Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me on the show today to discuss the Iran “deal”:
HH: Pleased to begin this hour with Ohio Governor John Kasich. Governor, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JK: Thanks, Hugh, always a pleasure.
HH: What do you make of the Iran deal?
JK: Well, I don’t like it for a whole host of reasons. But look, here’s, I think, part of the problem, Hugh, is that they’re going to get a nuke, and in the meantime, we’re going to let them have a ton of money to be able to support so many of the people that fight against us and our allies. And I don’t see what we gain. I would have made it extremely difficult. Look, I think the sanctions were probably at some point going to wither because of the Russians and the Chinese were probably going to figure a way to get from under them. But I’d rather have an incomplete sanction regime than none at all. And you know, they’ll ultimately get the nuke.
HH: Now given that reality, if you’re looking at being president, isn’t that the worst situation for a president of the United States ever to walk into, a rogue regime with a nuclear capacity or near-nuclear capacity? Why would anyone want the job now?
JK: Well, it’s a complex world, Hugh. I mean, I’ve been around national defense forever. You know, I remember the Cold War vividly. I remember when Ronald Reagan left Reykjavik and told Gorbachev he wouldn’t give up Star Wars, I mean, I remember the first Gulf War. I mean, the world is a complicated and difficult place that’s ever changing. But I think, you know, if you’ve been there, it doesn’t make it easy, but at least it puts you in a position to kind of know what to do. You’ve got to bring really good people on board, but you also have to have very good instincts about the way in which you deal with these difficult situations. I mean, because the challenges are large, it’s not a reason for anyone to retreat, like oh, well, that’s too tough. Somebody’s got to deal with this, and you know, I’m going to be able to make an announcement on Tuesday as to what I’m going to do. I’m either going to move forward in my political career. Maybe I’ll get a talk show and compete against you while I’m governor. We’ll see.
HH: Don’t do that. Our best ally in the planet, really, is Israel. And they need to keep pace now with Iran’s new threat. We’ve got some weapon systems like the F-35, the F-18 Growler, some old B-52s that could be refitted to become strategic platforms. Should we sell what we can sell to the Israelis to keep them at least keeping pace with a malevolent Iran?
JK: Well, I think they’re pretty well equipped, Hugh, to be honest with you. You know, we worked with them on their defense shield. We’re always willing to give them the weapons that they need to defend themselves. And so I think that’s something we constantly review. They are, you know, one of our greatest allies. We have a number of them, but they are a key ally, and of course, without question, the strongest one in the Middle East. And when they need something, they’re our friends, we’ve got to help them with it.
HH: Specifically, they’ve asked in the past, and we’ve said no, for the technology that supports the B-2s and the F-22s. We’re not making those anymore, but we know how to make planes stealthy. That’s what they need to get past Russian anti-aircraft systems. Shouldn’t we give them stealthy technology, Governor Kasich?
JK: I think stealth technology is becoming increasingly, Hugh, that it’s becoming increasingly understood. And you know, you’re asking me do we turn all of our sensitive technologies over to other people in the world, I can’t answer that question today, and I won’t. I mean, if it’s something that makes sense, it’s something they need, or maybe we supply the weapons to them, but you know, but they’re our ally, and we need to do what we can do to make sure that they are safe, they’re secure, and they’re strong.
HH: Now later in the program, your colleague from Ohio, Rob Portman, will be on to talk about the Senate debate that’s going to open up on this deal. The Senate is right now planning to leave on August 10th and come back on September 7th. And I know that representatives need breaks. Everybody does. But this is an urgent moment. Do you think the Senate should take four weeks off right now?
JK: Well, that’s the Senate’s decision, Hugh, and not the president of the United States, should I choose to run. I mean, I would prefer for them to stay in. You know, it may be that the longer this thing gets discussed, maybe the possibility is greater that it might unravel. You know, you’ve got to consider in this case, I think more time and more study is probably going to help those that don’t feel good about this and would like to see this undone than anything that’s quickly done. What do you think? I mean, that would be my sense. The more we learn about this, the more statements that come out of Iran, I think it becomes a problem for those that support this deal. That’s my sense. But I don’t know what that schedule’s going to be. It seems to me as though you know, they obviously need to be at work on this, but I kind of think the longer they think about it, the better it may come out for those that don’t support this agreement.
HH: If you run, your likely opponent is former Secretary of State Clinton. The former Secretary of State said she endorsed the deal. Can she get away from this deal? Or is it sticking to her along with all the other fiascos of her catastrophic tenure at State?
