Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me today on the program to discuss the state of the race:
HH: I’m pleased to begin this hour with Ohio governor John Kasich, first time I’ve talked to him since his surprise second-place finish in New Hampshire. Congratulations, Governor. I don’t think many people saw that coming except I did predict it on air ofte.
JK: Well, I appreciate that and I’m glad to be with you. I think I’m actually in North Carolina. I’m headed to South [Carolina]. It’s right there on those counties right on the border, so I’m getting ready to do another town hall.
HH: Well, I got ask you about the pope and Donald Trump at the start of this. Here’s a montage of the pope [saying] he may not be Christian. Donald responded earlier today, this is a montage of what he said.
DT: The pope was Mexico, do you know that? Does anyone know that? He said negative things about me because the Mexican government convinced him that Trump is not a good guy. He actually said that maybe I’m not a good Christian or something. It’s unbelievable which is really not a nice thing to say. If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS which is as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope will have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.
HH: So John Kasich, you said on Saturday night’s debate. This is nuts, this is crazy, and it just got crazier today.
JK: Look, I’m pro-pope.
JK: Okay, just plain and simple.
JK: I’m pro-pope, honestly, Hugh.
HH: I know you are.
JK: I don’t everything that the pope said but this guy – he was down there in Mexico and he was going to some places where the poverty and the crime and the drug cartels and the gangs are so vicious and you know, the guy’s amazing. He has modeled after St. Francis and I don’t know everything he said, but I don’t really care what he said. I’m pro-pope.
HH: Alright, let me move on then to pro-Kasich. A lot of your supporters now see you have a path to Michigan, to Super Tuesday. You got some strength in some of the Southern states. You got Ohio coming up on the 15th. Are you in on the way to Cleveland, John Kasich?
JK: I think we’re going to be in for the long-haul, Hugh, and I got the endorsements of the two of the major newspapers in South Carolina. I was just endorsed here by one of the biggest newspapers in the state and this Charleston Post and Courier. Both of them, two of the major newspapers in the state. The Charleston paper just this afternoon, it was great, and the state newspaper here, I guess, was just a few days ago. And that’s really great, our town halls have been fantastic. I just went to Clemson, we’re traveling all around the state. I was at Clemson for a significant town hall. Hugh, I’m really just having a great time talking about conservative principles, balancing budgets, cutting taxes, restoring common-sense to our regulatory environment, but I’m also telling people that if I’m president, I can shift welfare and education and job training and healthcare for the poor back to the states. Everything isn’t going to come out of Washington. Some guy is not going to just ride in a white stallion. Hugh, remember when you and I both grew up in similar towns? We didn’t sit around waiting for a president to show up. Our towns got fixed because the glue that holds us together.
HH: That’s true.
JK: . . . And our ability to roll up our sleeves.
HH: That’s absolutely true.
JK: . . . And solve problems and connect one another.
HH: There is one problem said that is uniquely the president. After I’m talking with you, I’m going to talk with Col. Bill Edmonds, active lieutenant colonel in the Army, he’s written a book on moral injury and trauma and post-traumatic-stress disorder.
JK: Oh boy.
HH: Our veterans are uniquely the president’s responsibility and our active-duty [soldiers].
HH: So what is the solution there?
JK: Actually, I have responsibility as governor and what we’ve done is, when a veteran comes home, if they drove a truck from Kandahar to Kabul, they can go get a license. We give them their CDL. If they were an EMT overseas and they come back, they are an EMT in Ohio. They ought to be in America. If they had significant training, we give them free community college credit. And Hugh, I think the other thing that we need to do is make sure that a veteran can get healthcare anywhere they want. If you’re a combat veteran, you can go where ever you want to get your healthcare and this entire VA is going to have to be restructured. And we’re going to have get some of the best minds and appoint somebody to head that organization that will have instead credibility while reforming it and finally, we absolutely need to connect the veterans when they return home with the veteran service organization and the people who will work in the area understanding where the jobs are because the veterans are the most valuable employees we have and we’ve got to connect the veterans with available jobs because no veteran should ever be homeless and no veteran should ever be unemployed. Period. End of story. Do you agree with that?
HH: I agree [with] that, but the VA seems intractable. It seems almost impossible to change. They’ve tried.
JK: They have to be restructured and has to be broken down. It’s too centralized, and if somebody said, can people go in to change the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy changes them. And the guy who’s the current head of the VA, he ran Proctor & Gamble. He’s a graduate of West Point, and it’s clear that the bureaucracy is so strong that there is so little accountability, so little line responsibility, we need to completely re-do the Veterans Administration. It’s just simply not going to work the way it is currently structured.
