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John Kasich On 2016 And All That

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Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me this morning to discuss 2016 and his new book, Two Paths: America Divided or United:



HH: So pleased to welcome back to the program for the balance of the show today Ohio Governor John Kasich. He has a brand new book out, Two Paths: America Divided or United. John Kasich, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, good to have you, Governor.

JK: Good to be with you, sir.

HH: I hear you had a great reception at the Nixon Library the other night. You’re all over the country selling this book. And I think a lot of people want to hear from you on the tension that invades every conversation in the United States about politics right now.

JK: Well, I think, Hugh, look, I think you and I both, well, I shouldn’t speak for you. I speak for me. I don’t believe that we can really get anything done if we’re spending all of our time, you know, kind of arguing and fighting. Arguing is fine. Fighting and being angry doesn’t work. And Nixon, it’s sort of funny. I was out at the Library, and it was terrific, and a guy stood up and read a quote that Nixon had when he delivered his first inaugural address. If all we do is yell at one another, we’ll never kind of get anywhere. I’m paraphrasing it, but I think that’s kind of it. And so you know, I think people are, have stopped listening to one another, and or not everybody, but too many. And there’s too much arguing going on. And we have a lot more in common than we have that divides us. and it’s important that we get back on a more unifying track. We can still argue. We can still debate, but we really just basically have to learn to respect one another and not dismiss one another because we don’t happen to subscribe to their views.

HH: Now Governor Kasich, in the next segment, which is longer, I want to talk to you about faith in the 2016 election, but in this short segment, at the end of the book, you say we’re looking at a long race, but we’ll be running on fresh legs soon enough. You’re kind of saying, I think, don’t let the amplification of the extremes that is underway in America today crowd out the good news that a new generation is just around the corner. Am I reading that right?

JK: No, I’m very optimistic, really, Hugh, about the future in regards to our young people for sure. And look, I’m glad we’re going to talk about faith in the next section, because I think it has a heck of a lot to do with the issues that we face today in our country. And if we can recapture and have a little bit of a new awakening in this country, if it brings us together, you know, we’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. I am optimistic.

HH: Well, your daughter, your daughter wrote you this letter about Job. I thought it was very revealing that she went to Job when she was deeply disappointed by the consequence of the race. You didn’t win, and you were out. And she came back to okay, I get it, I’m just supposed to carry on. That is an unusual way for you to conclude the book by including that letter.

JK: Well, my daughter, Reese, is 17 years old. And somebody said to me if you only bought the book in order to read that little email she sent to me, it would be worth it. What she basically was saying, and I just thought this was so fantastic, is that you know, we’ll never know why certain things go the way they go. But you basically have to trust in the fact that the Lord knows what’s best for all of us and what’s best for our country, and even in the short term, when we can’t understand it, over the long term it becomes clear. And some things that will happen in this world, and losing an election is, can’t be up there with some of the things that we see in the trials and the difficulties that people have. What we know is that you know, in the end, for those who do have faith, and that’s a whole subject I’m glad we’re going to get into, for those that do have faith, that means that in the end, it works out best for those who love God.

HH: I love on Page 284, you write, “And so it is with great pride and humility that I share Reese’s letter here with her permission, of course, because as every father of teenage daughters knows, you’ve got to get the go-ahead before you shine a light on your kids in any kind of public way.” Boy, we ought to tattoo that on every member of Congress, and everyone in the public sector. You don’t do anything about your kids unless they know you’re doing it first.

JK: Well, yeah, Hugh, I obviously had asked her, because she’s written some poetry that is just fantastic. And I don’t, you know, when she first did it, I shared it with people, and she didn’t like it. And I realized, you know, this is very, very personal. So to put this, and she actually in the recording, she came into the studio and recorded it, which was really, really great. And you know, this is an email that I think frankly, everybody ought to see, because it does reveal the way that a very special little girl sees the world. And it’s so positive, right? And so it gets us right where we want to be.

HH: And I will be right back with John Kasich. His brand new book, Two Paths: America Divided or United, is connected at I’ll be right back with the governor.

— – — – –

HH: Governor, I want to go to Chapter 5: Faith Above All, and you may recall, the last time I saw you was at the Republican Party fundraiser for you and Rob Portman and the party in Columbus, and I told you that night my wife wanted you to run third party for president. She voted for you in the primary in California, as did I, though I voted for Donald Trump in the general. And you write on Page 115, “you might wonder why I’m including a discussion of Donald Trump in a chapter on faith, but I believe it ties in. I believe that in order to understand some of the ways I responded to some of the things President Trump did and said during the campaign, it helps to know my heart. It’s also helpful, I think, to revisit some of the concerns many people of faith had about President Trump’s language and demeanor. They just didn’t gibe with how I was raised or how I believe people ought to treat one another, whether they were running for president or stopping in for a piece of pie at the local diner.” Well, if anything explains the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt in 2016, it’s that paragraph, John Kasich.

