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Ohio Gov. John Kasich On The President’s Attack On Republicans Over Syrian Refugee Policy

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The transcript:

HH: As I have been doing all week since the atrocities in Paris, I’m trying to talk to the Republican would-be nominees about their reaction to that slaughter and the aftermath. I’m joined by Ohio Governor John Kasich, who not only has to run for president, but has real world issues in Ohio to deal with at the same time about security. Governor Kasich, welcome back, it’s great to have you.

JK: Thanks, Hugh, thank you very much.

HH: What’s your reaction to the slaughter, the aftermath, and to the bill that was passed by 289, overwhelming margin today, to halt the Syrian refugee move?

JK: Well, Hugh, if we think about 9/11, and we think about Chattanooga, Fort Hood, think about Charlie Hebdo, the attack in the delicatessen, of course, Paris, it’s an attack on the Western civilization. They want to destroy our way of life. And you know, there’s, we’ve just got to go. We’ve got to put a coalition together. It should be made of our allies in Europe. We ought to include the Arabs that support us, just like the Gulf War when we had a great coalition. And we’ve got to go and destroy ISIS. And we’ve got to go do it now. The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost us later, plain and simple. In terms of what the Congress did, hoorah for them. As you know, Hugh, I’m always accused, or sometimes have been accused of having too big of a heart in the Republican primary.

HH: That’s true.

JK: Well, I do have a big heart, and I also have a good brain. And you know, look, we have to take a pause. We cannot let people come in this country if we don’t know who they are. And the administration says well, they can determine it by going through a series of interviews. Well, I mean, I just simply don’t buy it. One of my daughters, Hugh, said to her mom, why is daddy not letting these people in? And when she got back, when she got home, I said now Reese, these are people we don’t know who they are. We don’t know who they associated with. And some of them who would try to come here have evil intent. They want to hurt our neighbors, they want to hurt our family. They want to hurt your school and other parts of Ohio. She said I understand, daddy, now I get it. So it’s just a simple, it’s a simple thing. We’ve got to take a pause, and we’ve got to make sure we’re not doing something that’s going to work against us.

HH: Let me play for you the President in the Philippines two days ago, Governor Kasich. This is President Obama on the reaction of the United States to stopping the Syrian refugee flow.

BO: These are the same folks often times who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. Now first, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now, they’re worried about three year old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me. They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points, or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching.

HH: Governor Kasich, your reaction?

JK: You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard that whole soundbyte. That was outrageous on the part of the President. As you know, I’m not one to get into a lot of attacks, but that rhetoric was outrageous. To accuse someone, and I assume I’m one of the people he was talking about, of making a decision here to keep the folks in Ohio safe based on politics, frankly, the President and his inability to make tough decisions, and to create confusion in the minds of our friends and embolden our enemies, I mean, he doesn’t have a lot of room to talk about this stuff, Hugh. I’m really kind of, it’s the first time I’ve heard this tape. I’m flabbergasted. To say that because we now have an overwhelming majority of governors in this country who don’t believe, who have listened to the intelligence community say that we don’t know we can verify who these people are, and to say these decisions are being made for political reasons? I mean, this is an administration that doesn’t know what they’re doing. They have lost all the professionals who were around them, because they disrespected, and they’ve had a bunch of kids try to run our foreign policy. And frankly, by having kids run our foreign policy, they’ve screwed all this stuff up. We should have been supporting the rebels in Syria long ago. We should have moved, the President said the other day, well, you know, some say a no-fly zone. Well, so how are they going to guard the no-fly zone? And we’ll consider that. Well, what have you been doing? I’ve been arguing for a no-fly zone for a long time. And we can create a sanctuary, and a sanctuary can be guarded specifically by the Kurds if we let them do it. And to say that we’re not going to work with our allies and our friends in the Middle East to go and take this group down, and that our policy of, I don’t even understand what the policy is. And to then launch that kind of a verbal attack? That’s uncalled for. I’m very disappointed to hear the President do that, and frankly, I’m a little shocked.

HH: Let me ask you about President Hollande, has called on the United States to work with France and Russia in exterminating the Islamic State. The Russia part gives a lot of people pause. What do you think, Governor?

JK: Well, I think there are moments in time when people can work together on a similar goal, Hugh. But you know, I made a major speech on Tuesday and said that you know, the Russians, I mean, what they’re doing, what they’ve done in taking Crimea, creating warfare in the eastern part of Ukraine, and now by those actions, beginning to threaten the Fins and the Swedes and of course, those folks who have lived in Eastern Europe, you know, the Lithuanians, the Estonians, we have a real problem, and he needs to understand that any more aggression, and you’re now talking about the possibility of war. So look, I think if the Russians really want to go and attack ISIS, which I have my doubts that they will do, because they’ve been bombing, fundamentally, the opponents of Assad, and if they want to go and actually contribute to destroy ISIS, welcome them in. But that doesn’t change our attitude towards them. You know, Hugh, this is the other thing you have to understand. When it comes to foreign policy, you’ve got to have been, you have to have spent time in this. And you know, look, I spent 18 years on the Armed Services Committee, and I worked with John Tower, John Stennis, Barry Goldwater. You know, I worked with some of the great, great minds in national security back when we dealt with the Soviet Union, back when we dealt with issues that dealt with places like Central America, the first Gulf War. You’ve got to know what you’re doing in this. And if the Russians want to, for a moment in time, want to help us to defeat a common enemy, that’s fine. Welcome them in. We need all the help we can get. But let us not be confused. They don’t buy themselves any goodwill as it relates to their activities in the rest of the world.

