Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me today to discuss the attacks in Brussels, America’s response, and the race for the White House:
HH: On a dark, dark day, I was at Minneapolis Airport this morning when the attacks on Brussel’s airport came through. Of course, it causes you a shudder, because you walk right into the heart of the airport, and you realize that every airport in the world is that undefended. Joining me now is Ohio Governor John Kasich, who I’m sure worries about this kind of thing every single day, because Ohio is a node for a lot of international travel. Governor Kasich, first of all, your reaction to these terror attacks and what they tell you about the future?
JK: Well, I mean obviously, just horrific, and secondly, what it gets in my mind is all of the things that we need to begin doing to deal with these threats. And a lone wolf, the homegrown threats, are things that are going to take, of course, really good intelligence, counterterrorism efforts here in the U.S. And worldwide, Hugh, we have to be in a position of where we bring those allies of ours in the Muslim community who abhor this violence along with all the folks around the world who are allies, obviously, in NATO and Europe, and all those that respect civilization and want to destroy this culture of death, that we’re all going to have to work together both on human intelligence and of course military action to finally get there and destroy ISIS.
HH: Governor Kasich, at the last debate, I asked people about ground troops. Today, Thomas Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard writes that in essence, European counterterrorism has been overwhelmed by returning jihadis. There are too many to keep track of. Doesn’t that mean we have to go soon to the root cause?
JK: Well, I think so. And Hugh, you know, this problem has been growing for a long time. You’ve read, I’m sure, the articles on the banlieues in Paris, the isolation that has occurred there. You know, it’s just been this whole series of things that have grown over time. And of course, with ISIS now, they have the model. They get all the communications, and so obviously, the sooner we go and destroy ISIS, the better the world is going to be. And you’re going to have to do it with Arabs and with our allies in Europe, and we’re going to have to go both in the air and on the ground. And then, but that’s not enough, because we’re really going to have to work on the issue of intelligence, intelligence worldwide, aggressive intelligence, human intelligence, and the ability to intercept and to take action before we get to this point.
HH: You’ve also talked, Governor, and I want to underscore this, we have Muslim allies in Jordan, in King Abdullah, with President Sisi in Egypt, with the Kingdom itself. We have friends in Malaysia and Indonesia. Is this campaign injuring our ability to work with those friends?
JK: Well, look, as you know, Hugh, I’ve been very, very responsible in terms of saying what we need to do. And what we don’t want to do is to alienate the people who have to be our partners in this. In other words, just because somebody’s a Muslim doesn’t mean they’re radical. Far from it. And we have to enlist our friends in the Muslim community who are just absolutely appalled and against this. And look, you know, the situation is that even with the Saudis, the Saudis, of course, have been engaged in providing resources for some of these radical clerics. That has to stop. But by and large, they know as well that there are plots every day to try to take down the Kingdom. And so we’ve got to pull them in. But at the same time, of course, the West, the West has really has to focus, and really can’t afford to weaken NATO, can’t afford to weaken any of the people who say that civilization matters, that this culture of death must be destroyed.
HH: Now Governor, I’ve had a conversation today with a BuzzFeed reporter comparing the debates on the Democratic side with the debates on the Republican side. And admittedly, there were some low points on the Republican side, not in any debate I was at, but the hands stuff, etc. But I nevertheless believe that the Republicans have at least been talking about the serious issues. Have you heard the former Secretary of State or Senator Sanders talk in a serious way about what we do about Libya or this problem?
JK: Well you know, honestly, Hugh, I’ve never seen a minute of their debates. And I, you know, from the little I read about the debates, which I don’t, you know, I have a lot of other things I’ve got to read, I don’t hear much about that. But I just don’t pay much attention. And frankly, what we’ve seen from the Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, when she was agitating to remove Qaddafi from Libya, we now have another outpost for ISIS, because of the pressure she put on the President to dump Qaddafi. And now, we’ve got this other outpost that we’re going to have to contend with.
HH: Do you think she understands the Muslim Brotherhood, because she was part of the sort of quiet coup against Mubarak with, they went Wisner over, they pulled him back. The President was of two minds. Does Team Obama get this, Governor Kasich?
JK: I don’t, I don’t really think that they do. I mean, frankly, people who have been in the administration who had the knowledge and the depth have all left. And you know, these are not people that have a clear-eyed view of the threat that we face in the world. And as a result, you don’t have the expertise, you don’t have the toughness, you don’t have, you just don’t have an understanding of what we really are facing right now. I mean, just to give you an example, I’m really pretty shocked that the President is at a baseball game in Cuba. I mean, if I had been president, or were president now, I would leave Cuba, I would fly home, I would call every major world leader, and then I would assemble of group of military and intelligence types to go to Europe to sit with our counterparts in Europe and try to assess our vulnerabilities in a clear-eyed way. And then at the same time, begin to develop a program to fix those, to solve the problems that we have, to fix the vulnerabilities, so that we can have the kind of intelligence cooperation and inventiveness that we need to be able to be effective in this world.
HH: Let me play for you former Secretary of State Clinton, one of her comments today, Governor Kasich, cut number 24.
HRC: Yeah, there are people who are understandably worried and scared. Absolutely. And is it the responsibility of leaders to help people understand what can be done to allay their fears? Yes. I don’t think we want to be inciting more fears. I don’t think we want to be playing to people’s concerns so that we turn against one another. I think we have to have a slow, steady, smart, strong response. And we don’t need to be panicking.
