Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me on Tuesday’s program:
HH: Beginning today’s show with the governor of the great, and I do mean great state of Ohio, John Kasich. Governor Kasich, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
JK: I’m calling from Warren, Ohio.
HH: Oh, terrific. What takes you to Warren?
JK: No, I’m not. I’m in Columbus.
HH: Oh, you had me there.
JK: I’m in Columbus. I knew I’d get your heart to pitter patter.
HH: You pulled my chain there. You want to do a favor to this Warren native and declare for president right now?
JK: No, not now.
JK: You know, there was this guy. His name was Mike Parker. He was a Democrat Congressman, and he became a Republican, and every day I’d look at him and say are you going to switch? And he goes not today.
HH: Not today. Okay, I’ll go to the issues then. And this first question I have for you is kind of heresy as a Warren boy who spent the summers at Billow Beach in Saybrook Township next to Geneva on the lake. But we have a terrible drought out here, and in Texas. And 95% of the surface water in the United States is in the Great Lakes. And you can build pipelines to use that water outside. And I know about the Great Lakes Commission and the compact, but what about it, Governor Kasich? How about using the Great Lakes water for the rest of the country?
JK: Well, look, we’ve been very careful to maintain the integrity of that lake, Hugh. And you know, we’re always looking to help people around the country, but we’ve got to make sure we maintain the integrity of the lake. And look, there was this withdrawal from the lake that the legislature proposed, and all the Republicans voted for it, and I vetoed it, because it was rendering a lot of our small streams, tributaries, it was really damaging them. So you just don’t go and say you’re going to pull water out of there without understanding the impact. But if there’s a way to send a little water your way and still maintain a healthy lake, well, that would be worth thinking about. You’ll of course pay for the pipeline, right, out of your own pocket?
HH: It’s a $4 billion dollar pipeline, but I saw up in Michigan, Flint is building a 67 mile pipeline for $233 million dollars to use Lake Huron water, because they’re tired of paying exorbitant rates to Detroit. And I got to thinking, it’s 1,200 miles from Chicago to Grand Junction. We built the Erie Canal and the Alaska Pipeline, and…
JK: And we went to the Moon.
HH: We went to the Moon. Why can’t we get the water? But you’re right…
JK: You know what? Hey, listen, you won’t believe how hard I’ve been fighting to make sure that lake is clean. And we just passed, listen to this, Hugh, we just passed a major bill to stop the dumping of fertilizer on frozen ground. And this was a very controversial issue, because we want to make sure the lake is as healthy as it can be. And they were dabbling around, and I said look, get this thing worked out. If you can’t get it done right, I’ll just write my own executive order. It turned out that, listen to this one, not only did it pass unanimously, the final agreement, through the House and the Senate, but both the farm community and the environmentalists all stood up at a press conference and endorsed it.
HH: Well, that’s good lake management. And the lake is important, and I believe in…
JK: No, that’s good political management, Hugh.
HH: Yes, it is. It’s also, but it’s great lake management.
JK: Yes, exactly.
HH: That is, that’s good politics is good environmentalism, not vice versa. Let’s talk about some commander-in-chief stuff in the event that you choose to run, because you haven’t ruled out running, correct?
JK: No, no, no. In fact, I’ve taken a step forward. And for those who want to see, www.newdayforamerica.com. www.newdayforamerica.com. I formed this 527 which allows me to even travel more than I’ve already been doing.
HH: I tried to set you up with Chuck Todd on Friday when I asked him to begin his interview by asking you why you didn’t carry two out of the 88 counties in Ohio. Did he do that?
JK: (laughing) Did you see the interview?
HH: Yeah, I saw part of it. I didn’t see the whole thing, so I don’t know if he got you on that.
JK: Well, we’ll send it to you so you can take a look. I think you can have your viewers take a look.
HH: Let’s talk about Iran, and let’s do commander-in-chief stuff, because if www.newdayforamerica.com is up and running, a lot of people think John Kasich’s going to run. And a lot comes down to who wins the Putin primary. That is in my view who would Vladimir Putin least like to have as president is the guy we ought to support, or the gal. How would you do up against Vladimir Putin, John Kasich?
