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John Kasich: Nothing works if we’re always fighting

April 27, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
Ohio Gov. John Kasich told an audience one year ago that voters faced a choice: a path based on solutions, or one based on paranoia that exploits fear and anger. At the time, Kasich was running for president and today, he’s written a new book called “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” Judy Woodruff sits down with Kasich for a discussion about NAFTA, healing division and President Trump.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: One year ago, as a presidential candidate, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich told an audience that voters faced a choice: one based on solutions and the other based on paranoia, exploiting the fears and anger that could drive America into a ditch.

Now Governor Kasich has written a new book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” It’s the newest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

And Governor Kasich joins me now.

And thank you for being here in our studio.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-Ohio: Such a pleasure to be with you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, thank you.

You’re here to talk about the book. And we’re going to, but I do want the start with our lead story tonight, NAFTA. As you know, President Trump …

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, are we in or out? I can’t quite tell.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, yesterday, the president announced that he was going to terminate U.S. involvement in NAFTA.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But then, a little after that, he said he’s changed his mind, that he wants to renegotiate it.

You have been someone with strong views on NAFTA. You have described yourself as a free trader. You heard the president go after you and after NAFTA during the campaign. But what do you make of what’s going on right now?

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I mean, it’s pretty amazing.

One minute, you say it’s over, and the next minute, you say it isn’t. So, I — that’s kind of not the way I have seen things work throughout my career.

But, it’s — as I asked you, it’s 23 years old. There’s nothing wrong with taking another look at it. But I believe that trade is good. I actually went to the Oval Office with President Obama in the lame-duck trying to get the Pacific trade agreement passed.

I will tell you why. One is that it was good for us economically to be able to work with these fledgling countries. And, secondly, it was good strategically, because we look at the pivot to Asia, right? So, in our own neighborhood, we have Canada and Mexico. I mean, Canada’s been a great friend of ours, and Mexico has great potential.

I mean, their problem is corruption, but have great potential. And I think these relationships have benefited all of us. And there’s never anything wrong with taking a look.

But I hope it doesn’t just go away. The idea they want to tweak it, look at it, talk, I’m all in favor of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s not just the president who has a problem with NAFTA.

Earlier on the show, we interviewed a congressman from your state of Ohio, Tim Ryan, a Democrat, who says NAFTA has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country. He talked about how the jobs that have replaced those jobs, those salaries are lower.

How do you — what do you say to those …

GOV. JOHN KASICH: I don’t think he’s right.

I think that NAFTA, on balance, has been slightly our way. But it’s also resulted, I think, in the ability to — look, part of the thing about trade is, it makes everybody get better because there’s a competition.

Now, if a country is going to cheat, if a country is going to not follow the rules, then I think we need an expedited process, so that people don’t lose their jobs once the bureaucracy goes through the process of hearing the case. I’m all in favor of that.

But the idea that — you know, that America should withdraw, lock the doors, pull down the blinds, and all the problems we have in this country is because of NAFTA, I think is such an overstatement. I don’t agree with it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about the book.

You take the reader on a tour of the country during your campaign last year. And among other things, you say that fear was the driving emotion of last year’s election.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you mean by that?

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I grew up in a town where people — if the wind blew the wrong way, people found themselves out of work.

So, there’s a lot of people who are either underemployed, unemployed or their kids can’t get a job. And there’s a lot of reasons for it. And so there’s two ways to deal with it. You can either tell people, well, you don’t have something because somebody else took it, and I’m a strongman, and I can fix it.

Or you can look at them and say, I understand your problems. They’re complicated. And we’re going to work our way out of them.

But, today, people look for, I like a pill, I would like an app, everything will be great, just fix it tomorrow.

And it’s not that simple. Now, we need an entirely new way of training workers, Judy, of educating our young people. And that’s a long, long interview which some day I would love to do with you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: But, at the end, you want to bring people together.

And it’s not just a book about politics. It’s also a book about the fact that we all need to start listening to one another. We can’t be divided. Nothing works if we’re always fighting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and along those lines, you say — on Election Day, you said America chose, I think you called it the path to darkness.

What needs to be done from keeping Americans from doing that again? And, by the way, the people who voted for Donald Trump, all the polls are showing they would stick with him.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, it’s early. I mean, we’re only 100 days in.

And, look, I went and saw him. They invited me to the White House. I spent a large — a long meeting with him. And he listened to the things that I had to say. And it was very, very cordial.

So, I root for him. I don’t want a president — I root for every president. You know, that doesn’t mean you’re silent. It doesn’t mean — you can praise them when they do a good job, but you can criticize them when they do a poor job.

But I think the answer is, for all of us — I will give you one little lesson. Why doesn’t everybody every day read spend at least 10 minutes reading something they don’t agree with, so we can begin talking to another — one again?

And I believe that the strength of this country comes from the bottom up. In other words, we have to work to solve problems where we live, rather than worrying about what the heck is happening in Washington all the time.

What about your neighbor, what about your family, what about your community? Do something to become a healer and a lifter. And, in that process, I think we can get America back on the strong, right, positive track, which is what I believe Americans really want.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I think a lot of people would agree with you. At the same time, they would ask, is it realistic?

And with regard to the president, what has he done? I mean, just in picking up on your theme, finally, what has he done that you have seen is going to unify the country and raise it to a higher point?

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I do think the strike in Syria was a positive.

And I will tell you why. I went the Munich, at the invitation of Senator McCain, to the defense conference. And a lot of world leaders were like, what is going on with America?

That action, which can be interpreted many different days for whatever reason, I saw it as a way the reassure our friends and allies and leaders around the world that we’re not going away, that we are going to play a role in international affairs. That was very good.

I don’t like the knock-and-talk policy, where we’re going into homes and checking things, and even in some case with ICE dividing families. We don’t need any more broken families.

I will say I’m glad that I’m not hearing so much about Twitter anymore. But, listen, when I was in the White House, Judy — this is an interesting story. When I became governor, I had a rocky time. And my wife said to me, you’re the father of Ohio. Why don’t you act like it?

And I told the president that story. And I think he will get better. At least we should hope and pray that he will be a unifier. That’s what we need in America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we hope to have another conversation with you. There’s so much to talk about.

The book is “Two Paths: America Divided or United.”

Governor John Kasich, thank you.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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