Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me today to discuss defense spending, the sequester and the 2016 election:
HH: So pleased to welcome back the Buckeyes’ state’s great governor, John Kasich. Governor Kasich, welcome back.
JK: Hi, Hugh.
HH: I want to get to a substantial issue, but first, I have to congratulate you on a huge endorsement that I want to play for the audience because when Sir Charles weighs, the world watches.
(Charles Barkley with Dan Patrick)
CB: I’m going to go with a Governor [Kasich] – I keep mispronouncing his name – the governor of Ohio. He’s the guy. John Kasich. He’s the guy that I’m supporting right now. You know, Dan, it’s tough on me to vote for Republican, but he’s the guy I like the most right now. He’s the leader of my clubhouse.
DP: So you’re going to stay Republican then. . .
HH: John Kasich, no one pronounces my name right either, so I don’t care provided they’re voting for me.
JK: Hugh, I have to tell you, I have done a lot of things in politics that Charles Barkley’s comments about me have gotten more attention than anything else that I’ve ever done.
JK: You balance the budget. You create jobs. No one cares. If you got Sir Charles, it’s unbelievable. So all this time I run around and everybody goes “Oh yeah, you’re the guy that Barkley likes.”
HH: I think you ought to put him on your short list for vice presidents.
JK: Oh, what makes you think he isn’t? Of course he’s on the list for vice presidents.
HH: Okay, just checking.
JK: We need some straight-talking.
HH: Yeah, we do. Just checking. I want to check in with you about a Washington Post piece by my friend Jennifer Rubin. I don’t think she understood – I clearly understood when you were talking to me – that when you said, “I don’t care about the sequester,” you meant “I’m going to get rid of the sequester.” Am I correct?
JK: Yeah, of course. Hugh, one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t always complete all your sentences and people try to read into something that’s not there and I’ve no criticsim of Jennifer. She’s given me a lot of fine coverage and good analysis. But no, the reason we have a sequester is because Congress couldn’t balance the budget. And then so then they put these mechanical things in and you would never let one of these mechanical things that they do down there because they can’t do their job stand in the way of building the strongest, national defense that you need. So when I said that, I meant “Ar you kidding me.” So I need to complete my sentences, but the sequester means nothing when it comes to the need to build our national security and at the same time, of course, that’s not inconsistent with over-time being able to get to a balanced budget. This is what you do when you are an architect of where you want the United States to go.
HH: Now I think I knew that because I interviewed you twenty times, and so I know where you are on defense. But in her column, she wrote that you blocked the V-2 bomber. I was unaware of that. Tell me about that decision and whether or not you think it was a good one or bad one in retrospect.
JK: No, it was a good decision. It’s all about what you can afford and my early briefings on the V-2 is that we were going to use it to go inside the Soviet Union in the middle of the nuclear war and drop our nuclear weapons. And I said, “No, let’s limit the production of that. Take the money and build stand-off weapons where you don’t have to pilots at risk and you can still have the kind of lethality that you need. So we saw a lot of that demonstrated in the first Gulf War and now when we take a look at the ability of us to be lethal and to be mobile – whether it’s submarines, whether it’s ships, or whether it’s the bomber fleet – we have the ability to do things to accomplish our mission. So it’s all about how you create the priorities to make sure you have the strongest, national security to meet the threat that you have, and some people talk about infrastructure. I did this interview today, they said there was this airbase, I think, here in Michigan somewhere, and people don’t want it go away. And I said look, if it’s not contributing to the national security, then we can’t have it. We have to make sure that all of our resources are focused on the threat so that we can be as strong as we possibly can.
HH: Earlier today, I spoke with Vice President Cheney. He’s got a new book out with Liz Cheney, Exceptional. And I asked him if we can afford the triad and he said we got to be able to afford it, but the most important part is the submarines and we really have to replace the Ohio-class – it’s the most defensible. So I think that’s kind of the prioritization you’re referring to. You got to do what’s most important first.
JK: Well, you know how I feel about the Navy. The Navy isn’t about an ability to project, and I think, no question, we asked and talk about carriers and we got to see how many are actually are in use right now. You have ten, but how many of them can actually operate. And secondly, not just carriers, but also submarines – the Boomer-class, the Ohio submarine, but also attack submarines. Part of the problem, Hugh, is that it takes so long to do the research and development of actually deploying these things, we got to move faster at this. It used to be like four or five years that it took to reearch and develop and deploy and now it’s like over twenty years. Too many bureaucrats. Too much bureaucracy in that building. You need to understand this that there is also great waste that is located in the Pentagon. It is not just prelimited to the welfare department. So everything needs to be made more efficient and more effective. And of course, the Navy is so important because of its ability to project. It’s ability to do multiple tasks.
HH: Now Governor, when Donald Rumsfield was on this program a few years ago, he said the biggest change between his tours – Sec Def 1 and Sec Def 2 – is the number of lawyers in the building. And the number of civilians has gone through the roof as well. But you can’t get rid of that unless you get a separate authorizing statute to start firing civilian members of the DoD because they’re protected by union rules.
JK: You know, I don’t have all the details, but my understanding is that John McCain has a great amount of procurement reform that people – I just got to sit down and look at all of it – but you can change the procurement system, you need to have live responsibility. And all this business of all these lawyers and everything else running around or people who are not held accountable has to be fixed because if you don’t, you’re going to be spending money on things that actually could go into the building of the core defense systems.
HH: And I want to close by asking you about another surprise. I begin with Sir Charles. This Sunday, in the New York Times, Frank Bruni, who’s probably their most liberal columnist. Superb writer, by the way, and he’s got a new book on the madness of the college admissions process. But he called you the real threat to Hilary Clinton. He’s a leftie. Are you hearing that in other places?
JK: Well, there’s been a lot of people talking about the fact that the Democrats themselves have said that they are worried about me more than anybody else, but you know, in the Bruni column, he talked about, as you remember – I don’t read most of these columns, but I did read this because somebody sent it to me – the bottom-line is he said yeah, but you know, he’s pro-life and he’s pro-defense and all this other stuff. I can’t remember everything he wrote, but he acknowledged my conservative credentials because – let’s make no mistake about it. I’ve balanced budgets and cut taxes more than any sitting governor. School choice. welfare reform. I was the chairman of one of the conference committees on welfare reform when I was in Congress, so I think what he’s saying is that the guy’s got a big heart and he’s pretty good out there. And so I’ll take the praise where I can get it.
HH: Sir Charles and Frank Bruni. Quite a weekend for John Kasich. Governor, always a pleasure. Great to have you back.