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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Ohio Governor John Kasich On New Hampshire, Defense, And Gun Control

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The transcript:

HH: I am so pleased to welcome now Ohio Governor John Kasich, candidate for the presidency of the United States, to get some response from him on that and other critical issues, including the terror attack in Philadelphia today that attempted to kill a Philadelphia police officer. The jihadi has confessed and said he was inspired by ISIS. Governor Kasich, we live in troubling times. What do you make of the terror attack today? And what do you make of the forum last night?

JK: Well, I didn’t see the forum last night, because I was doing my own forums. But in terms of the lone wolf, it’s the hardest thing to be able to prevent. And in order to prevent the lone wolf, Hugh, you have to be in a position of where you’ve got to have good intelligence. And that is what involves neighbors, work associates, whoever, keeping an eye open. And if you see something really crazy, don’t be quiet about it, because it could be somebody’s life that is at stake. But the lone wolf, the single person wanting to carry out an act of murder, it’s a hard thing to protect against. But we’ve got to keep always going back to good intelligence.

HH: Now the President spent an hour, and then a bunch of us at CNN spent another hour talking about the President’s executive action on guns. What did you make of that executive action, Governor Kasich?

JK: Well, I don’t think he should be using executive authority, doing executive authority when you can’t get something past the legislature. You know, I have executive authority in Ohio. But when I’m going to do an executive order, virtually all the time, I seek out the opinion of the leadership. I don’t want to catch them by surprise, because I’ve got a lot of things I’ve got to get accomplished. I think what the President has done is since he has such poor relations with Congress, he says well, I’ll just ignore Congress. Well, you know, presidents aren’t kings. They’re presidents. In terms of the specifics, I haven’t studied all of them in great detail. But one thing the Congress has to pay attention to is the issue of mental illness, and the ability of states to uplink that kind of data so that when instant background checks are done, somebody who is not in the proper mental state will not be able to get their hands on guns. But that’s something for the Congress to look at.

HH: You know, Governor, one of the persons I was on the panel with last night, Harry Hauck, who’s a retired New York police detective for 25 years is upset with the President’s mass release of drug dealers. And he points out that there’s a huge connection not only between the addiction issue that a lot of candidates are talking about, but between gun violence and drug dealing, and that the President seems to salami slice issues which are deeply interconnected. What’s your view of the integration of the spectrum of issues – addiction, drug dealing and violence?

JK: Well, when you say he’s been releasing, mass releasing of drug dealers, Hugh…

HH: Yes.

JK: I mean, that’s not appropriate. We lock drug dealers up. If you’re a non-violent drug user, then we’d prefer to keep you in a community facility, and we’d prefer to get about rehabbing you. But in terms of drug dealers, you know, we’re willing to throw away the key. And look, I think a lot of things that the administration does, it appears as though a lot of it is poll tested, focus group tested. I mean, that’s just not what we expected when this man was elected, and we’re all disappointed in it.

HH: And now I want to be careful to be, he has not yet begun the release program. It is Harry’s concern that it will concern drug dealers. I don’t want to be unfair to the President. It doesn’t advance anything. Last night, Governor Kasich, he repeatedly went after the NRA and denigrated it and its members, and about people who have conspiracy theories about his intentions, vis-à-vis guns. How often does the gun issue come up on the trail on a place like New Hampshire?

JK: You know, it’ll come up. People will ask what your opinion is, since the President did the executive order. And you know, because of the number of mass shootings, it comes up from time to time. And I think people are very concerned about it. To me, you enforce the laws that you have, and the idea that we’re going to extend all these background checks to casual sales, I don’t think that makes any sense. But Hugh, I think it’s also a deeper issue. As I like to talk about when I’m out here, and did today, and that is that what we find, particularly with the mass shooters, is we tend to find a mother who’s isolated from the son, has nowhere to turn. You wonder where is the father? You wonder where is the siblings? Where is the neighbors? And these people, you know, fundamentally have had problems, mental illness problems. And you know, this is a much deeper issue than just a gun. And it revolves around things like isolation, alienation, people being alone. You know, it’s a deep, cultural issue, and so it brings to mind some of the most important things we need to think about in this country, which is strengthening the family, and also realizing that we are not just our brother’s keeper, but maybe in some sense, our neighbor’s keeper.

HH: Now in an effort to be fair, I want to go back and read the Washington Post story from October 6th. The Justice Department is set to release about 6,000 inmates early from prison, the largest one-time release of federal prisoners in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades, according to U.S. officials. Harry points out that many of those drug offenders were dealers, and that that is what annoys him, because the drug dealers are so deeply involved in a life of violence and crime and drug dealing and gun dealing. Governor Kasich, back to New Hampshire…

JK: I would share, I would share that local law enforcement’s opinion on that. You know, to be able to release low-level drug offenders, non-violent drug offenders, is one thing. If you make that a much broader program, I would tell you I wouldn’t agree with it.