JK: Well, I mean, there’s a number of things. First of all, Hugh, you know, I served on the Armed Services Committee for 18 years. I was involved in some of the most major Pentagon reform, getting the services to fight together and work together. And it was just a critical change called the Goldwater-Nichols bill, and my job on Armed Services was to take America’s resources and apply them so that we could deal with the challenges to our country. In regard to Putin, I mean, the thing is we need all of Western Europe to be, we need to rebirth those relationships. I mean, I think that the strength to Germany, France, England, Spain, Italy, and all those other nations there including Central Europe together have to move. And frankly, I’ve been aghast that we’ve not been able to get the toughest economic sanctions against Putin, and squeeze him as hard as we can to get him to back off a lot of this treachery. To me, there ought to be, there should be material, equipment, there ought to be, you know, military equipment sent over to our friends in Ukraine. We ought to be reassuring our allies in Central Europe. We ought to be strengthening NATO, and we’ve got to get these countries to work with us in a much more strong way. I think we have to rebuild those relationships, Hugh. They have been tattered over a long period of time, and they need to be rebuilt. And we have to work as a force that shares this whole sort of, you know, this Judeo-Christian Western concept. And it’s been tattered and needs to be rebuilt.
HH: I have been asking all of the people who are thinking about running for president about the Baltic States and Article 5 of NATO if Putin goes into Estonia as he has threatened to do. Do we respond militarily, John Kasich, do you think?
JK: No, Hugh, I’m not going to get into when do we go to war and when do we not. We should make it exceedingly clear that we are united at NATO, that any threat on a NATO nation means that there’s a threat upon us. And let’s not get into well, what if Putin launches himself to the Moon. Let’s just be clear. NATO has to mean something. It has to be strong. And an attack on one is an attack on all.
HH: Now let me talk to you about Iran and the deal that is taking shape. I think that Corker-Menendez is going to pass this week. But I want to ask all the would-be candidates, if it doesn’t stop the President from doing a bad deal, would you be stopped on your first day in office from revoking that deal?
JK: Hugh, here’s, I don’t know. That again is another hypothetical, okay? And I’m not trying to dodge your question. I don’t like hypotheticals. Here’s what I will say. This is not an agreement that should be followed at this point. We shouldn’t go along with this. What we’re basically doing is leaving in place the infrastructure for the capability of producing not only a nuclear weapon but additional nuclear material. That can in fact be spread to places like the groups that are non-state groups like Hamas, Hezbollah. This is a very, very, very dangerous situation. I think that the administration has fallen in love with trying to get an agreement. And when I saw the other day that our president said that well, maybe we can lift these sanctions sooner than what we originally thought, you can’t just fall in love with any deal. And the idea that we would leave this all in place, that we would not have inspections throughout the entire country on demand, that we would be unlimited in terms of where we could go. Those are the kind of things, and they have to stop all this terrorist activity. And it’s not much different than what Netanyahu said. When they change their way, we can talk. And we don’t change their way, and we rely on trust, no thanks.
HH: All right, now I’ll go from hypothetical to very specifics. I did not know, John Kasich, Governor, that you served 18 years on Armed Services. I have been asking all the candidates again about the Defense budget. Heritage says we need 13 carrier groups. We’ve got 10. We might go down to 8. That’s what Hagel said when he was SecDef. Our Ohio Class submarines are the backbone of our nuclear deterrent. They age out between 2025 and 2029. They can’t be extended, because they’ve got nuclear cores that cannot be extended. How serious do you think is the decline in American military preparedness from the years when you, with Reagan and the rest rebuilt the American military?
JK: Well, the threat’s changing, Hugh. You know, the threat has changed. I mean, we no longer worry about this invasion over the Fulda Gap over in Europe You probably didn’t even know that there was such a place.
HH: Oh, you bet. It’s Germany. It’s where all the tanks come.
JK: And here’s the thing. The military, we have to build a Pentagon that is based on the threat, not based on relics of the past that are connected to some parochial interest by a senator or a congressman. And that is extremely difficult to do. The procurement reform that’s needed inside the Pentagon, it’s been a constant, I mean, I’m now, you know, I served in Congress for 18 years. I’ve been out for, what is it, 15 years. That’s, what is that, 33 years, okay? They’ve been complaining about Pentagon reform. I was engaged in the reform of procurement, Hugh. I was one of the guys that was involved in finding the hammers and the screwdrivers and the toilet seats that cost all that money. Procurement reform is difficult. It should be ongoing. Secondly, the systems that we build and the systems that we need should fit the threat that America faces in the world. And if in fact we need to rebuild some of the vital activities that we have in the air, on the land and in the sea, to meet the threat, we have to do, because if we don’t have a strong military, we’re not taking care of one of the most important things of the federal government, which is the common defense. Because Heritage says X, so what? I mean, other people say, what, our former Secretary of Defense said 8. I mean, this is just not something you decide on the back of an envelope. You study it, you try to figure out how America can project power. And when it gets to where it needs to be, to project it power, it can project it in a lethal manner that in fact can accomplish our goals. And secondly, we should not be involved in trying to change, you know, try to convert everybody to our kind of way of life and democracy. Where it works, great. But we should not be engaged in all this nation building. It doesn’t work. We should be able to go places quickly, we should be able to deliver a lethal blow, accomplish our purposes, and then get out.
