Ohio’s ebullient Governor John Kasich joined me to start today’s show.
HH: I’m pleased to welcome back to the program the governor of the Buckeye State, Governor John Kasich. Governor, Merry Christmas to you.
JK: Merry Christmas to you, Hugh.
HH: You snuck in and out of Arizona last week before I even noticed that you were flying into the Desert State, or I would have come over to interview you. What is that Flying Wedge campaign all about?
JK: Well, you know, I’ve been concerned for many years, even from the beginning of my career when I was really young about the need to balance the budget. And I spent ten years of my life working to get it done in Washington. But you come to realize that moments in time are not good enough. So we’re not a bit over $18 trillion dollars in the hole, and I don’t care whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, an independent or somebody that just doesn’t care. Those kind of numbers are staggering, and they have profound implications for our country if in fact we don’t begin to deal with this. So I actually believe that without a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, I think Congress will continue to do the things they do, where at moments in time they may do the right thing. But Hugh, you can’t operate a government where you don’t have any financial stability. You couldn’t operate a business that way. You can’t operate a family that way. And I am extremely concerned. I think this is the most important thing that we can get done now, is to force them to balance their budget. You know, if we didn’t have that requirement in Ohio, I’m sure that we would still be in the hole, and politicians would dodge and figure out how to get away with making choices. But once you have to make that choice, I think it would begin to lock things into place and bring great improvement to our country.
HH: And so a lot of people see in this the shell of a presidential campaign. Is that in fact the case?
JK: No, I mean, what you should see in this is we need to balance our budget. We need to have an amendment to do it. And like I say, I think it was one of the first things I introduced as a 26 year old state senator. So the time is getting more right. I mean the numbers are staggering, and I don’t think it’s just a Republican or a Democrat issue. I think it’s something that can help to unite the country.
HH: Now Governor Kasich, today, former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced he is exploring a run for the presidency. James Hohmann of Politico just said that’s the starting gun. Does it impact your planning at all?
JK: My planning right now, Hugh, is to, I have a budget, a $60 billion dollar budget I have to submit in about a month. And my entire focus is on getting that budget going and introduced and strong, because Ohio’s on the comeback as you know. And that’s what I focus on. In terms of the presidential thing, as you know, everybody was heading east and I was heading west to Arizona to try to get the legislature to approve an amendment.
HH: And so in terms of the overall strategy, though, for when you’ll make a decision, do you have any concern that the race is accelerating, and that you have to keep up with Jeb and the others like Senator Cruz who are all but formally announced?
JK: No, I mean, my entire focus now is on taking care of this for Ohio. And you know, that’s where my focus is. And when you get too many focuses, you end up, you know, you end up losing the ballgame, right? So this is what I’m doing now. This is what I’m committed to, and that’s the end of the story, Hugh. I have no, nothing really more to add to that.
HH: Speaking about ballgames, I don’t suppose you have four extra Sugar Bowl tickets lying around the governor’s office, do you?
JK: Well, we can get them for you. They’re very expensive. But that’s right, you probably make millions of dollars a year hosting this radio show, so I’m sure you can afford it. But if you want to go to the Sugar Bowl, I think we can figure out a way to get you some tickets.
HH: All right, well, we’ll come back to that. Now I want to talk about the community connectors. It’s a big story what you proposed in your state of the state speech. And it goes into making schools work. Would you explain to the audience what that is?
JK: Well, Hugh, I mean, look, here’s the situation. America has never been viewed as great because of government. America has been viewed great because of the value of its people. And this is just one effort to try to engage people in addressing, mentoring, solving problems in their community. So we would like to have the faith-based and a business partner in virtually every school with every student, talking to them about, you know, that we care for them, that we love them, that they have great potential. We’d like to teach them the values of personal responsibility and resilience, and respect and dignity and hard work. Those are things that are a foundation of our country. That again is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. That is an issue of people beginning to understand that they’ve been made special, and they are special, and they have special purposes. What has happened in our country, and I know you covered this, is that government, when government gets too big, and I believe government absolutely has a place, but when government gets too big, I think it gives people the sense that there’s less for them to do. And that is just the wrong attitude. In fact, government is, you know, they’re never exact in terms of what they do. It’s more of a, you know, of a blunt way of solving problems rather than what we really look for and what we desire. So we want to have our students in college spending time with our senior citizens. We have a program we’re going to launch called Cariculum, where you’re going to get credit for your college education by spending appropriate time with senior citizens. We want our seniors to be involved in the community, because they’re healthier when they are. And what we really want to do is give them the ability to give some free college credit to their grandson, their granddaughter, or somebody that lives down the street. We want our people to get out of our churches, out of the pews, and start doing things to solve problems, because it cannot be done by government. And so that’s what we’re trying to do to restore those values that made our country great. And if this begins to work, maybe it can become contagious.
