Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me to begin my first show after my vacation:
HH: So glad to have as my first guest since being gone for ten days, the Governor of the great state of Ohio, the Honorable John Kasich. Governor Kasich, welcome back, congratulations on your launch, and quite a big fundraising number there on the first couple of months.
JK: Well first of all, before we get into that, where did you go on vacation?
JK: You’re kidding me. Was it great?
HH: It was terrific. Don’t you like Alaska?
JK: Well, I’ve never been there, and I’m going to go there sometime, because people say it is so remarkable in terms of the grizzly bears you see, the incredible water, the mountains, the snow, the ice, the whole deal. I’ve just never gone.
HH: Well, I particularly like it because it’s one of the few states without a professional football team that has beaten the Browns repeatedly in many years, so I really like Alaska.
JK: That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about that. They do not have a team that’s beaten the Browns. Anyway, so I forget what you asked me.
HH: I wanted to know…
JK: You said, I had a good announcement. You know, some people in the new media actually criticized it, because I didn’t have a teleprompter or a script. And I spoke from notes, which was really great, and I’m really thrilled with how it went, and you know, it seems like a little bit people are getting to know me, Hugh. As you know, we’re, I don’t spend a lot of time with polls, but I’ve been told that I’m now third in New Hampshire, which is pretty cool. And you know, I don’t have the big name ID, because I was taking care of Ohio. I wasn’t, you know, out there taking care of me.
HH: Well, I have a theory, and I’m going to say it on Hannity’s show tonight, that of all the candidates not named Donald Trump, John Kasich is the most Trump-like in that he is a blunt, occasionally combative, a little bit prickly, which makes him from Ohio, and that people like that.
JK: Well, look, Hugh, my whole shtick is to offer positive solutions, unify people and lift them, and I’ve done it all of my career. You know, I did it when I was in the Congress balancing the budget, bringing people together, reforming corporate welfare, fixing the Pentagon, being involved in welfare reform, I mean, all those things, bringing people together, bipartisan efforts. And then of course in Ohio, you know, we’ve not only strengthened the economy, but we’ve given everybody a chance to be able to be part of the Ohio family. And you know, when people say you know, direct or whatever, look, I’ve got a job to do, right? And if you’re balancing the federal budget, you’re going to step on a lot of toes, Hugh. I mean, that’s why people don’t do it. They don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, and same thing in Ohio. You know, we just took over the Youngstown schools. I mean, we passed legislation that’s going to allow this board to appoint a CEO. Now some people don’t like that, but when you have nine years of failing education in Youngstown, I’m not going to sit around and just, you know, keep twiddling my fingers. You’ve got to be tough in life.
HH: Yeah, the only trouble with that is it’s…
JK: …and tough in politics. But that doesn’t take away from what we need to do to make sure that we extend kindness to people who find themselves in a difficult situation.
HH: Now the only problem with taking over the Youngstown schools is it wasn’t done 40 years. I mean, Mooney and Ursuline are fine, but the rest of them, you can have, and I’m glad you’re doing that. But I want to go to this issue of combativeness. I think that’s what’s fueling Trump, is that people want toes stepped on. They don’t want people to be crude or vulgar, but they do want directness, which I call combativeness. There are lots of different ways – bluntness, prickliness, call it what you will, they want honesty.
JK: Well, but I also think, you know, and I don’t get into comments on other candidates. What I will tell you is I think people are frustrated. You know, you’re a 51 year old man and you lose your job. What are you going to do? Somebody walks in one day and says we don’t need you anymore, or your kid’s living in your attic and has massive college debts, or you’re poor and you wonder whether anybody cares about you, or whether drugs are going to wash away your community. I mean, I think people are very frustrated, and they’re very frustrated by the continuing reports of government that just doesn’t work, and sometimes they think works against them. But they don’t, we can’t leave them there. What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to show them there are solutions to all this, and we have to tell them that they’re a part of the solution. I mean, if you’re frustrated with your schools, go fix them. Don’t wait for somebody else to do it. If you’ve got drugs in your community, start standing up against them. Start telling kids to stop using drugs. I mean, you know, America is great, because it’s built from the bottom up, not the top down. So leaders can point out problems, but leaders also have to have solutions that are practical, too.