HH: That just strikes me as the most PC response, Governor Kasich. I’m not panicking, you’re not packing, but I’m pretty clear-eyed about the fact that this is a metastasizing threat.
JK: Well, it is, and that’s why I say that you know, if I were president, I’d be moving quickly to bring people, you know, first of all, to assemble these world leaders to talk to each of them, and to begin to send the experts immediately over to begin to see what we need to do to resolve this problem. And of course, I mean, it’s sort of a wasted effort to say that we need to intervene directly to destroy ISIS. I mean, we cannot delay and wait any longer. This is, it’s just a terrible mistake, Hugh, but that’s why we’re having an election, and we’re going to see who’s going to be elected.
HH: I’m going to talk to you about that in one second. This is Senator Cruz earlier today, your reaction please, cut number 22:
TC: These attacks in Brussels underscores that this is a war. This is not an isolated incident. This is not a lone wolf. This is a war with radical Islamic terrorism. ISIS has declared jihad on Europe and on the United States of America.
HH: And here is Mr. Trump earlier today.
SG: So yeah, I want to clarify, because earlier this morning, you said that you would shut down the border. Now you’re saying you wouldn’t shut down the border. Which is it?
DT: No, I didn’t say shut down the border. What I said is we have to be very, very strong and vigilant at the borders. We have to be very, very tough on the borders.
HH: Now so, there are your two competitors. How do you assess their reactions, Governor Kasich?
JK: Well, I don’t want to take anybody out of context. I mean, I agree there is a war against Western Civilization with radical jihad. I spoke about this at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. I’ve developed a plan long time ago. First of all, I think we should have been helping the Syrian rebels early on. We should not have used the red line. That was a terrible mistake to say we’ve drawn a red line, and then we don’t do anything. And our inability to really confront ISIS by having a coalition to destroy them both in the air and on the ground, is what needs to be done. I mean, there’s no two ways about it. And to be able to reinforce the ability of our intelligence community to be able to have the intercepts that they need to carry out their mission, to be able to disrupt, particularly these lone wolves and homegrown terrorists, which is so difficult to pinpoint. So we need everybody together on this, Hugh. And there’s no question about it. And frankly, the Islamic extremists want to destroy exactly who we are. There’s no negotiation. There’s now reaching any agreement. They want to destroy our very way of life.
HH: Now Governor, let’s talk about politics. You’ve said you’ve got to get to an open convention. That’s been obvious since I asked you that question at the last debate. And that, and I believe the rule sets are clear. If you don’t have 1,237 on the first ballot, the convention is open. They can do whatever they want. Are you going to coordinate, implicitly or explicitly with Ted Cruz to pick your spots to deny Donald Trump 1,237 delegates?
JK: Well, that’s not the way I think about this, Hugh. I’m running for president, because I believe I have the experience and the skills and the ability to be elected. And other polls came out again. I’m the only one that can defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall. And I also am the one that has the experience and the vision to be able to do the job. And you know, Ted Cruz is going to need as much as 80% of the remaining delegates. He’s not going to get that. Donald Trump’s going to need well over 50% of the delegates at this moment in time. He’s not going to get that, because he’s not performing like that, and I believe we’re going to end up in an extension of this political process, which is a multi-ballot convention. And when we get there, they’re going to want to know who can win, number one, and number two, who can actually be president, Hugh. It’s really important. And now, more than ever, we can see that there is no room for on the job training when it comes to this job.
HH: Well, I agree with your assessment. I’m just looking for clarity on tactics to get to the second ballot, because…
JK: I’m going to all the states. I mean, there’s some states that, you know, that I haven’t, like for example, I haven’t spent any time in Arizona, but we intend, we’re playing in Utah today. We’re up in, I was in Minnesota earlier today. We’re now in Wisconsin. I’m looking forward to Pennsylvania. I made several visits to Pennsylvania. We’ll be heading east into New Jersey and New York. We’ll be heading to California. We don’t intend to do anything other than compete across the country with the message that people, I believe, need to hear.
HH: Well, a last question, then, Governor. If you go to Wisconsin April the 5th, that’s the big deal. And if you end up with 30 and Ted Cruz ends up with 30, and Donald Trump ends up with 40, will you have been defeating your own effort to get to an open convention?
JK: Well, I don’t think so, Hugh, because frankly, there were people that wanted to get me out before Ohio. Now if I had dropped out before Ohio, you know where this thing would be? Trump would be in. Now I’m not running against Donald Trump. I’m running for John Kasich. And we went to Ohio. They said it was so close, that at one point, I was trailing. We won by 11 points. Let’s just not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s just take things one day at a time, and I’m finally starting to get the attention that I had not received for so long. And I think my message is really important about, you know, the strengthening jobs and providing hope for our kids’ future. All these kinds of things are things that I have done with my national security experience. You know, I was at AIPAC yesterday, and received an overwhelming reception before all those people, and I think because of the depth of my knowledge and my ability to understand the international situation. So this is not about, you know, making some deal or electing a student body president. This is about president of the United States, and I intend to move forward.
HH: Well, Governor, I have never underestimated you, so I’m glad you’re back. Keep coming back. Just keep us clued in on what the next plan is.
JK: Absolutely. Thank you, Hugh, and always good to be with you, thank you.
HH: Good to be with you. Thank you, Governor.
End of interview.