Near the end of the John Kasich interview at the Conway Daily Sun last Friday, I asked him what was a president’s single greatest responsibility. “To lead,” he said, “using the bully pulpit.” Then he said his wife told him that, as governor, he was the “father of Ohio” and he should act like it. That got a chuckle from everyone present. “You have to carry yourself a certain way.”
Okay. We were all young and stupid once
Most would argue the president’s single greatest responsibility is to protect the nation as commander-in-chief, and that’s the answer I was looking for. His “To lead” answer could, I suppose, be manifested by “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” as federal officials must swear to do.
Governor John Kasich seems like a nice guy, easy to talk to and easy to like. As a presidential candidate, however, I found him underwhelming — too nice, maybe. He lacked steel. His answers to most questions during hour-plus interview were vague, avoiding specifics. He couldn't be pinned down and I’m not sure if that was because he lacked sufficient knowledge of the issues or because he wanted to remain nebulous. I suspect the latter.
After participating in the South Carolina debate the night before, he arrived on a big purple tour bus with “Kasich” emblazoned on the side. When one of us zeroed in on something, he’d often say he couldn’t remember and call on one of the handlers named Chris who stood off behind me. Chris either didn’t answer, or if he did it was in such a low tone I couldn’t hear him. My digital voice recorder didn’t pick him up either.
My first question was about education, which had been brought up earlier. I told him I started teaching before there was a federal Department of Education and we got along just fine. He asked what I taught and I told him “US History, civics, and economics.” I said I retired early because there was so much paperwork and so many meetings required by federal regulations that I only spend half my time actually teaching, which is what I loved. I asked, would he cut the federal government by eliminating the US Department of Education? Well, he wouldn’t be pinned down. He said there had been votes on it in Congress but it never passed. Sun publisher Mark Guerringue pressed him saying, “So you would eliminate the Department of Education?”
Kasich paused, then said, “There would still be a framework there.” Then another long pause, after which he said, “I ain’t sayin’ any more than that. I am not gonna be Republican is gonna sit here and say ‘I’m going to eliminate the federal Department of Education.’ Sorry.”
“How about vouchers?” I said.
“But they’re not going to have any… The-the money’s gonna come here, okay?” Another pause. “I-I-I’m not gettin’ in… I’m not — I’m not goin’ there. I’m not goin’ to be… I’ve been through this once. I’m not havin’ people runnin’ around sayin’ ‘Oh they want to kill education!’ Ahh, vouchers and all that? I’m all for it. We voucher everything, ahh, vouchered in Ohio, ah, charter schools, but I want you to run the schools. If I’m president, I want you — I don’t want to run the schools…”
“And we could,” I said.
“Yeah,” He said, “Well, I hope. I would hope you would. I’m not — I mean I’m tellin’ ya, these schools are tough to change…”
“Oh yeah,” I said.
Then he went on about legislation in Ohio that allowed state takeover of under-functioning schools and other matters. I felt satisfied to pin him down on his support for vouchers which, if passed federally, would effectively kill the teachers’ unions — the Democrat Party’s biggest single funders — and free public schools from their stranglehold.
Another questioner brought up Iran and I followed saying: “…When the Iran deal passed, it looked like Republicans in the Senate pretty much gave it to [Obama] by saying we don’t need a two-thirds majority vote to approve this and passed a bill saying…”
Senators Menendez and Corker wrote bill that caved in on Iran
“I called for that,” Kasich interrupted. “I said there was a way, I thought, that you could avoid the filibuster… but for some reason the Republicans didn’t do it. I can’t answer that question…” Then he called on Chris again who didn’t have an answer either
“If it’s a treaty,” I said, “the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote by the Senate, but Republicans passed a bill which allowed it to happen with a simple majority.”
“No,” he said, “I think what happened was they couldn’t have a vote on it because the Democrats were filibustering…” He said it was wrong to have an agreement without Congress voting on it, but he avoided addressing the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to approve or disapprove a treaty. “They didn’t have enough votes to get a vote,” he said.
“With a two-thirds majority,” I repeated. “Advise and consent…”
“Yeah,” he conceded. “It’s the way I’ve always thought it should be done.”
“That’s what the Constitution says…” I said yet again.
“…But they would never get to the point where they could have a vote because of the filibuster.”
“So they basically gave in,” I said, “by allowing it to be called something other than a treaty that would require…”
“No,” he interrupted again, “They tried but they couldn’t get the votes. Now they could have used the mechanism to say, no, it’s gotta be a 51 vote that gets us to the next issue but they couldn’t get it done, and I don’t know why they didn’t change that. I can’t answer it.”
Well, I’ll answer it even if Kasich won’t. I believe he was intentionally giving Republicans an out by citing procedural smokescreens and Democrat filibusters that blurred the Senate’s constitutional responsibility. Majority Republicans were complicit in allowing President Obama to circumvent the Constitution by calling a treaty an “Executive Agreement.” Kasich’s fellow establishment Republicans avoided a confrontation with an out-of-control executive as they have on so many other issues in the past seven years — either because they haven’t got the stones, or because they simply lack principles.
podcast of interview
That’s why the Republican base is so sick of the party establishment. That’s why they’re supporting outsiders like Trump and Cruz, and not insiders like Ohio Governor John Kasich.