HH: Now I want to talk about the big issue of the week, which is the Iran deal. And if you are the president of the United States, you’re going to inherit it. What do you make of the deal as it is presently proposed to the American…
JK: Well, it’s a horrible deal, and what they’re going to do is get a nuke and a bunch of cash to fund all these people out there who are hurting all of our friends and don’t, you know, have no respect for our way of life. And I just hope the Senate’s going to defeat it. And I think you ought to be calling on these Democrats in the Senate, and it’s not partisan, but they’re the ones that are going to be the swing votes on a veto override. And they’ve got to be mindful of the fact that this vote could have such huge consequences. And it’s a bad deal. It ought to be turned down. And Iran ought to change their behavior before we make a deal and begin to trust them. And frankly, I also think there ought to be a demand that all the people who are a party to this agreement are going to be willing automatically to slap the sanctions back on, strengthen them and expand them if we find out that the Iranians are cheating. And there ought not to be any big debate about that. So we have to see what happens here, but boy, I’ll tell you, it’s a very bad agreement. And you know, it’s not a choice of this agreement or war. Look, I don’t like to go out and attack the President. You know, it’s not, I don’t like attacking people. But when he says that, he’s dead wrong. That’s just a false choice. And I’m disappointed that he said something like that.
HH: Now Senator Ted Cruz, who will be on the debate stage with you next week, says the deal, “will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism,” because it’s going to free up all of the billions of dollars that Iran has frozen. Do you agree with that assessment?
JK: Well, I don’t know about all the statement and hyperbole, but what I would say is that I think that it’s going to allow the Iranians to bankroll Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, and God knows who else. And I think that makes it dangerous. And Hugh, about this, you know, in five years, they’re going to be able to now begin to get ballistic missiles, which you need if you want to load a warhead. I mean, it’s a very bad agreement. I think that we just need to be very focused, and we need to be very determined about our arguments. I’m not convinced we need to go into hyperbole to discuss all this. It’s got to be very, very measured, and tough and firm on this whole agreement.
HH: How does John Kasich explain to people listening to the Hugh Hewitt Show that Iran with a nuclear weapon is different from other countries like India and Pakistan with a nuclear weapon?
JK: Well, let me tell you, I’m not all that thrilled with the idea that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. You know, they got them. And North Korea has them, and we see what’s happened with North Korea. So we can’t afford the spread of these weapons to anybody, frankly, because if Iran gets this weapon, which I think, you know, they probably at some point inevitably will have, then you’re going to have the Saudis wanting to have it. You’re going to have many countries in the world that are going to say we’ve got to go seek a nuclear weapon. And then, when everybody’s got nuclear weapons, think about how much more dangerous the world will become. Now I would hope and pray Iran won’t get one, and if we keep those sanctions on and drive them away from that, hopefully they won’t have one. But I don’t trust this agreement, that it’s going to lead them to being able to have one.
HH: But a key point, is Iran different from Pakistan, as Pakistan is currently constituted? Yes, I wish they didn’t have the nukes, either, but I still say as Pakistan’s government is still, is presently constituted, it’s a lot less dangerous than Iran’s government.
JK: Well, you know, the military controls, they say, the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan, but we know that Iran is a purveyor of terrorism.
JK: We know that they have engaged in activities to destabilize all over the world, frankly. But Hugh, look, I’m not going to paint the Pakistanis as some, you know, some choirboys. I mean, they have been engaged recently in a fight against extreme terrorism, but you never know where that’s going to come down. So any of these countries that get it that don’t have, that in my opinion, don’t have a really great code of ethics as it relates to mankind, makes me nervous. And you know, in Pakistan right now, it seems to be stable, but I’m concerned about it. Aren’t you?
HH: Very. Very. If the Taliban ever overrun it, they’ve got 90 nukes, and we know what they’ll do with them. Let me ask you before go to the break, it’s a short break, can we even afford the nuclear triad anymore, John Kasich?