HH: Before I go to that nation building…
JK: But except this, except this, Hugh. I think it was a terrible tragedy that we left basing rights in Iraq. That is just a huge mistake. No way we should have ever left our bases over there. We should have said we’re going to keep a base here. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem. That was our right, and we walked away from it, a terrible mistake.
HH: Okay, let me come back to the status of forces, because you said relics of the past. I don’t think carrier groups, and I definitely don’t think the Ohio…
JK: No, no, no. I’m saying you’ve got to look at everything across the board, Hugh. You know, there’s always debates about do we need this advanced aircraft or do we not, and you know, do we need this new, this Marine landing vehicle. We just have to look at that, and of course, carrier groups are very important, because they help us to project power.
HH: But that goes…
JK: Now how many we exactly need today, I can’t tell you that.
HH: But when you run for president…
JK: But I will tell you this. You don’t skimp on America’s ability to project power and to be effective when it does.
HH: And so…
JK: And that of course would involve things like carrier groups.
HH: And so when we get down to brass tacks and you’re standing on the stage at the Reagan Library and I’m asking questions, and I ask how many carrier groups do we have, is that legit to require our presidential candidates to be prepared to answer that with specificity?
JK: You mean whether we should have 11 or 12 or…probably…
HH: Yeah, and mix of forces?
JK: Probably, you know what? I don’t know. I don’t know. I have to think about it. I mean, is that, you know, you could ask a million questions about different parts of the Pentagon budget. My, I would tell you this. We need to project power. Now if you go down to 8, it sounds to me like it’s too few. Maybe we should have an answer like that. I’ll try to, I’ll tell you what. I’ll try to get you one.
HH: All right. All right, and Ohio Class subs. Those are the two I ask about. Now let me ask you about Libya. We broke Libya. And yesterday, 900 people died fleeing that country. Did we owe that country more than a wave goodbye after Hillary’s handoff from Qaddafi to the jihadists?
JK: Well, I mean, what you do mean by that? Should we have been there nation building? I mean, should we have landed troops over there? I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I think that you know, the problem has been that we have not been consistent in the Middle East and assertive. And that’s been a problem for us. And when we went out of Iraq and didn’t keep our base and didn’t mind the store and didn’t arm in the early stages the opposition to Assad, all these things have left us in a position of where see things falling apart. And you know, at this point in time, I can’t tell you what I think we should do in Libya. I wouldn’t tell you that I think we need to be putting troops in Libya. I wouldn’t be for that. But you know, it’s a result of some of the big miscalculations, and frankly, I guess you’ve got to start where you are. But I wouldn’t be telling you we should put troops there.
HH: Now terrorists were arrested in Columbus within the last week. did the feds alert you to that, by the way, before their…
JK: No. No.
HH: They didn’t?
JK: No, and I don’t think they should.
HH: Tell me why.
JK: Well, it’s a federal issue. I’m the governor of the state, and you know, what they need to do is make sure that they carry out their mission. I was, didn’t even think that they would, and wasn’t concerned about it.
HH: Okay, are you surprised to find terrorists, you know, in the shadow of the Horseshoe?
JK: Well, you know, look, these lone actors is one of the great threats we have in our country. And I’ve always known that Ohio was a state that was at risk. We are doing everything we can on homeland security to beef it up, to get more, better people in there. Our public safety department, they work, you know, our homeland security works with of course all the intelligence agencies to make sure that we’re on top of things. Am I shocked? No. I’m not. But this lone wolf theory is something that has me extremely concerned. And that kind of goes back in an indirect way, Hugh, to what you asked about Iran and the ability of these non-state actors to acquire material…
JK: …to get it to people who could, you know, they’re not going to explode a nuke if they just have the material. But they have the capability to release a dirty bomb. And I mean, those kinds of things are, you know, they’re beyond just being a terror weapon. They’re going to wreak a lot of death, and it’s dangerous. So we just have to be cognizant of the problem of the lone wolf, of course, and better monitor those who travel in and out to these countries that are, that you know, that where we think there is a risk of terrorism.