HH: So let’s go to New Hampshire where you have been gaining some traction and some ground, but where there is a lot of jostling in that lane that is not Trump and not Cruz, the lane that they say has got Kasich and Christie and Rubio and Jeb Bush, and others in it. Is that how you see this, as a question of lanes? Or how does John Kasich view the campaign today?

JK: Well, I got some people that have switched from Cruz to Kasich, and some people who have switched from Trump to Kasich. So you know, and some people who have switched from Christie to Kasich. One guy, you know, covered up, I don’t want to get into it, because I don’t want to besmirch anybody, but no, Hugh, in my lifetime, look, when you go and you win Cuyahoga County, a county that Barack Obama won in Ohio by 40 points, and I then can win that county, or I can win Mahoning County, which as you know, is a rock-ribbed, blue-collar Democrat county, why would I…

HH: Youngstown…

JK: Why would I be limiting myself as to whose votes I can get? Most people, there is a growing sense, I won’t say most people, but there’s a growing sense that the rich, the powerful, the special interests call the tune. They never have with me, and I’ve always fought for the people that I grew up in McKees Rocks, blue collar, hard-working, play by the rules, and don’t always get much attention. And that’s how I’m going to continue to do it, and that’s how I balanced with Senator Domenici the federal budget. It’s how we got Ohio turned around, 385,000 jobs up, taking on a lot of special interests, shaking it up and creating progress. So I don’t know why that message would be limited to any particular group of people. I think it can apply to everyone. And by the way, on the way to my latest meeting that I’ve had in New Hampshire, where I am now, one woman stopped me in a restaurant and said I’m a Democrat, and I’m changing parties. I said well, unfortunately, it’s too late. She said well, I can sure do it for the general. I said well, or you could stay in your party and vote for me anyway. So…

HH: That’s true. Now before we go…

JK: Because sometimes, I mean, you know, I go across the street today on my way to, you know, I’ve done more than 50 town hall meetings. This lady stops in her car and she says I wish I could vote for you. I’m a Democrat. I said well maybe I should be in the Democrat primary every once in a while. The fact is, I wish Democrats could come over and vote, because I think we’d have a lot of Democrats that would cover over here and be able to vote for a conservative Republican like me who speaks with passion and a good heart.

HH: Independents can, and that’s what’s interesting in New Hampshire.

JK: Yes.

HH: Before I switch back to the North Korean thing, I hope you will tell me that there is no way you will leave this race before March 15th, because you will win the Ohio primary, and you will win all of their delegates. And people need to hear that, because I think we’re going a long way into this race, Governor Kasich. Is it true no matter what these early states do, you’re sticking in through Ohio?

JK: Well, I expect to do very well here in New Hampshire. And if we do that, I think I’ve got a very good chance to be the nominee, and then ultimately the president. So obviously, Ohio, you know, figured into that, as does Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, all states in the Midwest that we always have trouble carrying, but I think I could do, you know, I will be able to carry.

HH: But there is that SEC primary on March 1 which plays in the Deep South to Ted Cruz’…

JK: Oh, we like that. No, I like that. I mean, we’re very well-organized in the South. Trent Lott is my supporter and guru in Mississippi. You know, he’s the best there is. The governor of Alabama is for me. And we are organizing all over the South. We feel very good about where we, how we’re doing in the South.

HH: Oh, how interesting, because that…

JK: We just want to have a good result out of New Hampshire.

HH: And so no matter what happens, we’re going to see John Kasich through March?

JK: Let me just take it a day at a time. I don’t want to tell you something that you know, if I do really terrible here, you know, it doesn’t bode well, but let’s take it a day at a time, because I don’t expect that’ll be the case.

HH: All right, now I want to switch over to the biggest issue of all, North Korea and ISIS. We had a terror attack in Philadelphia today. We had a terror attack in my backyard in a room in which I’ve lectured at. One of those was Philadelphia, one of those was California. In between, there are, there is a story today, 41 different people have been indicted in the past few years for helping terror organizations. The Obama administration is hiding this. We have a huge law enforcement problem, John Kasich. What are you going to do about it if you’re the president?

JK: Well, I mean, we have to rely on our counterterrorism task force, Hugh, and they have done a great job. It’s made up, headed by the FBI, Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement. And we have to number one make sure they have the resources, and number two, that they have the tools, because if we have a problem with things like encryption, we’re going to have to fix it, because if they can’t hear what’s being planned, then they can’t disrupt. And it’s very important that those organizations do well, and I think they have done a spectacular job, because we never hear about the successes. We only hear about the failures. I believe in them strongly, and as governor, I am very well aware of what they do. In fact, I have some people that work directly with me who have at once been a part of the Counterterrorism Task Force. I do want to say a word about North Korea, because…

HH: Yeah, good.

