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John Kasich on The Drive with Steve Jaxon

Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich joined Steve Jaxon for a conversation about his new book, "Two Paths: America United or Divided" which included his thoughts about the 2016 election For more about Governor Kasich, visit his Twitter page.


Steve Jaxon:
Thanks for riding with us. This is an honor, I’m very excited about this one. Our next guest is the Governor of Ohio. First elected in 2010, re-elected in 2014, of course a member of the Republican Party, and of course a major player in last year’s mayhem with the Republican Party. I call it mayhem, I’m a Democrat, but I tell ya, the one man that stood out to me in that field of 16 or 17 people during all those debates and such, and the whole campaign, was our next guest, the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich. John, thank you so much for joining us.

John Kasich:
Steve, it’s good to be with you. It was mayhem, you were chuckling when you used the term, but what can you say, it was pretty unbelievable.

SJ:
It really was, and, you know, it’s almost like, good grief! Maybe they should have done more debates and had, like, four people or five people for each debate, in the Republican Party.

JK:
You know, that might have been a good way to do it. You know, the debates were really, kind of, I guess, in a way, … I mean, it’s no way to pick a President,

two paths

The cover of Gov. Kasich's book.

SJ:
I agree.

JK:
They’re just sound bites, and all that. So, I think what happened was the networks really were making a lot of money, ok, because of this. And, you know, money trumps just about anything else, unfortunately sometimes in life. And I just don’t think it’s a very good process, not because I didn’t win, I mean, that’s not the issue,

SJ:
Of course.

JK:
So we’ve got to learn so we can actually understand what people are for and so we get to know them better, rather than a sound bite mentality.

SJ:
Exactly, and that was frustrating for everyone, I believe, Democrats, Republicans alike, independents, I mean the whole process. But I’ll tell you, you were the one guy I was rooting for and even though I’m a Democrat, you became my favorite Republican, you know, and I’m telling you, I was hoping that the GOP and the voters would listen to what you had to say. But then again, 17 people talking and it’s all sound bites. So, you know…
JK:
Well, listen, I mean, I have no sour grapes about it. I don’t know if I even mentioned, I have this book out called Two Paths: America Divided or United.

SJ:
I’ve been talking about it all day and we’re going to get into that.

JK:
The thing is, you know what’s happened, Steve, is that we’re not opening our minds to anybody else. We are, I’m not saying all of us, but increasingly not tolerant about other people’s point of view, and here’s the thing. You don’t have to agree with somebody to show them respect and to look for common purpose. Because without that, how are we going to fix anything in this country? And not just politics, but how about where we live, things that face us in our own communities. So we’ve got to figure out a way to respect one another, and to realize that we want to treat our neighbor the same way we want our neighbor to treat us. I mean, it’s just not that complicated and we’ve got to get back up on the horse again to unite the country.

SJ:
I couldn’t agree more. And before we get into the book, which is fascinating, I’ve only been able to read about a quarter of it, but I will continue.
You’re a native of Pittsburgh, but you spent much of your adulthood in Ohio, specifically Columbus. You served nine terms as a member of the US House of Representatives and that included 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee and six years as chairman of the House Budget Committee. And you were key figure in the passage of both the 1996 welfare reform legislation and the balanced budget act the next year.

JK:
I’ll tell you another thing, Steve, that’s in the book, that I don’t know, it’s worth pointing out, that I also teamed up with Ron Dellums, you know, the former Mayor of Oakland who is a friend of mine, to limit the production of the B2 bomber. They used to call us the “odd couple” you know, but there’s a perfect example of Ron and I coming together on something we agreed with while we may have disagreed with so many other things, yet we became friends through it. Every once in a while he calls me or I call him and, you know, we’re buddies. And that’s the way it ought to be.

SJ:
Yeah, I agree, and that is very cool. There’s a lot about your history and your current politics and public service that, as I said, kind of blows me away, I’m so impressed, as a Democrat, with you as a politician. That’s why last year I was going, “come on John, come on,” you know? But look what we got!

Before we get into the book again, give me just your thoughts on just the last 100 days.

JK:
Well, look, there’s some things I agree with and there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with, and I did not like the talk, I didn’t see it but I saw some clips and I heard some commentary, on the President’s talk on Saturday night.

SJ:
Right.