JK: Well, you know, I think it’s going to be who makes the best case in the public about this. I haven’t seen any surveys. I don’t know whether you have or not. I don’t know. I think that the biggest challenge for the Republicans in running against Hillary Clinton is that whoever the Republican nominee is that they have a big vision, a big vision not just on national security, but a big vision as to where this country should go, how this economy ought to work, how he can unite people, how we can rise, and people can feel as though the American dream, the renewal of the American dream is something that can be and should be and must be accomplished. So I just don’t think it’s one thing. I think it’s sort of a narrative as to who’s got, who has the ability to provide the vision and the big ideas to restore the core strength. I mean, our core strength is still there, but to restore the spirit, because we’ve seen, and this is all my opinion, Hugh, an eroding spirit. And that needs to be fixed.
HH: Well, that core strength is really what concerns me the most. The President today made an astonishing statement. Let me play it for you, cut number one. This is from his press conference earlier today:
BO: With this deal, we have the possibility of peacefully resolving a major threat to regional and international security. Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.
HH: So Governor Kasich, that’s almost saying…
JK: I mean, I just don’t agree with him.
JK: I just don’t agree with the President. I don’t think he’s, I think frankly, I think the opposite is likely to happen. And if you read the major newspapers today, we’re now beginning to see countries begin to talk about well, you know, maybe we need to have some, sources saying, maybe we need to have some nuclear capability. So I just don’t agree with him. I think the idea, I mean, first of all, the inspection regime, we were promised access all the time, just to be able to go there, and now that’s not the case. And they’re going to be able to have some advanced centrifuges. That fact that we’re going to life the sanctions, which means they’re going to have more cash, these are, and the inevitability that they’re going to have a nuclear weapon. And they may have it sooner than what we think. And I don’t trust what that government will do. So I just don’t agree. I don’t agree with the President, and I think this is a case where I think they fell in love with this, with the idea of this deal. And I think they, look, I’m not surprised that they reached an agreement. I fully expected them to. When you see people that are so hungry, so hungry to cut an agreement, then they begin to give, and it’s oh, all right, I think we can give this, oh, I think we can give that. Just go back to the days of Reagan. When Reagan was in Reykjavik, and Gorbachev says well look, you know, we can get rid of all nuclear weapons, you give up Star Wars. And Reagan said no, and he got in the car, and he left.
HH: Yeah. But the question becomes how do you repair this? This is, with a nuclear arms race, because I agree, it’s going to launch the other people down that road, and Iran’s going to be close, and they’ve got $150 billion dollars, and Hezbollah, how in the world do you turn the Middle East into a manageable crisis again?
JK: Well, I think one of the interesting things , Hugh, that we’ve seen happening lately is you saw the quote from the Saudis, who said you know, we never thought that we could really understand the challenges that the Israelis have. I mean, you’re going to probably begin to see a realignment. You know, I think we’re going to be able to, I think in all probability, we’re going to begin to see people who traditionally, who haven’t worked together or shared interests either formally or informally are beginning to say we need to be together. We need to make sure that we take care of who we are, what our nations are all about. So you may see some significant realignments. I see that Assad, the dictator in Syria, is praising this deal, right? I mean, you would have to think that the Hezbollah and Hamas leaders are going to really like this deal. Well, that strikes fear in more than the hearts of Israelis and Americans, right?
JK: So I think we’re going to begin, and look, I think it’s, I hope that I’m going to be proven wrong. I think we’re just going to see more proliferation of nuclear weapons. The more we have, the more likely it is that at some point, in my lifetime and the lifetimes of my children, that we’re going to see them used, or we’re going to see the use of a dirty bomb. These are really unbelievably troubling situations. But we’re not going to panic. Our hair’s not on fire. We just deal with it, look at the threat, look at the problem, and deal with it. That’s what leaders do.
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HH: When we went to break, you said that’s what leaders do, Governor Kasich. Leaders also take questions. Today, the President got into it with Major Garrett of CBS. I want to play this exchange for you, cut number six:
MG: Mr. President, as you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped up charges, according to your administration, and one whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans? And last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons. It is perceived that that was a last minute capitulation in these negotiations. Many in the Pentagon feel you’ve left the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry. Could you comment?
BO: I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails? Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better.
HH: Governor Kasich, earlier on the program, Governor Walker said to me hat tip to Major Garrett for asking that question and brought up Amir Hekmati, the U.S. Marine retired who is being held by the Iranians. What do you make of the question? What do you think of the President’s response?
JK: Well, I think the question was a good question. I mean, particularly, well, I mean both sides, you know, how is it we’re making a deal with somebody that’s just holding these Americans over there? And secondly, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I mean, what he’s saying is we can’t give them ballistic missile technology. You need ballistic missile technology in order to effectively use these weapons. So I think they’re legitimate questions. And I don’t think the President handled it very well. I mean, I get asked lots of questions on lots of difficult situations, and I think he was too touchy there, and I think he should have answered the question.
HH: There’s a part of the deal as well, and then I’ll go to some broader questions about your decision next Tuesday. It’s in the Annex 3, Part D, paragraphs 10.1 to 2, and in it, we agree to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage. It’s being called the sabotage clause. It’s clearly directed at Stuxnet and the Israelis. I can’t believe any friend of Israel would sign this deal, and I can imagine there are more surprises in here as we go through this. Do you think it actually could be beaten, given the two-thirds rule?
