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Margaret: Welcome to “Firing Line,” where we aim
to renew the tradition of the William F. Buckley’s
Firing Line for a new generation.
For long-time admirers of the program, rest assure,
I plan to honor the high standards
Buckley set and will never compromise content for
Throughout firing line’s 33-year history, this program’s
host would evaluate the state of the modern American
conservative movement, its progress, pitfalls,
its successes, and now in 2018, its survivors and
Today, my guest will join that tradition.
Ohio’s 69th governor, john Kasich is every
liberal’s favorite conservative and every
conservative’s Never Trumper.
He came to Washington amidst Reagan’s conservative
revolution and culminated his 18 years in congress in the Gingrich
As chairman of the house budget committee, he worked
across the aisle to balance the budget and reform welfare.
Some have said he got out of congress
when the going was good. As governor of Ohio, he claims
the conservative success of cutting income taxes and
balancing budgets, which helped win him re-election
with nearly 64% of the vote. A former television
host — I’ll be asking him for notes in a minute here –
a wall street banker, a son of a postman,
and two-time presidential candidate –
you know what they say about the third time. He’ll be stepping down next
year and promises me he will not go quietly into the
night. Thank you for being on “firing line” to reflect on the
conservative movement at this moment in history,
What does conservative mean to you now?
John: well, what it has always meant which is
government as a last resort, not as first resort,
but government is necessary at times, and I
Have never really kind of been an ideologue.
I always operated on the basis of what makes common
sense to me, but I really became a republican and I
guess a conservative from the standpoint of I don’t
like standing in lines, I don’t like big institutions
getting in my way, or whether it is a big government or
big business or big anything, because I like to be a
free bird, and so that is really the reason why I’m a
conservative and what does it mean today?
It means again, government is the last resort for me,
as I’m the governor.
When you are a congressman, that’s just — it is a good
job and I actually operated in many respects as a kind
of CEO when I ran the budget committee, because I
fought to balance the budget ten years of my life, but
as the governor of the state, that’s where you really
set the policy
Margaret: When you came to Washington, the debt was —
when you balanced the budget in 1996, 1997, that was
around $5 trillion.
When you —
John: Down. We actually paid down some of the publicly-held debt.
Margaret: Projected in 2028, to be much higher.
John: So the debt is skyrocketing, and the debt
is going to choke our children.
There’s no question about it.
Margaret: You have in Ohio a balanced budget amendment that’s mandated
by law. Hypothetically speaking, if you were president Kasich,
would you support a federal balanced budget amendment?
I have been pushing it, traveling the country for it.
You want to hear the weirdest thing?
John: I have told legislators all over the country that
we need to have a balanced budget requirement.
Guess who fight it?
Liberals who want to keep spending money, and
conservatives who say oh, no, no, no if we go to some
kind of convention, then all hell’s going to break loose and
people will be breaking into our homes, taking our
furniture and stealing our guns.
It’s been the right and the left that has prevented us
from imposing a discipline on the congress of the
Margaret: Let’s talk about the criticism from the
conservatives about the balanced budget amendment.
Their concern is spending will keep going up.
The balanced budget amendment wouldn’t actually attack
the undermining structural problems.
John: I think they’re — they’re wrong, because let’s
impose some discipline, let’s put some discipline on
That doesn’t mean you have to have tax increases.
If they want to write in there you won’t have a tax
increase, I’m cool with that, but I’m suggesting to you –
I know this Margaret, that the ring wing,
the yellers and screamers, god bless
them, are the ones saying we can’t do that because the
convention or whatever it is, we get out of control and
we’ve actually had red states, I believe red states
that have actually repealed their efforts to require,
but without forcing a restriction or a discipline on
the congress, there they’re just doing to keep spending
because politicians want to be popular.
You are never popular when you say no in the short-run.
In the long-run, people admire you.
Margaret: So, has fiscal conservatism as a tenet of the conservative
John: Margaret, I think that what is happening is that
this quote, conservative business, this is like I have
to do I think I can to appeal to a base.
There’s no ideology or philosophy.
This is all about electoral politics, so you know,
it’s — now they are expanding Medicaid and say we’re
going to have a work requirement.
It’s baloney, it’s a fig leaf.
The fact is people are too worried about their base,
too worried about getting people upset.
Why are you in this business?
If you are not willing to take some heat and look,
leaders have to walk a lonely road, and if you aren’t
willing to walk a lonely road, you aren’t going to be a
very good leader and you can’t pay attention to the
polls. You know why?
