/05/07)
  • Welcome to St. Paul (09/23/06)
  • "Homegrown Democrat," Chapters 1-4 (08/10/04)
  • Sing the National Anthem—and Try it in the Key of G (07/02/04)
  • Holiday Greetings from Garrison Keillor (12/23/03)
  • Remembering Plimpton (10/01/03)
  • Crankiness in Decline, Says the Old Guy (04/19/02)
  • A Governor Works in Mysterious Ways (10/19/01)
  • In Praise of Laziness (09/10/01)
  • I Just Needed a Valve Job (09/13/01)
  • A Eulogy for Chet Atkins (07/03/01)
  • A Foot Soldier in God's Floating Orchestra (04/01)
  • Exile on Main Street (10/02/00)
  • Walking Down the Canyon (07/31/00)
  • The Mysteries of Prom Night (05/15/00)
  • How I Write (12/04/99)
  • The Christmas of the Great Flu (12/99)
  • Let Jesse Be Jesse (10/10/99)
  • The Rice, the Bat, the Baby (09/06/99)
  • Faith at the Speed of Life (06/14/99)
  • The Republicans Were Right, But (02/15/99)
  • Minnesota's Excellent Ventura (11/16/98)
  • The Dangers of Christmas (04/06/98)
  • Gasgate (11/10/97)
  • Talk Radio (10/97)
  • The Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas (09/08/97)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins—Envy (04/97)
  • You Say Potato (04/04/96)
  • The Poetry Judge (02/96)
  • With All the Trimmings (11/27/95)
  • In Autumn We Get Older (11/06/95)
  • Minnesota's Sensible Plan (09/11/95)
  • The Art of the Embrace (02/95)
  • The Voters are Angry (08/94)
  • Word Play (05/18/90)
  • We Are Still Married (12/18/89)
  • Elevator Tales
  • A Graduation Speech


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