JK:
We don’t need any more division. The campaign is over and now we’ve got to focus ourselves on what it is that we can solve together. So we’re going to have this health care bill, right? Now I do believe we need significant reform of Obamacare but you can’t reform it to the point where all these folks who need health insurance all of a sudden lose it.

SJ:
Exactly!

JK:
A friend of mine right now, in Seattle, his daughter is really terrific, she has Lupus. And he said, let me tell you, John, if it wasn’t for this exchange, my daughter wouldn’t have health insurance. So, you know, it doesn’t mean that you get rid of the whole thing, it means you have to improve it. And in order to do that you have to work together. I don’t know how it’s going to go down there.

SJ:
I’m looking at Politico today, politico.com, and it said, John Kasich, the Ohio governor, doesn’t quite know where he’s headed, or where the Republican party is headed, either.

JK:
Well, I think it’s both parties, Steve. Let me tell you, that the Democrats right now get their energy from Republican failures. “Oh, they screwed up. Oh, they kicked the ball out of bounds. Isn’t this great?” Contrast that with the Warriors. Just think if the Warriors playing basketball, and the only thing that got them excited is if somebody kicked the ball out of bounds as opposed to having an offensive plan. And I think the Democrats are not sure what they are. The Republicans now with President Trump, who has represented a lot of different positions as the Republican party has ever had, people are scratching their heads and saying, “what does this party stand for?” As a result, we’re going to see a growth, a continuing growth of independents in this country, and I think they’re going to have a profound impact on public policy and it will, over time, happen, not maybe today but I think the parties are becoming, frankly, a little less relevant.

SJ:
It seems that way, and a lot of people besides you are talking that way. The book is, Two Paths: American United or Divided. Tomorrow night at Book Passage at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Governor John Kasich will be doing a book signing that begins at seven o’clock.

You know, going through the book, your passion for politics and public service, apparently, you mention, was born out of an invitation you received to sit down with Richard Nixon after you wrote a letter to the White House. You were a Freshman in college. Tell us about that.

JK:
Well, Steve, I was a Freshman at Ohio State. I was in college for a couple of weeks and things… I had some things I wanted to fix and so I asked for a meeting with the President of the University. And, uh, I finally got in to see him and I looked around his office and it was impressive, and I said to him, I’m undecided here, I had been at Ohio State like less than a month, and I don’t know what I want to do but maybe this is the job for me. What do you do? So he tells me about his financial responsibilities and academic and he tells me the next day he’s going to go down and see Richard Nixon. And I told him there’s a number of things I’d like to talk to him about also, could I go with you? And he said, “No,” and I said if I write a letter would you give it to him? And he said, “Yeah, I guess I could do that.” So I wrote a letter to the President and I told him, you know, gave some thoughts on some things, and I signed it, you know, “Sincerely, John Kasich,” and yes, if you want to discuss it further, let me know and I’ll come see you. And a couple of weeks later I got a letter from the office of the President, the White House, and he invited me to to Washington to go down there and talk to him. And I did and it was pretty interesting. I spent 20 minutes in the Oval Office...

SJ:
Wow!

JK:
...as a first quarter, eighteen-year-old Freshman. And all that led to more things and more things. And I was elected to the State Senate when I was twenty-six, and then I got elected to Congress when I was thirty years old. And, you know, I didn’t really have any relatives in Ohio but, you know, I just kind of made my own way with scores of volunteers who for whatever reason were attracted to the things that I wanted to do. I was a thirty-year-old Congressman. That was really something!

SJ:
Yeah, that is something! I can’t even imagine. We’re talking to Ohio Governor John Kasich, former GOP presidential candidate. The book is “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” the book signing tomorrow at seven o’clock at Book Passage in the Ferry Building.

In the book you write about how when you first entered the campaign last year, Jeb Bush was basically the candidate by which all of the campaigns compared themselves with, Donald Trump being almost an after-thought. Talk about the Trump phenomenon and how all this happened.

JK:
Well Steve, I think what happened is, we still know that there are a lot of people in the country who are hurting. They’re either unemployed, under-employed or their kids can’t get jobs and they’re looking for a way out of this situation. They’re kind of fearful about things and I think you had Donald Trump who basically said, “I’m a strong man and I can fix all this, just trust me.”

SJ:
Yeah.