JK: Well, look, you know, we now have President Trump, and as I’ve said repeatedly, I want him to do well. I cheer for him. I must tell you that that rally he had to mark his hundred days back in Pennsylvania, to me, was not good. It was divisive, and I didn’t see it, but I saw clips from it. And then I listened to some people talk about it. You know, we don’t need to be there anymore. We need to move now forward. That doesn’t mean he should give up on his principles, but look, I don’t think, I’m not going to support any candidate in the future, Hugh, who is a divider, who’s negative, who doesn’t take us to a place where we can be more unified, and where we can see our country lifted. And one thing that I want to be clear about with this book is the problems that we have not just connected to politics. Last night, I was, we had a family gathering, and they were talking about the significant increase in Epipen costs. I don’t know how some families can afford to make sure that they’re on top of things with the gigantic increases in Epipen. I don’t even understand it. Or we look at United Airlines, right, and we see what happened there were some people just forgot that the guy they yanked off the plane was a human being. Or when we see Wells Fargo open up phony accounts, or when we see sports teams hire guys who, you know, had slugged their girlfriend or their wives. I mean, we see it in a lot of different places. And that’s not the whole of America, because a lot of people do things that are so remarkably good, and so sacrificial for somebody else, that that’s where we really want to be. And I’d like to say in this book that we all live at the base level. I mean, we don’t, you know, we get up, we go to work, we go home, we have a drink, we eat dinner, we go to bed. You know, that’s where most of us live. But from time to time, we live a life a little bigger than ourselves. And I believe you judge the health of a society by how much of the time a population lives a life a little bigger than itself. And we’re not looking for saints, because I’ll be the first problem. I’ll be the first guy that doesn’t get it right a lot of the time. But I also know what’s expected of me, and that how I need to you know, fix my behavior and be a better guy. And that’s where I think, that’s where the great healing for our country should come from, because continuing to divide, families continue to fight inside of one another. It’s unbelievable. This is not the country that we want our children and grandchildren to inherit from us.

HH: Now Governor Kasich, a good moment of the first 100 days came with the hearings for Judge, now-Justice Gorsuch, himself a man of faith, by the way, as he conducted himself in exemplary fashion, an extraordinary temperament, with some very hostile questions, throughout. And I was wondering if you had a reaction to the Gorsuch hearings, was that we need more of that, that kind of temperament, that kind of individual.

JK: Yeah, yeah, except, yeah, except the only thing I would say is, and I did not follow it all that closely, but for the Democrats to have fought him as vociferously as they did, to me, is absurd. You see, I think to some degree, that party is just reacting to its left wing base. I don’t think this guy was somebody that should have been put through the wringer. That’s what my sense was. And he, you know, he held himself up, he didn’t react to it. That’s the way you need to do it when you’re really a good leader. But you know, it was just kind of crazy for them to have fought this. I think they fought it on somebody’s principle, and I just, I mean, and I think it was the hard left’s principle.

HH: I agree.

JK: And so that is unfortunate.

HH: In fact, yesterday, the President nominated ten judges, two of whom I know their reputations and records very well – Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larson, and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras. But today in Politico, there’s Al Franken saying I don’t think I’m going to return my blue slip, I’m paraphrasing here, on David Stras, because I wasn’t consulted. It, everything is at overwrought and at Level 10 on the day of the nomination, and these are remarkable people. It’s like politics is poisoned.

JK: Well, it is. But Hugh, think of it this way. Honestly, this is what’s equally crazy. For eight years, there were people running around inside the Republican Party that thought that Barack Obama was not born in America. I mean, it’s on both sides.

HH: Right.

