Governor-elect John Kasich of Ohio from the RGA in San Diego
HH: One of the new governor-elects, one of the people that the country is looking to for leadership in the middle of the country where there is, if not depression, then deep recession, is John Kasich, former Congressman, former head of the Budget Committee in the Congress, former Fox News commentator, now governor-elect of Ohio. John Kasich, welcome back to the show in person.
JK: Glad to be on again.
HH: It’s good to have you back. And does your book, Every Other Monday, it came out before the campaign, but it’s the first thing you mentioned to me when you sat down. And that is great. I’m glad that you have pride in that book.
JK: You know, I would tell you, Hugh, that I do. It’s a book about faith. And you know, when I told my communications director, Scott Milburn who is here, get his name on the air so his parents can hear it, you know, and you owe me for that. Anyway, I told him, I said we’re going to have a book coming out in the middle of the campaign. It’s about God. And they’re like what??? I said sorry, we’re going to do it. And Hugh, the book got to number five on the bestseller list. It’s now being translated, as I mentioned to you, in Russia and in Taiwan. It’s really awesome, because when you think about two parts of the world where they really try, they have either tried or are trying to stomp out faith, it’s Russia and China. So yeah, it’s a real passion of mine. I’m so proud of it. I just…
HH: That’s remarkable. Congratulations.
JK: Thank you.
HH: Number five is big, and then translation is big.
HH: And that’s an accomplishment independent of politics. Now I’ve got to ask you, you’re governor-elect. It’s got to be a lot of fun. But I hear, I hear, that the governor of Ohio gets great seats at the Ohio State-Michigan game.
JK: You know…
HH: I’m just saying.
JK: Here’s the…Hugh, look, let me tell you something.
JK: When I was in Congress for 18 years.
JK: I got a chance to buy tickets every year. When I was a state senator, I got tickets every year, to buy them. Okay? I’ve been out for ten years. You know how many tickets I got?
JK: Zero! Okay? So I’m going to go with a guy who, I’m going to take a friend of mine to the game with me…
HH: From your Monday club I hope.
JK: No, it’s a guy from, you know, look, he did a lot for me in the campaign, and he wants me to go.
JK: So I’m going to go sit with him. But I expect I’ll be sitting up in C deck, Hugh. And the university officials will be going crazy.
HH: I think things might be a little big different with Mr. Gee this time.
JK: Whoa, whoa, whoa. The one thing that’s great about being in than being out and then being in? You learn a lot, okay? I used to get fifty Christmas invitations a year. Last year, I got two. One, I invited myself to, okay? So you know, my head is not turned by all this.
HH: All right, let’s get to the serious stuff.
JK: That’s serious!
HH: I know, that’s true. It is Ohio State-Michigan.
JK: You know what? No, you know what’s serious about it, what’s serious about it is when you get elected to a job, people get in the suck up mode.
JK: Okay? I don’t want that. I really don’t want that, because it’s important you keep your feet on the ground, and you realize you have a job to do. And you can’t get your head turned. And I didn’t when I was in Congress, and I’ve got to make sure that it doesn’t happen to me as a governor.
HH: Who do you have, then, on your staff or in your cabinet who is going to say Governor, or John, if they’re close enough…
HH: You are out of your mind.
JK: Unfortunately, I’ve been advertising for sycophants. I can’t find any. But you know what? One time I was with Newt Gingrich, and I said Newt, I’m not going to be your sycophant. He said John, I like sycophants. So…but I don’t have too many around. I think, I try to give them permission, in fact, I even told Scott yesterday look, you see something you don’t like, please tell me, because I don’t want to drive over the cliff.
JK: And people do get afraid to tell you things. But I have enough good friend, you know, my every other Monday group and all that, that they will say to me, I at least hope they’re going to say to me that you’re really making a terrible mistake here. Now that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them, but I have to hear them.
HH: Do you think this president has anyone like that near him in the White House?
JK: I think his wife. I mean, I don’t know his wife, but…
JK: She, you know, oh, by the way, speaking of wives, my wife? You think she’s going to hold back on something I’m doing?
JK: No way.
HH: All right.
JK: But you know, I think his problem is, I just can’t figure the whole thing out, to tell you the truth. I mean, first of all, he had no experience. So how do you go be president when you’ve never had any experience, okay? Then the second thing is it’s like he brought all these pals in who had no experience. If I were to advise him, I’d tell you, you know, go get the oldest, crustiest Democrat who knew who George Meany was, and start listening to somebody other than these ideologues. And I think he’d be in better shape if he did that. Best thing that happened? Rahm Emanuel leaving. It’s great that he’s…he’s got a chance to shake it all up. But I don’t know that he’s going to do it. We’ll see.
HH: Are you going to be this way with the media through your governorship?
