Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
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Analysis of Jesse Venturas Playboy Interview
October 11, 1999
Gov. Jesse Ventura is nothing if not predictable. What makes him so consistent is a clear-cut personality style. An analysis of Ventura's autobiography, I Aint Got Time to Bleed (1999), reveals a dauntless, adventurous personality style (see Immelman, 1999). Using the psychological framework developed by personality theorist Theodore Millon (Millon, 1996; Millon & Davis, 1998; see also Oldham & Morris, 1995) it can be shown that Jesse Venturas performance for Playboy (Grobel, 1999) clearly conveys the core elements of his deep-rooted, enduring predispositions.
Characteristic behavior. Dauntless personalities are typically adventurous, fearless, and daring, attracted by challenge and undeterred by personal risk. They do things their own way and are willing to take the consequences. Not surprisingly, they often act hastily and spontaneously, failing to plan ahead or heed consequences, making spur-of-the-moment decisions without carefully considering alternatives. This penchant for shooting from the hip -- or the mouth -- can signify boldness and the courage of ones convictions as easily as it may constitute shortsighted imprudence and poor judgment. In my opinion, an accurate understanding of these distinctive character traits provides an indispensable frame of reference for evaluating Governor Venturas Playboy interview. Not only does it highlight the consistency of the governors utterances with his underlying personality pattern, it offers a stable basis for judging his policy preferences and leadership style, and supplies a vital tool for prognosticating the governors future performance in the chief executive role. For example, it can be reliably predicted that Jesse Ventura will never assume a position that can be construed as signifying personal weakness, nor will he favor policies that trigger his contempt for human weakness and dependency.
Personal relations. Dauntless personalities are rugged individualists, not compromisers or conciliators. They take clear stands on the issues that matter, backed up by the self-confidence and personal skills and talents to prevail in the face of adversity. (Lawrence Grobel, who conducted the Ventura interview for Playboy, writes: "What I found most refreshing about Governor Ventura was his willingness to defend his positions and attack his interrogators. . . . Hes an imposing man whos not easily intimidated, and hes convinced he has the aura that will take him to higher places.") Though generally jovial and convivial, dauntless personalities become confrontational and defiant when obstructed or crossed. (Ventura: "When people attack me, I attack back.")
Mindset. Dauntless personalities are original, independent-minded, and unconventional. At their best, these personalities are enterprising, innovative, and creative. (Ventura: "Prohibiting something doesnt make it go away.") They are nonconformists first and foremost, disdainful -- even contemptuous -- of traditional ideals and values. (Ventura: "If you buy the flag its yours to burn.") Moreover, they shirk orthodoxy and typically believe that too many rules stand in the way of freedom. (Ventura: "Drugs and prostitution, those shouldnt be imprisonment crimes.")
Temperament. Dauntless personalities are untroubled and easygoing, but quickly become irritable and aggressive when crossed. They are cool, calm, and collected under pressure, restless and disgruntled when restricted or confined. (Ventura: "I unsheathed the knife in front of [Predator producer] Joel Silver one day. He had become infatuated with my wife, Terry. . . . I calmly took out the knife and started filing my thumbnail with it.") They are tough-minded and unsentimental, and display their feelings openly. (Ventura: "Why are you eligible for parole after seven years? Life should be life. And there should be no three strikes. Should be one strike." / "I dont condone what happened [in Tailhook], but I understand it.")
Self-image. Dauntless personalities view themselves as self-sufficient and autonomous. (Ventura: "The best thing [about being governor] is that theres no one who can tell me what to do.") They pride themselves on their independence, competence, strength, and their ability to prevail without social support, and they expect the same of others. (Ventura: "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers." / "[G]overnment . . . was not founded to create jobs. Create your own job. Be an individual." / "Hemingway lost his credibility with me when he killed himself." / "If youre a feeble, weak-minded person to begin with, I dont have time for you.")
Self-regulation. Dauntless personalities are unconstrained. They express their impulses directly, often in rash and precipitous fashion, and generally without regret or remorse. They rarely refashion their thoughts and actions to fit a socially desirable mold. (Ventura: "If I could be reincarnated as a fabric, I would come back as a 38 double-D bra.")
Deeper motives. Dauntless personalities are driven by restive impulses to discredit established cultural ideals and mores, yet are skilled in arrogate for themselves what material spoils they can garner from society. (Playboy cites a Star Tribune estimate "that Ventura may have earned as much as $2 million to $3 million during the first eight months of his term.") Though fundamentally driven by self-serving motives, dauntless personalities are capable of incidentally advancing social causes in the service of their own ambition. (Ventura: "[What is most important to accomplish as governor is] to prove that I can govern now." / Playboy reports: "When a TV series he was to star in didnt pan out and he lost his job as a WWF announcer, he decided to run for mayor of Brooklyn Park . . . over a personal issue.") The distinctive feature of the inner drives and impulses of dauntless personalities is their unruly, recalcitrant, rebellious nature, which gives rise to unfettered self-expression, a marked intolerance of delay or frustration, and low thresholds for emotional discharge, particularly those of a hostile nature. (Ventura, referring to former Minnesota first lady Barbara Carlson, who had told Mirabella that Ventura "can dish it out but cant take it": "Consider the source. . . . This is a woman who struck the former governor with a frying pan. . . . Shes also a woman whos had her stomach cut out so she dont eat as much. What happened to willpower?")
Conclusion. The tenor of Jesse Ventura's interview with Playboy is entirely in character for a dauntless personality. Nontheless, even though many Minnesotans appreciate their governor's candor, political capital is too valuable a commodity to fritter away in moments of self-indulgent excess. For his own sake, Gov. Ventura should realize that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
Immelman, A. (1999, July 8). Will Jesse "The Adventurer" run for president? Its academic. Minneapolis Star Tribune, p. A14.
Grobel, L. (1999, November). Playboy interview: Jesse Ventura. Playboy, pp. 55-56, 60-64, 66, 184-185.
Millon, T. (1996). Disorders of personality: DSM-IV and beyond (2nd ed). New York: Wiley.
Millon, T., & Davis, R. D. (1998). Ten subtypes of psychopathy. In T. Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, & R. D. Davis (Eds). (1998). Psychopathy: Antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior (pp. 161-170). New York: Guilford.
Oldham, J. M., & Morris, L. B. (1995). The new personality self-portrait (rev. ed.). New York: Bantam Books.
Ventura, J. (1999). I aint got time to bleed: Reworking the body politic from the bottom up. New York: Villard Books.
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Last Updated: 07 May 2002