JK: This has not been something that has come about overnight. It has been a slow and steady deterioration of respect between people and forgetting the greater good. And you know, everybody’s kind of worried about getting reelected and all that other stuff. And I think you know, we lose our way when election or self-interest trumps all else. Then we’re not able to, we’re not able to see the way. And you know, I take heat for decisions that I make, as you know. But you know what? I’m making a decision based on, I mean, you know, I’m not here to be a paragon of virtue. But I sort of look at things and say okay, what’s the best thing to do here? And then I go ahead and defend it if people want to attack. But I think what’s happened is that the constituencies themselves have become so energized, and so knowledgeable, that if anybody steps out of line, then they’re under attack And I just think that can’t work that way in this system. I’ve been around too long and seen too many things accomplished to think that that’s the way our system ought to work. It’ll pull us down over time. But remember, it’s not just politics, right? It’s not, let me tell you, I know somebody who was trying to get a job. He’s a medical professional and trying to go up the ladder. And he rolled his eyes in talking about Trump one day, and I said don’t do that. I mean, you can do it with me, but don’t do it with anybody else, because if you do and they see, and if the wrong person sees, you’re not going to get the promotion. That’s, it’s everywhere. It’s insidious, you know? And you and I have strong views, but we know how to deal with people that don’t agree with us. I mean, we’re tolerant. We have to be.

HH: There was, we crossed paths four times on debate stages, and of those four, the best was the last one in Miami, because there were only four people left. There was you, President Trump, Senators Rubio and Cruz. And there was a better conversation with Dana Bash and Jake Tapper and myself on the other side. And I’m wondering if the debates combined with social media did not twist the entire process this time, that they created enormous platforms for the collisions and the amplifications of the extremes on both sides? What do you think?

JK: The debates were a joke. Come on, Hugh.

HH: (laughing)

JK: Look, you did participate in them, but they were a joke. That was about the soundbytes, who could say the nastiest or cleverest things to attack somebody else, to get on the morning news. Now look, the media, which wanted to make a lot of money, they get 30 million people or whatever it was, to watch those debates. And so they’ve got a lot of advertising. They made a lot of revenue. Okay, they got a lot of revenue from it. If they’d have gone to the town hall format, where people would be asked questions over a significant period of time where we could have delved down to find out what people were made of, that would have been a process that would have been far better. But the problem is then, you would have only had five, six, seven million people watching rather than thirty, and so the media would have made less money. Hard choice to say I’m not going to take the 30 when I’m only going to get six or seven. But you know what? That would be a better thing to do, and that would be something that would allow somebody who is a decision maker in the media to say we did it right now that there is a sense of, you know…

HH: Now here, I’m going to disagree with you. I liked the format. I just didn’t think it could work with 13 people. It worked with four people, and we could give you enough time. But you know, the first Reagan debate was…

JK: But we did, none of it happened, Hugh. And how many debates were you going to have then if you have 16 people? What are you going to have? And they weren’t going to do four separate debates, either, because that way…

HH: No, you need to have a higher standard. I think the answer is for the party to have a higher qualifying standard for who gets on the stage. I mean, God love George Pataki, but he was never above 1% in the polls. And he wasn’t a sitting senator or governor.

JK: Okay, what was, right, what was Jimmy Carter when he was running? I mean, when I went to South Carolina, when I went to New Hampshire, I was less than 2% in the polls. I mean, nobody in New Hampshire knew me. Now maybe that should disqualify me. If I don’t live in the Washington media market where I’m shutting the government down every other day, or if I’m not in the New York/New Jersey media market, nobody knows who I am, because I live in the Midwest. You know, I live in the Midwest. Nobody comes to the Midwest. Travel budgets have been slashed. And you know, so I might have some reporters come out and interview me about what’s going on, but they’re not going to come often, so I’m not known. So how do you do that, Hugh? Is it how much money you raise, because look, I finished second in New Hampshire? I beat everybody but Trump. If we’d have gone another way, I’m not participating, right? But if I can be in Washington as a senator, and I can shut the government down and read poetry all day long, all of a sudden, I’m a national figure. Why don’t we just go to a different…

HH: But except you’re not. I mean…

JK: Why don’t we create something else?

HH: But in reality…

JK: Here’s…

HH: Go ahead.

JK: Go ahead.

HH: Well, I was going to say, in reality, Rand Paul was a senator, and he ought never to have been on the stage, because he was never above 5%. You as a governor of Ohio, I could have easily made a cut to six people in the first debate of people who had a realistic path to the presidency. That’s what the judgment ought to be, who has a realistic path to the presidency.

JK: Okay, then I’m not sure you would have had Bernie on there, right?

HH: No you wouldn’t have. And that, by the way, politics might have been better that way, even though people love Bernie, but he had no realistic chance of being president. I will be right back. John Kasich needs to talk more with us about this, because he’s been through the wringer of this presidential campaign, and we can’t keep doing campaigns this way where everybody who wants to jump in comes in. His new book is Two Paths. It’s linked over at I’ll be right back for the last segment with John Kasich.

— – – – – –

HH: There is a statue outside of his office in the Ohio Capitol that says save one life, it is as if you save the world. I’m thinking about those kids you send to camp. But John Kasich, that’s on the Holocaust Memorial. I found that story extraordinary that you ran into resistance to get that thing built.