JK: You know, to be honest with you, Hugh, when I first saw that they reached agreement, I figured that that’s the end of it. But I had a couple of conversations today, and I don’t have this nailed down, but I’m told that Ben Cardin, really smart Democrat from Maryland, said he’s against it. So maybe what I heard is people were leaning against it. But if that’s true, there were two of them. And the gentlemen from New Jersey, Menendez, I was told he was against it. That would mean that you’d need to get 11 more Democrats out of, what do they have 43, whatever it is.
JK: Maybe it can be. And again, we’re back to, look, I like this guy, Bob Corker, the Senator from Tennessee. I think that a slow, careful, well thought out, careful analysis of this might bring it down.
JK: But I’m not in Washington. I’m not in the Senate. But there’s going to be a lot of pressure. Now the question is, where’s the Jewish community going to be in America? Are they going to speak loudly and in one voice where they could have great influence? I don’t know. So it’s going to be, I hate to say interesting to watch, because this is not pedestrian. This is just absolutely critical. But we’re going to have to see how the developments go. And the more that people find out about this, look, when your chairman of the Joint Chiefs say you cannot give on ballistic missile technology, and then in the 11th hour because you’re trying to get a deal, you give it all up, that’s not smart, Hugh. And it’s one of those, it’s clear, right? It’s very clear. The fact that we have to get permission from the Iranians to go and inspect the suspected site when we know that they’ve been hiding from the world, these are powerful arguments that I think are simple, they’re simplistic, and when I say simplistic, I don’t mean that weakens them. I mean when things are clear, then people can understand it, because people, Hugh, are not going to get out Annex two, whatever it is you impressed me with how closely you’ve read this. They’re not going to do that. They just want to know some simple facts, that Americans, I think, fundamentally don’t trust Iran, and the President is saying this is, you know, if we don’t do this, we’re going to go to war. I mean, that’s really over the top, in my opinion.
HH: All right, now let me ask you the simple question that GOP primary voters are going to be asking if you get into this and all the other people get in. They’re going to ask themselves, I really think its going to come down to this. Which of you guys or gal, because Carly’s in this, is best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton, because I think there are a lot of people for whom that is the only issue. Who of these 16 people is best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton? What’s John Kasich’s answer to that question?
JK: Well Hugh, first of all, I don’t, I think that we’d better elect somebody who’s going to do something. I mean, this is not like, what are we, red and blue? We’re talking about America. We’re talking about how we can revive the country, create economic growth, bring more unity to the country, rebuild America’s defense. If this is just a game of who gets elected, well, what if we get elected and don’t do anything? I mean, that’s not the way I want to think about this. I want to think about this in terms of first of all, who can win, and secondly, who’s going to do the job? And that calls up the issue of record, experience. Who’s got the experience in national security? Who’s got the experience in terms of taming Washington and knowing how it works? Who has been an executive? Who is it? or is this just, I mean, is this just a game of who wins?
HH: Well, the first question, though, is…the first cut. I’ve got to push back here a little bit, Governor.
HH: There are a lot of great people out there who could be great presidents, but they could never win for a variety of reasons.
JK: Okay, let me ask you a question. Who’s got the foreign policy experience we need now? How many of them?
HH: And that, I agree.
JK: Who not only has the foreign policy experience, but who’s helped tame a major part of Washington, like balancing the budget? Let me ask you another one. Who’s been executive of a major state that’s had an answer? Who’s got all that? Who’s got a record that we can look at? Who’s been elected in tough situations? You know, those are some of the things you have to look at. But I am most concerned, Hugh, about electing somebody that’s going to rebuild America. I don’t want to elect them just because they happen to be in my party. I want to elect them because they’re going to do something, right?
HH: Yeah, but I want to make sure that Hillary Clinton isn’t president, because I think that’s a very bad deal for this country, Governor.
JK: I agree with that. But it shouldn’t just be about electability. It should be about capabilities.
HH: Well, I agree with that as well.
JK: There’s a good one for you, huh?
HH: It is.
JK: It shouldn’t just be about electability. It should be about capability. Capability includes electability.
HH: Is that going to be on the Tuesday talking points, Governor? That’s pretty good.
JK: No, I don’t have any talking points, Hugh. I write my own thoughts. You know, I don’t have people sitting around writing me talking points, you know?
HH: Well, you should jot that one down. It’s not about electability, but capability, and electability is part of capability. I’ll look for that on Tuesday.
JK: Yeah, I just came up with it, Hugh, so I always love to talk to you, good questions, good show, keep at it.
HH: Will do. Thank you, Governor John Kasich of the great state of Ohio, the 17th state in the Union, home of more presidents than any other state in the Union, because you can’t count those English guys who were born on British soil.
End of interview.