HH: Alright, let me ask you about military spending. Ted Cruz began the week on this show and he gave a speech on the Yorktown calling for ten carrier groups. You earlier said 15 carrier groups and 525,000 soldiers and an expanded Marine Corps., 1,500 tacticals, the Ohio-class replacement. One of the hits that you’ve been taking is that you’re anti-defense.
HH: What are you telling the military crowds in South Carolina?
JK: Are you kidding me? First of all, I was there to support the Reagan build-up and let me also tell you, Hugh. I was one of the people that found the hammers, the screwdrivers, and the wrenches that cost tens of thousands of dollars. And there is no excuse for that inside the Pentagon. It took 22-and-a-half years to field one of the weapons systems when it should be taking less than ten. There are almost 800,000 people in the Department of Defense who are performing bureaucratic functions. You know what that means? That means a lot of things that don’t get done that should get done, right? In addition to that, I was one of the people of the people that helped create the special operations command, and I also was involved in Goldwater-Nichols to make sure that the services work together and that the combatant commanders have the resources they need to fight the war, not have to go to the Pentagon and beg for it. So I have always been for strong defense, but I was part of a group of people called the Teahawks, that we are hawks, we want a strong military, but we will not tolerate waste inside of that building and we need major procurement and reform, and I think you know that.
HH: Oh, I agree with you 100-percent, I actually like the guy who’s there right now and I think he’s a good Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, and I think that technocrats who understand how to do procurement reform are absolutely necessary. It’s just resources are going to be necessary, they are going to be hard to pay for–
JK: I’m going to put it to you, too, I have in my budget proposal, I have a $100 billion more in defense.
JK: I’d freeze everything in non-defense discretionary and put a $100 billion in defense and I’m convinced we can never clean it all up. The Pentagon is so hard to reform, but we have to do the best we can because then the resources don’t get into the hands of the people on the frontlines, so we got to dramatically to increase the defense spending while at the same time making sure the money goes to where it’s needed.
HH: Last question in this area. When you mentioned earlier with the VA, you have to have top-to-bottom reform, part of the problem is, and I know this from the Merit System Protection Board in OPM days, you can’t fire anyone who’s a federal civil servant. Do we need civil service reform? It’s not very sexy, but we got to be able to move people.
JK: I think that we absolutely have to take a look at civil service reform and the ability to make sure that the CEOs wherever they ware inside the government, they need to be able to have better control over their workforce, and at the same time, my judgment I think it’s important that we don’t just spend our time pummeling bureaucrats because if we do it, I don’t know if we’re going to get the change we want. We got to inspire them to understand that your doing your job that is vital to our men and women who return from defending us, sow we got to give people a chance to be lifted, but then we got to have responsibility and accountability. No question about it.
HH: You took over the Youngstown schools because they could not changed themselves right?
JK: Well, we’re in court on that because the unions are trying to stop us.
HH: Well that’s–
JK: Exactly right. And inside of our operations, we try to control things the best we can. We have the lowest number of state employees in 30 years, really without firing anybody, but we do hold people accountable when they don’t do their job, but what you can find is that if you can encourage people and inspire people to understand that their jobs are important, sometimes you can get a little farther with sugar than you can with vinegar.
HH: Let’s talk then about where sugar isn’t going to work and that’s a Supreme Court vacancy. My position is that we ought not hold any hearings on any nominee because I don’t want to put anyone through this that doesn’t have to go through this becaue they are not going to get confirmed, but here’s–
HH: Correct. I’m glad to hear that you agree with that, but here’s what Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday about this.
HC: Republicans say they’ll reject anyone President Obama nominates no matter how qualified, some are even saying he doesn’t have the right to nominate anyone as if he’s somehow not the real president.
HC: That’s in keeping what we heard all along, isn’t it? Many Republicans talk in coded, racial language about takers and losers. They demonize President Obama and encourage the ugliest impulses of the paranoid fringe. This kind of hatred and bigotry has no place in our politics or our country.
HH: I find that reprehensible, John Kasich. I oppose the president’s nominating anyone, he’s got the absolute authority to nominate, I will oppose whoever he will nominate, but I am not doing that because he’s an African-American, I do not play to the fringe, she doesn’t name anyone, and she uses us of using encoded racial language. What does that do to the country?
