WASHINGTON (AP) -- During a visit to the White House on Monday, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura urged President Clinton to increase funding for special education and questioned why the United States doesn't establish normal trade relations with Cuba.
He also said Clinton commended him for having the ''courage'' to leave the Reform Party.
As usual, Ventura was the celebrity of the annual National Governors Association meeting, drawing a pack of journalists, admiring hellos from Secret Service officers, and at least one request for a photograph.
And he did nothing to dampen his place in the spotlight.
''Washington is always receptive to Minnesota because we're really the leader of the country, when it comes to making decisions and electing rogue governors and taking chances and having courage and intestinal fortitude,'' he declared after the meeting with Clinton and other governors.
Ventura said Reform Party politics came up in a conversation with the president.
''He commended me for my courage in my decision to step away from the Reform Party,'' Ventura said. ''He said that took a lot of guts, but it was the right thing to do.''
Ventura's most important message to the White House was to increase funding for special education.
''Quit dilly-dallying around with all the feel-good stuff; fund their mandate with special ed, and we in the states will have the best education systems we possibly can if they do that,'' he said.
Trade also came up at the meeting, and Ventura said he supports Clinton's efforts to allow China into the World Trade Organization.
''To me, in light of our world of technology, you can't build a wall around your country,'' he said. ''You go out and you compete.''
But he called it a ''bit of hypocrisy'' to pursue normal trade relations with China while maintaining a trade embargo against Cuba. Several lawmakers from farm states like Minnesota have made similar arguments, seeing Cuba as a potential market for agriculture.
''I wanted a clearer message on why China and not Cuba,'' Ventura said. ''They gave me a lot of reasons that didn't hold a lot of water.''
Ventura also said states should have the right to tax Internet commerce, a position in line with the governors association.
''That's in my opinion a state call,'' he said. ''It's keeping states' rights in order, which we lose far too many of them all the time anyway.''
At one point, the chairman of the governors association, Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah, had to literally move Ventura along.
''I've never been able to figure out how to move Jesse Ventura aside, but we have to report on the meeting,'' he said with a laugh.
Ventura laughed heartily and moved away, but was soon talking to a number of reporters who followed him from the main press area.
An anxious official from the governors' association kept looking over, worried that the Ventura posse was making too much noise. Finally, she tapped on the governor's shoulder and asked that the group move further away.
Ventura looked over his shoulder a couple of times, an incredulous ''You-talkin'-to-me?'' look on his face.
Then he served notice.
''Wrestling fans tried to do that to me once,'' he said.
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