JK: Which way?
HH: I mean, you’re just sitting here answering off the top of your head. You’re like Pawlenty who just left.
JK: Well, I mean, I’m having a little bit more fun. I mean, you still have to be careful. You can’t, you know, you say something and they’ll kill you with it. But I feel like I can be a little bit more relaxed now. And I’ve got a great communications director. I’ve got a great press secretary. And they’ll keep an eye on me.
HH: You see, I think it’s a secret to success in the modern communications environment. You’ve got to talk to people all the time as though you really were talking to them, as opposed to cards. Now I want to go to one issue. From your Congress time to your governor time.
HH: Right now, there’s a massive tax headed our way, massive tax hike. Paul Ryan, I’m sure you’re familiar with him, he has your job.
JK: He used to be a staffer when I was the Budget Committee chairman.
HH: Oh, that’s got to make your knees hurt.
JK: (laughing) I hope it makes his knees hurt, you know?
HH: He now came on Hannity the other day…
HH: …and said that they’ll take a two to three year extension of the Bush tax rate. And I was surprised by that. What do you think ought to happen in terms of an extension? Permanent?
JK: Take it. Take it. Take what you can get.
JK: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you why. First of all, they want to permanently extend taxes for a big chunk of Americans. Great. And if they want to give us two years or three years on the upper income, that’s great, too, because they’re going to have to make it permanent at some point. I mean, it’s just going to happen that way. And I, Joe Biden called me after the election, and I said Joe, I’m going to tell you, you raise taxes on these upper income people, you raise taxes on capital gains and dividends, you guys are crazy. And I think this is about face-saving a little bit with them. Look, we faced this back in the 90s when we won at a time Medicaid reform to welfare reform. You don’t remember this, Hugh, but this was a big, internal debate.
JK: They said well, we should make Clinton swallow Medicaid reform, which gave the states more flexibility right along with welfare reform. And if we don’t get that, then we shouldn’t do welfare reform. No, I mean, I think doing welfare reform made a lot of sense. Look, in the short term, there’s a lot of Americans that are really hurting. If we want to wreck this economy and keep these people unemployed, then let’s play politics. But if we want to be in the position of where we want to help people immediately, there’s no way you can say okay, we’re not going to take it, and we’re going to have a big debate. Come on, people are hurting out there.
HH: That’s interesting. I disagree with you that, but you…
JK: Do you? What would you do?
HH: I’d stand there all day until they made them permanent…
HH: So that the Congress has to raise taxes. They have to raise…
JK: And so, you know, okay…
HH: They’ll fold. They’ll fold in January.
HH: But I’m very interested in your position. Before we run out of time in this segment, and I’ll hold you another segment if I can, Ohio is…what are you going to do to get that engine started in Ohio?
JK: You know, I have to tell you, there’s a lot of states where they have not had business people running the state where they don’t have a clue about business. And Ohio is one of them. We have just, there is, in my opinion, a lot of low hanging fruit, and a lot of opportunity. And what I heard at this conference, and I’m hearing around Ohio, is people are just pumped up. I mean, finally, we’ve got somebody that’s going to try to solve our problems, address them. So part of this is just being in a position to understand how to talk to business. I’m going to have a call with them tomorrow, and I’m going to ask them all to give me one of their people to work with me, and we’ll travel the sates, and meet with people, and begin to solve problems. But longer term, we have a fundamental problem with our atmosphere out there. You know, what we do is we raise taxes, the economy gets slower, then people complain the politicians raise taxes, and it’s like a death spiral. So we have to change it.
HH: I’ll be right back with Governor-elect of Ohio, John Kasich.
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HH: Governor, I’m talking to almost all of the governors that sit down with me about tort reform, because…
JK: Tort reform.
HH: What are you going to do about this? What needs to be done in Ohio?
JK: Well, we’ve made some progress on it, actually. But I’m going to dig in. I mean, look, my dad was a mailman. If I’d ask my dad, dad, something happened, who do we sue, my dad would have probably put me in my room for a week. I mean, it wasn’t the culture of that. So I’m willing to crack down. I have no love affair with the trial lawyers. I don’t think they like me that much, either.
HH: Did they try and beat you?
JK: Well, every left…look, every left wing group in America tried to beat me. Obama was in twelve times. You know, I was thinking today, when he runs for reelection, he won’t even come to Ohio twelve times. I mean, I think we’ve seen as much of him as possible, you know? So no, I mean, with the trial lawyers, the thing that people have to realize is all these lawsuits just cost us all money. I mean, come on, get over it. You know, get over all these suits. If it’s something really egregious and terrible, fine. I believe in loser pays.
HH: Two in a row.
JK: You know what? That’ll never happen, though.