HH: Governor Kasich, let me wrap up with one foreign affairs, one domestic question. On foreign affairs, Republicans for a long time have wanted a Bolton-like foreign policy. I admire Condi Rice, Colin Powell a lot, but I kind of think the party wants more Bolton, less Powell this time, more Schultz and Kirkpatrick, less Powell. What does John Kasich think about where the Republican Party and the conservative electorate is about America’s attitude towards the world, and how would you put together a Kasich foreign policy to? Who would do that?
JK: I’m more concerned about the American view than I am, you know, the political side of this. You know, it was not, I guess it was about two months ago, maybe a little longer. I think I was the first Republican to say in regard, you know, leading, major Republican, if I could call myself that, to argue that a coalition between Europe and our friends in the Middle East ought to go after ISIS, and that we, America, including America, ought to have boots on the ground. I mean, there are actions that we need to take. Now I have a long record on this. I did not support U.S. troops in Lebanon in the middle of the Civil War. I was never in favor of the kind of activity we did in any civil wars, including Bosnia. But I supported the Gulf War, obviously. I support the war in Afghanistan. So I think we have to be very careful to stay away from civil wars. I think we have to be very careful that when we see something that is in our direct interest that we can go and take care of business and not involve ourselves in this whole process of nation building.
HH: Does that…
JK: That’s what I, and I think we should have the most modern weapons, great technology to do the kind of things that we need to do to carry out our purpose.
HH: Now we speak in shorthand in this world, and that sounds Powell-Weinbergerish as opposed to Boltonish. And is that fair?
JK: Well, I don’t know what you’re saying with that. I don’t know what that shorthand means.
HH: Much more interventionist, John Bolton is more interventionist than Colin Powell.
JK: Like where? It depends where.
HH: Like Bosnia. You mentioned Kosovo and a lot…
JK: Yeah, well, I mean, look, they still don’t have, what we were able to do there, the good that came out of it is obviously, they were able to simmer things down. But there’s no, it’s not great over there. But what I will tell you is in places like the First Gulf War, Afghanistan, I’m 100% for it. I think it made total sense.
HH: Interesting, you’re avoiding…
JK: I don’t think we should, I don’t think we should run out of Afghanistan. But you know, getting in the middle of civil wars, I don’t think is a good idea.
HH: You’re not saying Iraq when you say the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. Did President Bush make a mistake in invading Iraq?
JK: I don’t want to go back and redo that. I mean, it was there, and I don’t want to disparage anybody who served our country. I’m just going to reserve my comment on that.
HH: All right, now I want to go to the domestic issue that has split the Republican Party, and it’s the dope laws. I just came from Colorado…
JK: Hey, by the way, Hugh, before we get to the domestic issue, you know, it was Casper Weinberger that developed the Weinberger doctrine.
JK: I support fundamentally the Weinberger doctrine. But I will also tell you there’s a smart guy over there at the Wall Street Journal…
HH: Bret Stephens…
JK: …who he wrote a column, Bret Stephens….
JK: It was a, sort of an amplification of the Weinberger doctrine, and I endorse that. Go places, mean business in your interest, take care of business and don’t hang around. That is a part of the Weinberger doctrine. You know the problem with civil wars? You know the problem with nation building? You go in and then when do you ever get out? And so I think it’s, you know, this shorthand kind of running through of Weinberger this, Schultz that and Bolton is this, that’s not sophisticated analysis of U.S. foreign policy, to be honest with you.
HH: Well, you just gave me what I was looking for.
JK: How do you like that, Hugh?
HH: You just gave me what I was looking for, so you use shorthand and I understand it, and I like it, actually. But let me go to the dope laws before I run out of time.
JK: Hey, the other thing is, look, and maybe in a place like Libya, just like I was in the early days of Syria, we’ve got people we can support. It doesn’t mean we have to be there. But there’s clearly things that we can do. We don’t have to have troops in Ukraine, but we can clearly provide them the military equipment that they need to be able to defend themselves. They’re our allies, okay? We believe the Ukrainians. Let me also tell you when it comes to, like I say, the early days of Syria and even now, Assad has to go. But that doesn’t mean we have to put boots on the ground. But I think it is important that we are engaged. And I’m sure that the same exists in Libya. I mean, we’ve got to find the forces, if we can, the clear forces that can help us to support the foreign policy that we think is going to be the best for stabilizing that region.
HH: So for example…
JK: One last thing I wanted to tell you, one last thing about the Middle East, people who think that there is a solution are naïve. The goal in the Middle East, vis-à-vis Israel, is stability and an absence of violence. There is no, you know, silver bullet that’s going to fix all that magically. Anybody who believes that doesn’t understand, well, I’m just going to say, it’s a naïve view.