JK: Clearly, it’s the Chinese are the ones that have the leverage over North Korea, and that’s why that even though we fight them on cybersecurity, and we fight them over the South China Sea, we don’t to make a permanent enemy of the Chinese. But they’ve got to get off the stick, and they’ve got to start putting pressure on that regime. Secondly, of course, the idea of ballistic missile technology for Japan, for South Korea, is very important. But Hugh, one of the biggest problems we face in the future is the ability of regimes like North Korea to sell either materials or parts of weapons to non-state actors – the Hamas’, the Hezbollah’s, the al-Shabaab’s, because they don’t live in a country. They don’t wear a uniform. And the idea that if you damage me, I will destroy you, may not work with those groups. So that is why it’s so imperative that we have intercepts both on the sea and in the air, if possible, to make sure that they can’t be moving that technology out. And that’s one of the great, great challenges we have with Iran, and this is a big, big problem that faces this world, everybody in this world who’s civilized, down the road.

HH: You just mentioned ballistic missile technology for Japan and South Korea. I heard a headline there. Are you advocating that the United States make available to our two key allies in the region the missile technology to act as Interceptor defense missiles?

JK: Yes, exactly right. Absolutely correct. I mean, you know, we see Iron Dome work in Israel. The idea of a strategic defense is really, really important. And we have waited and waited, and people say well, if you give that technology to the Japanese or the South Koreans, is that an affront to China? Well, let’s tell China to get on the stick. And if they don’t get on the stick, what are you going to do, sit there helpless? That’s not acceptable.

HH: Now I had lunch today with a senior Clinton aide, a Hillary Clinton advisor, and I said to him, if she comes out and calls for a 350 ship Navy, we’re going to be flanked on this. And Bill Clinton was pretty good for the Navy. You’re the 15 carrier guy, 15 carrier group guy. Right now, that’s a winner thing, because to isolate North Korea, you can’t do it with a 272 ship Navy, John Kasich.

JK: Well, Hugh, you know, I have $100 billion dollars in my budget plan to get us to a balanced budget, because our Defense department needs to be rebuilt. But I also know that that amount of bureaucracy, red tape, delay and flat-out waste in the Department of Defense has to be fixed, because every one of those $100 billion dollars have got to go to actually restoring our strength and making sure our men and women in the military have what they need.

HH: Well, it’s got to go to ships. You just said we’ve got to interdict North Korea.

JK: Yeah, not only ships, but there’s a lot of needs out there. I mean, there’s technology in the Army, obviously, ships, the carriers, the submarines, I mean, you’ve got a lot, I mean, on every area, there are tremendous needs. And I know you’re a big Navy guy, and so am I, because that’s how you project force.

HH: I didn’t get a chance to ask you at the debate. In fact, at the last debate, I believe you got the least amount of time. And I’m doing the March 10th debate again, and I’ll work hard to make sure that’s not the case. But you’ll have come a long way since then. I didn’t get to ask you about the triad and the rebuilding of it, and it’s, and Mr. Trump stumbled a little bit on that, and Marco Rubio corrected him. What would be your priority when it comes? You were on Armed Services all those years. Can we…

JK: Well, you’ve got to modernize. You’ve got to modernize the nuclear fleet. You’ve got to make sure you have effective submarines, and you’ve got to, you know, I mean, that’s what, and you’ve got to have an effective bomber force. That’s what the triad is. And so we’re going to bring another advance bomber, it’s being developed now, it will come online. The submarines, we need to make sure they’re upgraded. And of course, we need to modernize our ICBM force.

HH: Last question, you’ve got the only uranium enrichment facility outside of Tennessee in Ohio. I think it’s struggling as well. Is…

JK: Yeah, they’re going to shut it down. The administration had promised to do things differently, but they’re going to shut it down.

HH: Is that a mistake?

JK: Well, I think it is. You know, I believe that it is, and it’s something that you know, if I become president, it’s going to have to be looked at again, because I just don’t, I don’t agree with the idea that just one place and the technology being developed in Ohio was advanced.

HH: And well, it’s crazy. I mean, this is one of those things I don’t think anyone in America knows what I’m talking about, but I’m talking about with the governor of Ohio who knows about it. This administration is disarming our strategic ability to build what we need to build.

JK: Well, Hugh, you know, look, when I look at the Russians deploying the, I think it’s called the S-400 air defense system, and began to realize that our F-15’s and F-16’s are not effective against it, which is why we need the F-35, you know, you begin to see that if you don’t have the most advanced systems, you start fighting from places of weakness. And America can’t afford to do that.

HH: Well, I hope Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, I know Rob Portman is fighting for the uranium, and I hope that he joins you in that.

JK: Oh, yeah.

HH: Governor Kasich, your final minute. How much time are you putting into Iowa vis-à-vis New Hampshire? Are you all in, in New Hampshire? Or is there any…

JK: Well, I was, let me just tell you. We’re on the ballot now in 31 states, and that will be growing. We have people on the ground in South Carolina, Iowa, Nevada and of course, New Hampshire. I was in Iowa earlier this week. I will be flying through and stopping in Iowa on Sunday. And we’re going to put time in, but there’s only one of me to go around, Hugh, and my wife gets up every day and says thank God.

HH: (laughing) Governor John Kasich, always a pleasure, Governor, Go Bucks…

JK: All right, sir, all right.

HH: And we’ll talk to you in a couple of weeks.

JK: Thank you.

End of interview.


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