HH: We can, you’ve got a Republican legislature. Can’t you get anything you want through that legislature? Can you go get loser pays?
JK: Well, first of all, if I start telling them everything I can get through the legislature, they’re going to spite me. So I very much respect all of them. I’ll leave it there.
HH: (laughing) Good. Well, I hope you try for that. Was there, inside baseball a little bit, in the map of Ohio on election night, was there some area of the state that you did much better than you expected? And if so, why?
JK: You know, I have not spent time analyzing it. What did you say? Oh, Dayton, I carried Montgomery County. Dayton. I have no idea, because the Dayton Daily News just pummeled me every day. They actually had a headline one day – Minister Psychologist Strickland Versus Millionaire Kasich.
HH: Did they really?
JK: Oh, yeah. They beat me up.
HH: You’ve got to get that framed.
JK: I have it, and I displayed it with the reporter in the room one day at a speech. But that was really a great win. And there was a lady down there named Donna Ferraro, who is my brother-in-law’s mother. And she gets all the credit. I hope she’s listening.
HH: Will the Plain Dealer give you a break at all?
JK: The Plain Dealer endorsed me.
HH: No, they didn’t.
JK: That’s why I believe in God.
HH: (laughing) All right…
JK: No, listen, I’ll tell you about the Plain Dealer.
HH: They did?
JK: Look, the Plain Dealer is very worried about Cleveland and Northeastern Ohio, Hugh. You’ve seen what’s happened, okay? They looked at me, and they said we’re going to take a chance on the guy, because we think, you know, maybe he will come and move the needle. And you know what? They’re right. I love Cleveland. I was born in Pittsburgh. You can’t be born in Pittsburgh and not love Cleveland. I mean, they’re two sides of the same coin, or different sides of the same coin. It’s ethnic, it’s working folks, it’s…Cleveland is a great town, and it’s drifted. And I’ll tell you something, it would be just fantastic to make that place better, and I intend to…
HH: But you’re still a Steelers fan, aren’t you? You’re not like a Browns fan.
JK: You know, I don’t want to get into that today for this…well, I have to tell you something. I’m very disappointed the Steelers have decided to stay with Roethlisberger and suspend him for four games.
HH: You’ve got to like Colt McCoy. He’s a great young man.
JK: I think they should have suspended him for a year.
HH: Yeah, Colt McCoy’s a great young man. You’re going to like him.
JK: Colt McCoy, you know what? I’ve been rooting for the Browns here for the last few weeks. I turned off the TV with 1:25 to go. I thought it was going to end up in a tie. And I turned on the sports later, and the Browns had lost. I mean, come on.
HH: Okay, home town question. Warren and Youngstown, I put them together.
HH: Really rugged…what are you going to do for Warren and Youngstown?
JK: Well, there’s people there that can make things. We have to think about what they can make. The other thing is there’s a possibility this Marcella shale can really be an opportunity for us. Plus, I’ve got to sit down with organized labor. Now I’m not talking about public employees unions or teachers unions. I have no interest, okay?
HH: Steel workers.
JK: But…yes. And I met with the head of the UAW up there in…
JK: In Lordstown. I called him, he was coming home form work. He said I haven’t taken a shower, I don’t smell real good. I said perfect. That’s exactly what I grew up with. We’ll meet in the middle of the street, we’ll slug each other, and whoever crawls to the curb is the winner. So I met with him, and we had a very good chat. And then he badmouthed me during the campaign, but I’ve got to expect that he’s going to do that. But I’m going to sit down with labor, and I’m going to say look, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. And I don’t advise you to be part of the problem. We can work together.
HH: And last question, I know you’re running, we’ve got about a minute. W’s new memoir is out, and he’s defending TARP in it, defending it as the most necessary thing that he had to do. What’s your, looking back at TARP, what do you think?
JK: If I was there, I don’t think they did it the right way. And there are people that have written some really smart things about how we wouldn’t have had to bail all these people out, and there were ways in which to deal with securities. It’s a complicated answer, but of course he’s going to defend it, because he was president. But I mean, my problem there is that too much spending on everything, Hugh, not just that. But I mean, they created a new entitlement and didn’t pay for any of it, right? I mean, let’s face facts. They did not mind the store, and we got punished.
HH: Are you having fun, John Kasich?
JK: You know, I am having a great time, and you know, I say my prayers, only because I want to keep my feet on the ground, finding good people, and it’s just awesome.
HH: It’s great to have you in person, and I look forward to talking to you a lot through the good times and the bad as the year unfolds, Governor-elect John Kasich of Ohio.
JK: Thank you.
HH: Thank you for stopping by.
JK: Love being here. Thank you.
HH: I’ll be right back. You can tell he was a broadcaster for a while.
End of interview.