JK: Well, sometimes she says things that just astounds me. That’s jsut an outrageous series of sentences. I guess she just feels she can’t stand up and fight Bernie good enough so she mind as well just calling names and racism and everything else to Republicans. I think that was just outrageous and out-of-line. My position on the court was real simple, the president pushes through Obamacare without a Republican vote, he then uses his executive orders and tries to get his way around Congress. He is largely responsible for the division, and they are not going to confirm anybody that he’s going to send. So why doesn’t he just withhold and wait until we have the presidential election. IF the Democrats win, they get a liberal. If a Republican wins, they’ll get a conservative, and the people can have a two-fer, they can vote for a president, and then they can vote for judge, isn’t that great?
HH: That is the way to go. Now let me ask you though, John Kasich, about civility. It is sometimes missing on our side, it’s always missing on their side. They agree not to talk her server and that she’s the Willie Sutton of classified data, but other than that, they throw chairs at each other, and that Saturday night debate was pretty heated. Is the country ever going to get back to civility as – you can have tough arguments and argue them bluntly as I did with Dean Heller, I threw a chair at him, but it was not personal, it was about policy.
JK: I think that if we don’t, we’re not going to fix our problems. There’s no way we’re going to fix Social Security if the two parties are at war and we’ve now created some sort of a a parliamentary system. It just isn’t going to work. Reagan had, I don’t know you remember, the “boll weevils,” the conservative Southern Democrats. When I was chairman of the Budget Committee, I had the “blue dog” Democrats, the conservatives. You can’t do everything with one party in this country. And all this name-calling and “you’re a liar, no you’re a liar, no you’re liar,” that’s just not the way to run politics, and if that’s what it’s going to take for me to win, then it’s not worth winning, and I remain positive and look, if somebody wants to pick on me, I’m going to defend myself. As somebody tells me about their record compared to yours, I will do that, but I’m not going to get into these low-level personal attacks and innuendos and with what Hillary said, was frankly worse than anything I heard on the stage on Saturday.
HH: Oh it was, accusing people of racism is about as low as you can go, that’ really, because it’s such a reprehensible sin to be racist.
JK: Some people say, “He’s not president,” I don’t know what she’s talking about.
HH: Neither do I. So let me close by asking you about the lifter campaign is obviously experiencing in polls. I don’t know if you’re going to have enough to come in third or fourth or second in South Carolina or who knows surprise completely, but you got a lift going on in the country. To what do you attribute that most?
JK: I think a good policy is good conservative policy, good ideas, good record, and I think people are saying you know, he’s got a good heart. I think, Hugh, in politics, it takes two things, I think it takes a good head and a good heart, and if people sense you can have them both, then I think you’re a winner. I don’t care if you’re running for school board, whether you’re running for mayor, or whether you’re running for president of the Untied States. And I’m finally getting people to hear my message and my record and what I’ve done and bringing people together and I think that’s working. I’m with you, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ll tell you what, I’m having the time of my life, and one of my buddies said to me, “Hey John, one day you were at one-percent in the polls, one-percent and you went to a hundred in a row (laughs) and never paid any mind to it. How did you do it?” It’s real simple, one foot in front of the other.
HH: Alright, last question, you’ve got these teenage girls. They live in a completely different culture than you and I grew up in, a culture of predators, a culture of pornography, a culture of online hostility and terrible things being said. How are you dealing with that? I don’t have teenagers anymore. I don’t have to worry about that, but what are you doing?
JK: Oh, I’m not aware of anybody attacking my daughters and I would certainly hope that won’t happen. We try not to get them out there. They did one interview on CNN in the back of our campaign bus and I’ll tell you why I had them speak, because I wanted a tape that they could have forever a real memory and it’s going to last and they are going to look at it in 20 years and show their kids. But we try to keep them out of it, and we’re going to try to make every effort to do that, and there have to be some ground rules in this business because we don’t live in the jungle. This is not like we’re in some kind of arena where anything goes.
HH: I agree, but I’m talking about the culture at large. The culture at large is very poisonous on teenagers.
JK: Well, the problem with the online, is you worry that kids get bullied, they get made fun of. This gets down to not just parents, but teachers, neighbors, grandparents, just keeping an eye out. It’s one of the things–Hugh you remember living back in Ohio and you did something and the neighborhood called your mother.
JK: . . . And your mother give you the old spanking. We need more of that in our culture. More people sticking their nose into other people’s business and I mean in a positive way.
HH: Governor John Kasich, good to talk you, I’ll talk to you in Houston next week across the daises, expect hard questions, not easy ones, but I know you like those, so I appreciate that, I’ll see you down in Houston.
JK: Alright sir, be well. Thank you, bye.
HH: Be well.
End of Interview