HH: Now Governor, earlier today, because of Jeb Bush’s announcement. I started looking into Common Core. And I saw you sat down with the Columbus Dispatch a few months ago, or maybe it was even a year ago, and said look, I’m not for Common Core, I’m not against Common Core, I’m for kids learning. Is this your effort to take the education issue and put it along with the balanced budget issue at the center of the American agenda?
JK: No, no, no. Look, we’ve got so many education reform proposals, Hugh, we could do two hours on all of them, including the 3rd grade reading guarantee, to stop social promotion, a different pathway for kids who are likely to drop out to be able to get an education, in other words, turning our education system from an agrarian model into a 21st Century model. But here’s what I was saying about Common Core. First of all, it was the governors that came up with this idea. In my state, we designed the curriculum to meet the higher standards which we need in America at the school board level. I have nothing to do with their curriculum. Washington has nothing to do with their curriculum. It’s the school board with parental advisors who designed the curriculum to meet the higher standards. And that’s, I said, you know, without Washington or Columbus being involved, I’m for higher standards, and I’m for local schools being able to figure out how to get them achieved. Now there’s a test called the Park Test. I’m not committed to that test. If that test doesn’t make any sense, we’ll throw the God-darned test out. And frankly, there’s too much testing in our schools right now. But until somebody shows me that this Common Core, which involves higher standards so our kids will do better, I don’t know what’s wrong with it except, you know, I mean, people say what’s wrong with it. I’ve never heard anything that was a legitimate opposition to it, Hugh.
HH: So when you go out and you appear in Arizona on the balanced budget, or you’re out talking to community activists about Community Connectors,…
HH: It doesn’t come up?
JK: I haven’t had it come up, but I’m, you know, when I go out there, I’m out there to talk about balanced budget. But I’m not afraid of any issue. I mean, you know, what, are you kidding? You know me. And look, you know, I’ve been very open with everything that I’ve done out here, and I don’t know whether you’re aware of this or not, but you know, I won 86 out of 88 counties. I won your home county, and I won Mahoning County.
HH: I am aware of that.
JK: Yeah, people who are self-identified conservatives in, when I ran the first time, it was 80% that voted for me. This time, it was 88%. So I pay no attention to the hype, and I try to look beneath that to see what is the reality, what is the real story about these controversial issues? So I’m free to do it. You know, I don’t need anything else, Hugh. I’m just here to try to be a good public servant, to try to lift people in each and every way. But look, let’s just hit that thing head on.
HH: Last question…
JK: You know, it’s like 40%, 40% of the kids that are graduating from our high schools are taking remedial education. It’s happening all over the country. We need higher standards if we’re going to compete in the 21st Century. And it shouldn’t be dictated from Washington. It shouldn’t be dictated from the capital. It should be decided by local school boards, and that is precisely what we are doing in Ohio.
HH: And a last question, we’ve got a minute, Governor, the Community Connectors is going to get criticized by atheists united and all that people. Are you worried about that at all?
JK: No, and I’m not worried about that. Look, you know, the whole purpose of faith in a higher power, by the way, is so that every young person knows that there is a purpose for their existence. And you know, when people feel they have a purpose, then in my opinion, they have a mission. And when they have a mission, they’re less likely to become addicted, lonely, hopeless or anything else. And if I get sued, that’s fine. Let’s just get it on, you know, and let’s just do it. You know, they’re not there to proselytize in the schools. But they’re there to get out of the pew and start to promote these great American values that too much of the time has been eroded. Hugh, always a pleasure. Let’s do some more of this stuff.
HH: Merry Christmas, you bet, Governor, at length and at your convenience.
End of interview.