JK:
There is no such thing as simple solutions to very complicated problems. I was out there as well and I would say to people, “Look, I know there’s problems out here, I understand that I grew up in an environment like this, and, but we can get this done.” But I wasn’t very well known and I didn’t have a sound bite. So he connected with people on that basis and was able to win.

SJ:
Yeah, it’s, I’m sorry, it’s still, I can’t get my head around it, but, wow!

JK:
And what was interesting is that I beat him by, I don’t know, 11, 12, 13 points in the Ohio primary...

SJ:
Right.

JK:
...and yet he came in and he won in Ohio (in the general election, -ed.) in appealing to a lot of these folks that live areas that are really struggling. And I think there was a frustration with President Obama and they looked at Hillary and they didn’t like her and they thought, “Well, we’ll give this guy a chance, and we just hate politics and politicians and let’s try something else.” That’s what I think’s happened.

SJ:
You specifically mention in the book about Trump’s Chicago rally that became pretty infamous. It was ultimately cancelled because of protests and riots. You mentioned that that’s a turning point that changed your perception of Donald Trump.

JK:
Well, look, I had heard a lot of things and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You know, I was like a Ugandan swimmer in the Olympics, so far in the outside lane that people could barely see me. And to make a long story short, I was growing increasingly frustrated, but...

SJ:
Sure.

JK:
...I’ve told people, I’ve spoken to and told people and I mean it, that I’m not going to support any politicans who are dividers. I’m not going to do it. I don’t think that’s good for our country and it’s not good for the people who need to be helped and who need to have some hope. So it was a number of things, public policies, personal attacks, a number of things that convinced me that I just wasn’t going to be able to support him. And now, you know, he’s President. Now look, when somebody is President, you’ve got to root for him just like you root for the pilot on your airplane.

SJ:
Yeah, you bet!

JK:
When he does a good thing, he did a good thing with the Dreamers, I’m going to praise him. But if he does something that’s not right, I’m going to criticize him. But I’ve been that way all of my career, regardless of who is President.

SJ:
Towards the end of the book you describe a call that you received from Donald Trump, attempting to get your endorsement. What was that conversation like?

JK:
Well, he asked me if I could support him and I said, “Donald, the problem is that we’re like two companies that people want us to merge, but we have a different vision and a different value system. And I made a speech about this that I call The Two Paths, where I talk about the positive way to approach these things and I’d like you to read it. And if you like it, then call me back and we can discuss it further. And that was sort of the end of it.

SJ:
Wow. Wow. OK, here, to me, is the elephant in the room, or the studio. You did the CNN town hall, you’ve got the book, you’re doing a lot of appearances and such. Again, folks, Ohio Governor...

JK:
And I’m on this show, right. The question is, am I running for President? The answer is, I have no clue what I’m going to be doing. I have eighteen months as Governor and I just don’t know. I wrote the book because I see the drift in our culture. I can tell people how we got there and why, where we are today and what it is we’ve got to do to get out of it. It’s just that simple. Look, at the end of my term, I will have held public office, people are going to flinch when I say this, for thirty years. And I really don’t know if I’m going to make an effort to try to pursue anything. I don’t know.

SJ:
I understand.

JK:
I know that I’ve just got to see what comes my way.

SJ:
I understand completely and that’s pretty much the answer that I expected. I just personally, and again, as a Democrat, hope that you do run in 2020. But either way, as you said, you’ve got eighteen months left as governor of Ohio.

The book is “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” published by Thomas Dunne Books, it’s available now everywhere. And again, tomorrow night, you’re in California. You’re up in Seattle right now, right?

JK:
I’m in Seattle right now, I just got done doing a town hall at Amazon. I’m on my way to a signing. I’ve been doing radio and television, I just did a television hit, and I’m headed to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles and then I’m going to head home for a little while. I’ll do a couple more stops a little more down the road. But it’s been a lot of fun. And I’m getting worn down a little bit, I’m getting a little tired, we’ve been going like crazy.

SJ:
Yeah, I can’t imagine. You and I are the same age, Governor, so I can’t imagine. I mean, I sit here in my chair for three hours a day.

JK:
You’re a young guy, a young man!

SJ:
So are you, Governor!

JK:
I know! Steve, I really enjoyed it. You’re a classy guy and thank you for letting me be on the air.

SJ:
Thank you so much, we’ll see you tomorrow night at Book Passage, San Francisco at the Ferry Building. All right, thank you.

(He went a little longer than his people wanted him to, and that was cool.)

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