JK: Well, yeah, I wanted to get it built, because I wanted people to remember what happens when we are not remembering the basic commandment, which is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. And so I wanted people to be reminded of that unbelievably horrible time in human history. And Hugh, one of the things that I’ve been noticing lately, and I haven’t shared this, really, anywhere else, yesterday I was down at the Highway Patrol Academy, and there were a group of young people there from one of the counties in the state. And I, you know there was these juniors and seniors, and so I’m talking to them about having big dreams and all that. And at the end, I said how many of you pray. And they stared at me with a blank stare. There was maybe one or two of the 25 that were there. I’ve been finding increasingly when I talk to very young kids, you know, 7, 8 years old, and you know, and I tell them, you know, give them a couple of tips or ask them what they want to be or whatever, and I always say do you say your prayers at night for your mom and dad. And I have been increasingly finding that kids look at me like what are you talking about. And this is concerning to me, because first of all, I think faith is so important in a free society. Now people in religion, too many have given faith a bad reputation, a band name, because they talk about hellfire, damnation and who’s sleeping with who. But I believe that faith is about connectivity. It’s about having another chance. It’s about lifting one another. It’s about loving your neighbor as you want your neighbor to love you. And I’m all for humanists, people who say they get up every day and try to you know, make the world a better place. But I don’t think large societies can survive without that moral compass. And so it’s one of the things that I write about extensively in the book, and I had an agnostic guy who’s connected to the book tell me it was the most compelling chapter on faith he’s ever read. And the whole point of this is if we want to get back to respecting one another, of realizing that life is short, that for those who have much, much is expected, I think we need an awakening in our country for people to say wait a minute, let’s wake out of this stupor where we’re yelling and screaming and intolerant, and just being about money and power and influence. And let’s just think a little bit about our obligation to one another. And again, no one’s looking for sainthood. All we’re looking for is getting it right some of the time, because none of us can get it right most of the time.

HH: We can improve our game. Page 123 in the Faith chapter, and I’ve talked to you at length about your previous book, Every Other Monday. But you write, “Religion is a little like golf, and you say just to finish up with a golf metaphor, and you’re going to get tired of it, because let’s face it, there’s nothing more tiring than a middle age man going on and on about his golf game.” You point out that practice does make a huge improvement when it comes to religion and faith and prayer. You’d like to see more of that. Now you get blowback from people for being preachy with regards to this. And how do you deal with that?

JK: You know, Hugh, I have been all over the, I just was in Europe, and I talked about this, because if you don’t agree with what I think, I’m fine with that. But I just want to tell you my situation, the way I look at it, because in everybody’s life, you know, sometimes the water rises, unfortunately, as Michael Novak, our great friend who we lost, used to say that life is a veil of tears. And so what I’m suggesting is we have a place that gives us perspective. We have a place that allows us to keep what happens in this life in perspective. But if people don’t want to do it, I’m, I don’t, that’s fine with me. You know, some of my very best friends are agnostics, okay? But they know where I stand, and so you know, I’m just trying to lace the knot that I think can be helpful for others, and can be helpful for our society. And you know, if you want to say we’re in the business of condemning, that’s a different kind of faith than the one that I practice.

HH: That’s a very helpful approach. Last question, Governor Kasich, Two Paths is linked over at The people who dog you on Twitter, do you pray for them, because there are some people who just dog you on Twitter.

JK: Oh, I don’t pay, I don’t pay any, I don’t go on there and read what they say. No, you’ve got to be, look, in the business of politics and being a leader, you have to be able to go above those that just spend their time attacking you. You know, look, I feel, I don’t, do I pray for them? I’ve got, no, because I’ve got a million other things I’ve got to think about and pray for…

HH: (laughing)

JK: …because I’m not even aware of them. But look, I think when people want to attack you, there’s two ways you respond. You either respond directly, or you’re bigger than them, and you let those attacks go quite underneath you, and you float above them. And so I don’t spend much time thinking about criticism or praise, because I know one minute you’re up, the next minute you’re down, and then guess what? Sometimes, the next minute, you’re up. I just want to get my life as best as I can to be a good guy, good father, a good friend, and a good American.

HH: John Kasich, always great to talk to you, Governor. Have a great continuation of the book tour. I’ll see you back in the Buckeye State at some point.

JK: It’s a bestseller now, Hugh. Yeah, I made the bestseller list. So I’m thrilled. So thank you.

HH: Congratulations. Two Paths available at

End of interview.


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