HH: Well stated. Now let me ask you, Governor, about what those sage minds would say about rules of engagement. A lot of Americans, this day in age, recoil from the idea of civilian casualties as I do, as I know you do. But it seems to a lot of people that we have been not using adequate force in Raqqa and in the Islamic State region. What do you think about our rules of engagement?

JK: Hugh, when you put people, when you send people to war, you send them to accomplish something. You send them for a specific mission. You know, you send them to accomplish their goals. They’re to go. We have to have mobility in our military, and we have to have lethality. You don’t send them out there and tie their hands. And look, the advice of the combatant commanders, those who are on the ground, the advice of the military, both the traditional military folks and those who are less traditionally, Special Forces people, along with our civilian experts, both convention and unconventional. Draw up a battle plan. Now that’s who comes up with the battle plan, and then the commander-in-chief has already made the decision that we’re going to go. They look at the battle plan, and then you go win the battle, and then you come home. None of this nation building for me, Hugh. I have never believed in it. I don’t believe in getting in the middle of a civil war. Now the President sent 50 people in Syria. To do what? What are they doing there? We have to have a coalition, a large coalition, and by the way, in the meantime, arm the Kurds. Give them what they need. They’re the most effective fighting force against ISIS right now. And if France comes to see the President and ask for our help, whatever it is, give it to him.

HH: So Governor, I want to go back to something you said about the young people around President Obama. I’ve been making this argument for years that Ben Rhodes, etc., I just can’t believe the national security of the United States is there. But do you believe there are people on the stage who are too young to be commander-in-chief as well?

JK: You know, Hugh, this is not a time, you know, with all this going on, for me to start talking about tearing anybody else down, but let me say it in a positive way. You know, having executive experience is a very big deal. You deal with crises. And you know, I remember the first crisis I had. And I remember how each time I had one, I handled each of them better, with greater calmness, with greater certainty, with greater leadership. These are things you learn, and when you’re president, I think you’ve got to be very careful about having somebody who needs to learn on the job. And you know, leadership is a precious thing, and it takes time to really refine it and to be better and better, and stronger and calmer, and somebody that can give confidence to those around him. And I just don’t think there’s any substitute for having gone through, you know, as you know in Ohio, through a school shooting, gone through a potential problem with Ebola, gone through a water crisis where a city lost its water for days. I mean, these are things that you know, you begin to learn how to deal and how to lead, and how to do the right things and get the right people around you. Experience matters. It does.

HH: Let me play for you the likely nominee of the Democratic Party is former Secretary of State Clinton. Here’s something that she had to say on Saturday night.

HRC: John, I come from the 60s, long time ago. There was a lot of activism on campus – civil rights activism, anti-war activism, women’s rights activism, and I do appreciate the way young people are standing up and speaking out.

HH: Now I come from the 70s, Governor Kasich. I don’t want to go back to the 60s. What did you make of that?

JK: I don’t have any idea what she was talking about, do you?

HH: I think she means campus shutdowns.

JK: I don’t know what she was trying to say.

HH: I think she means campus shutdowns, and the stuff that’s going on, on campuses across the United States. I don’t know if it’s come to Buckeye land, yet. We’re winning, right? We’re undefeated. But what do you make of all the protest movements in the United States when across the world, the world’s on fire.

JK: Well, we’ve got to be very focused here, Hugh, and I think you’re going to see an increasing serious attitude across this country, because let’s just face it for a second. What is going on is not something that can be negotiated. You know, we think back to the Gulf War, and we had this grand coalition. And we went to war just because Saddam was invading Kuwait, a very serious matter. Think about what’s happening now. I mean, these people not only want to destroy the people in the West, not only want to destroy us, but think about it. They want to destroy those moderate forces in the Middle East. They’ve love to take out the Royal Family in Saudi. They’d love to put the Muslim Brotherhood in, or worse, in Egypt. They’d love to get rid of the King in Jordan. They’d love to disrupt in the Gulf States. We’ve got to be serious. We’ve got to be focused. And we’ve got to take care of business, plain and simple.

HH: Last question, Governor, Niall Ferguson may be the greatest historian in the world right now. He’s, you know, up at Harvard. He went through Oxford.

JK: Yup.

HH: He wrote a piece in the Boston Globe today saying look, this is the fall of the West. 21st Century Europe has only to blame itself for the mess it is now in. No one has devoted more resources to the study of history, and yet they’ve forgotten it. Do you share that gloom?

JK: Well you know, Hugh, you know that I have been talking for months about the risk to the Western ethic, the notion that every life matters, the notion of freedom, the notion of protest, the notion that we can rise, opportunity, equality for women. And we, I think we have in some respects have been losing the battle of ideas. And I’ve said that we ought to reinvigorate the voice of America. We ought to tell people who we are and what we are. And for those moderate Muslims, and we’re seeing a greater number of them, I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, who are coming out and saying this is not our religion, and this is not what we support. We need to win the battle of ideas. And frankly, that battle should not only be won in the Middle East, but we need to tell the people who live in Russia what’s really going on with their country, the people in China who don’t have access to a free internet. You remember those days, Hugh, when we used to talk about what the West believes in, the fundamentals, the foundation of it? We need to do it again, because we can beat ISIS on the battlefield. There’s no doubt in my mind. But we need to win the war of ideas about who we are so that once and for all, we can have humanity win the game, win the battle, win the war.

HH: Ohio Governor John Kasich, thank you for joining me. As always, bracing.

JK: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: I’ll see you in Las Vegas.

End of interview.


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