JK: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, we need to modernize our nuclear capability. We have to make sure we do that. We have to upgrade the Ohio Class submarines. We need to make sure that we have the bomber capability that we need in this country. I have great concerns about this F-35, a little different situation, but way over cost. Look, part of the problem is, Hugh, we have almost a million people who are working inside the Pentagon. And what we’ve seen is that the deployment of major weapons systems go from like four or five years to like 22 years. So everything costs more. We get less of what we pay for. But we need to have a very strong military. We need to make sure that our Army has the technology. We need to make sure we have enough people in uniform. But no, I think that it is critical and vital that we have an extremely strong national defense that’s both lethal and mobile, but at the same time, Hugh, you can’t buy this stuff with all these bureaucrats, red tape, delays and everything else. You’ve got to fix the Pentagon.
HH: I’ll be right back with John Kasich.
— – – – –
HH: When we went to break, I asked him can we afford the nuclear triad, and he said yeah, we need it all. But I go back to that, one more question. We’ve got land-based missiles, we’ve got strategic bombers, we have the Ohio Class submarines, which we need to replace. What about going to a two-legged system as opposed to a three-legged system, Governor?
JK: I don’t think we need to change anything at this point. But what we need to do, Hugh, is we need to rebuild this military, because it has run down since the Reagan years. And a key problem with it is too many people getting in the mix as to how we do these things, which leads to bureaucratic inaction, no one being held accountable, and you know, and that system needs to be reformed. And it is not easy to reform the Pentagon. But we need to have a better system of accountability, a more businesslike operation there where we cut through all the bureaucracy and the red tape and the delay.
HH: All right, now I want to…
JK: And we need to make sure that the systems we buy come in on time and that they perform the way they’re supposed to perform, and not start making guesses about the next line of technology.
HH: Now I want to switch over to the media and the campaign. Jackie Calmes is over at the New York Times, a fine reporter, wrote a long piece on conservative media making it harder for conservatives to govern successfully. That’s part of her work at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. She argues that there are very few voices out there that are very loud, they’re getting amplified, and they’re driving our party into ungovernability, because everything that gets proposed gets hosed. Do you agree with that?
JK: I don’t, because she should look at Ohio. You know, I have a Republican House and a Republican Senate, and we turned that state completely around. And I think some of it gets to be leadership. It’s about people who are willing to move forward, Hugh. And you talk about the, am I strong at time? Well, yeah. I mean, leaders have to be strong. You know, you don’t lead by taking a poll, and you don’t lead by putting your finger in the air. And no, I mean, I think you can drive, look, in our state, $8 billion in the hole, $2 billion in the black, we have killed the death tax, we’ve cut taxes by $5 billion dollars. We’ve improved school choice. We’ve improved school accountability. We’re reforming higher education. We’re reforming our welfare programs so that people have to go and get trained, and they’re held personally responsible. All of this has happened in Ohio. In Washington, things have broken down, because over the years, we haven’t seen the kind of leadership that’s dealing with people that just want to scream loud and not solve problems. And it is hard in Washington. It didn’t get there overnight. We won’t get out of it overnight. But if you take Ohio, look, we’re up 350,000 jobs. I mean, you know, we’re doing fine, and that is a, those are Republicans. And look, we welcome our Democratic friends to join us and help us, and they have in many cases. But this has been engineered largely by conservative Republicans.
HH: All right, so then the new media landscape, we’ve got Peter Hampby over at Snapchat. We have the Washington Post, they’ve got a beehive of young, energetic reporters like James Hohmann and Dave Weigel and Robert Costa and Phillip Rucker. They’ve got veterans like Tumulty and Balz and Matea Gold. But that’s just one newspaper. There are 30 newspapers, you’ve got Henry Gomez in your state, great reporter. I mean, there are literally a 100,000 people traveling around looking for a story.
JK: Henry, by the way, is a good reporter. I’m glad you know Henry Gomez. He’s a good man.
HH: OH, I read, I follow his stuff all the time. He’s also a Browns fan. He’s a Cavs fan as well, so he’s a good man. But I am still concerned…
JK: Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention. On all the things that we were able to do, I also was able to get LeBron back to Cleveland.