HH: Now I do know that at this moment, President al-Sisi and the new Saudi Arabian king are working in concert with the Jordanians to attack the Houthis in Yemen.
HH: And I imagine you would support them with material if not with additional intelligence and aid.
JK: Yes, absolutely, of course. And you see, that, there’s another problem of where we were, you know, we were kind of behind the curve again. And I think what the Saudis, the Jordanians and the Egyptians are doing is the right thing to be, you know, the activities they’re conducting are the right activities. I’m not sure they’re having all the impact that they would like to have at this point, but we clearly should be working with these folks. But at the same time, in regard to the Saudis, you know, the Saudis have been able to have it both ways. They are, you know, we find that we share a lot of interests with them. But you know, there’s a number of things that they do including the funding of some of these groups that are literally terrorist groups that not only work against us, but work against them. Somebody’s got to call the tune on this.
HH: All right, let me get to the domestic issue, and then we’ll wrap up, and that is the dope law of Colorado and Washington State.
JK: I’m totally opposed to it.
HH: The Republicans…okay, now tell me what you…would you enforce the federal law if you’re the president and shut down those markets?
JK: Well, I don’t, what’s the implications of that, Hugh? I mean, the state has voted for it, you know what I mean? On what grounds would you shut them down?
HH: Because it’s still a federal violation for them to operate that. The Department of Justice is choosing….
JK: I don’t know. I’d have to think about it. Here’s my great concern. First of all, you have a states’ rights issue. The people in those states have voted that way. The federal government has decided to kind of look the other way. I feel very strongly in my state, I’m going to oppose, and they’re going to put something on the ballot to legalize drugs. I’m totally opposed to it, because it is a scourge in this country. Now I would have to give it thought as to, I probably would not from the standpoint that the states have gone forward to prove that. I haven’t thought about this. I’d have to give it a little thought.
HH: I’m going to try and persuade you to prosecute them, but that’s for another day. I’ve got Christie and Rubio wants to prosecute them, Cruz doesn’t, Santorum’s undecided, I’ll put Kasich in the undecided category at this point at well.
JK: Well, let me tell you this, though. In my state and across this country, if I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country. We’re doing it in Ohio in a variety of ways through education, prosecution, and it’s an unbelievably serious problem. I don’t know if you saw the New York Times on Sunday. You know, the quiet death caused by heroin and no one pays any attention to it, these are horrific things. And…
HH: But that’s what Christie said.
JK: I have to think about it.
HH: You can’t stop this if two states, Colorado and Washington State are pumping tons of marijuana into the national marketplace.
JK: You’re making, you know what? You may be right. I just want to give it some thought.
HH: All right, last question, how in the world…
JK: And by the way, that’s, you’ve got to understand the way that I make decisions. When a problem comes up, we look at it. I sit in the room with the best people that can help me to devise a solution. You know, one of the things about this whole business of running for president, or running for governor, running for everything, are all these hypotheticals. I don’t usually deal with hypotheticals in this job. I mean, in Ohio, as you know, we are in a significant recovery. We are addressing the problems with drug addiction and mental illness, and the working poor, reforming our welfare laws, cutting taxes, growing jobs. You get ahead of yourself when you start thinking about how you’re going to do all these things, because I don’t know if you noticed this, Hugh. During a presidential campaign, you hear a lot of things that get said, but then when the person gets elected, you notice how little of what they said they were going to do, they do.
JK: Because they’re answering hypotheticals. And I think the best way to do this is look at a problem, get your best people together and consider your options. That’s how I try to run things, and I’ve been pretty successful at it.
HH: It’ll be interesting for you to run that process on the dope laws, because that’s not a hypothetical. That’s a real choice they have to make at the DOJ like immigration.
JK: No, I understand. I’d have to think about it.
JK: And again, you raise a very, very good question, and you have to balance states’ rights off against what the federal law is.
HH: Now I’ve got to close with this. I get to ask questions in these presidential debates, and the question becomes, they’re all going to think I’m a homer for Kasich because I’m an Ohio guy. So you’ve got to stop playing pranks on me calling from Warren, because you’re going to shatter my credibility on the stage, Governor.
JK: You know what? Everybody needs to take a deep breath and have a little fun once in a while, huh?
HH: (laughing) Thank you so much, and if you change your mind about announcing this week, call me back, would you?
HH: Thank you, Governor John Kasich.
JK: Thank you.
End of interview.