HH: (laughing) And Urban Meyer is…
JK: Don’t tell him I said that, because I don’t think he likes me.
HH: And Urban Meyer to Ohio State. That’s the other one. Take credit…
JK: Yeah, exactly. National titles, everything. See, it works.
HH: Everything. But in terms of always having people on your tail looking for a mistake, are you comfortable with the new media environment, 24/7, 365 with 100,000 people looking for…
JK: Well, I mean, you know, am I comfortable with it, of course not. Who would be comfortable having somebody watch everything you do. But that’s where we live. And look, I’m trying to maintain fun out here, right? I mean, I’m very serious about what I’m doing. And you know, if it doesn’t work, I’m still governor of Ohio. I’m still the father of two great girls and the husband of a beautiful and smart wife. And I’ve got great friends. And I’m going to, you know, I mean, I’m just not going to, I don’t want to adopt an attitude of this either works or I die. You know, I mean, I think that attitude is the right one for me to have. And it’s part of what I pray about in the morning. Lord, give me the energy and give me the, you know, whatever the heck you want out of me. You know, I’ll do the best I can. So I’m not going to lay awake at night worrying about, I hope not, Hugh. It may change, but right now, I’m not worrying about it.
HH: All right, last big question. Republicans to win the presidency have to win Florida, Virginia, Colorado and the great state of Ohio, maybe New Hampshire and Nevada, but those four are the big four. Why did Mitt Romney lose Ohio? And why does John Kasich win it in a walk?
JK: Well, I think my message was one of unity and picking people up. And you know, Romney, for whatever reason, I just had lunch with him last week, delightful with him and Ann, somehow didn’t connect. And then, you know, look, it’s complicated. They bashed him over Bain when he didn’t have any money, and you know, lots of different factors rolled into it. For me, I think economic growth, hope was returned to Ohio, and secondly, everybody felt included. That’s how you get 26% of the African-American vote, and 51% of union households. I mean, that’s how you do it.
HH: How are you going to do with the Latino vote, because he didn’t get Colorado because of the Latino vote. They thought they had won Colorado. It turns out they lost it by 5%, bigger than their margins in Ohio, Virginia and Florida were, where they were 1% states. Colorado was a 5% loss, largely the Latino vote. How’s John Kasich connect with the voter in America who’s a citizen, absolutely entitled to vote, but consumes a lot of media in Spanish media?
JK: Well, I think first of all, we need to communicate, we need to communicate in the media so they can hear our message directly. I think in addition to that, I’m a unity guy. You know, I don’t look at segments. And it doesn’t kind of work that way. I want everyone to have an opportunity to live the American dream. And that’s what I say, and I’m not figuring on changing it.
HH: And next week at the debate, last question, do you walk into that with any kind of a game plan? Is there a point you want to make? Or is this just going to be hey, let’s see what happens in the next two hours on Fox?
JK: Well, I don’t know for sure if I’m in that debate. I mean, we’ll see what happens. You know, you’ve got to wait to hear who’s in and who’s not. But my goal will be to go in there and just let people know who I am, what my record is, and you know, how I think. That’s all I think you can…you can over-prepare for something like that, but I just want to be, give it the best that I have, the best that I have, like for my announcement speech, Hugh. I just thought to myself, give it the best you have. You know, if you bomb, you bomb. And fortunately, I didn’t. But you know, there’s going to be a performance that I’m going to do terrible in somewhere along the line. You know, nobody bats for a high average all the time. I just do the best that I can.
HH: If you get a trick question like you know, the states want to ban birth control…
JK: Yeah, I know, I know. I mean, that’s the thing that can always get you. And I don’t think it’s a good way to pick a president, to be honest with you. I think you know, these little soundbytes, and so Rick Perry forgot one of the things he wanted to eliminate. So what? I mean, the guy’s been a good governor. But that’s the way the system works, and that’s why you just can’t get too, you’ve got to stay cool. You’ve got to stay cool. Life’s just a free throw, Hugh. You know, you either make it or you don’t. But let’s not sit there and agonize over it all.
HH: John Kasich, great to talk to you. Come back often.
End of interview.