They love you on Monday, hate you on Tuesday, love you
on Wednesday, you know.
You just got to look in the mirror and say what did the
Lord give me to do, with my life and what am I supposed
By the way, Margaret, one of the biggest things that
has not surprised me, but felt very good to me is I
talked about the power of faith.
I have talked about
It at a google conference with people from the west
coast, I talked about it in Europe, I talked about it
at Harvard, and what I’m finding in an era of so much
confusion and discontent and division is that
people are willing to listen now.
And when I talk about faith, and if you are an agnostic
or a humanist, I’m all with you, okay, but I believe
the Lord has planted on our hearts his character, his
values, and they’re the values of caring and love and
compassion and forgiveness and humility and all these
things, all of which we screw up all the time, but when
we slow our lives down, we can get it right part of the
time, and that provides a road map for how we’re
supposed to behave.
Margaret: How does this compassion — I’m not going to
say compassionate conservatism, you are talking about
leading with the heart.
John: The brain.
As the governor, I’m not going to be sloppy about
If things don’t make sense, I’m not going to do them.
Margaret: Does that influence your political
philosophy in some way though?
How does that overlay with the principles that have driven you —
John: The funny thing about the, I’ve told people this
and i don’t want them to take it the wrong way, but i
found my job to be pretty easy. People working around
me, many have been around me for many, many years, we just
look at something and say how do we fix it.
It’s so easy that way, instead of saying who’s going
to yell, who is going to vote against us, it’s been an
element of let’s just try to do the right thing.
Everyone is a little political and I’m not —
Margaret: You’re not immune from that.
John: Of course I’m not immune from that.
I’m a knuckle-head all the time, but by and large the
trajectory of what we have been doing in Ohio has been
based on good solid principle.
Government is a last resort, not as a first resort, but
never no government.
That’s just ridiculous.
Margaret: That seems to me to be the insight and shift
in the conservative movement, right, there’s a space
for government in a new way, a space for understanding
the role of government in individuals’ lives in a new
way. That’s what’s marked by your Medicaid expansion
John: Ronald Reagan is the most — we ever the most
distorted view of Reagan.
Reagan was a guy that was practical.
He was once a democrat, then he became a republican.
Margaret: All these things — of course he did.
John: Look —
Margaret: But there’s a space for government to have a
role in an individual’s life, that’s what Medicaid expansion is, and its understanding
sort of the new parameters of what is that
relationship, and that’s a shift in the conservativism
from the time that William F. Buckley –
John: I’m not sure that most get this, Margaret.
I really don’t.
Margaret: I agree with you, I agree with you
John: But i think it’s the leading edge, you know.
I have always been kind of on the leading edge, thank
goodness, and the leading edge of this is that is you need to
care a little bit more.
If all of a sudden, the federal government said they
were going to yank up the match on Medicaid expansion,
wreck my state, I’d withdraw. That’s your brain.
Your brain and your heart, they have to work together.
Margaret: That’s it. Can we talk about trade?
Another tenet of the conservative movement, trade, we’ve always been for
John: But you know conservatives are still for trade,
so I don’t know what these other people are –
Margaret: They’re calling themselves conservatives,
they are in Washington,
They are against trade. The one thing – let’s start
from a point of common ground, the one place you and
the reigning conservatism in Washington agree on is that china’s cheating.
John: Yeah, and they’re stealing our intellectual property.
Really interesting thing about that,
this would be controversial when people hear this.
So I have a company, I go to china and they start stealing
my stuff. Like hello, am I shocked?
I go running to the government saying can you fix this
for me? Where was the surprise?
But they are stealing intellectual property, they are
trying to dominate the world with their own economics.
Margaret: So how do we combat that lack of fair trade
on their part? In 2000, you were in congress,
you were on our way out,
but we allowed china to come into the world trade
organization and enter, along with other sophisticated
industrialized nations, presuming they would liberalize and play by the
rules. That didn’t happen.
John: Well, it should be solidarity.
Since they are in the WTO and since we are in there
with a whole group of people that we used to call our great
friends, now that we are dividing ourselves from them
by saying out of national security, some flimsy goofy
excuse, we are now going to get into a battle with them
and insult them and bring war on them, now we need them
to help us. In other words, the western world, those that
understand free markets, must stand together against
these kind of bullies, and you can’t just do it on a
tit for tat.
It has to be the west working together, but when we
divide ourselves or remove ourselves from the rest of
the western hemisphere, then it’s harder to impose anything
Margaret: That if we pursued the transpacific
partnership, we’d be able —
John: What a disaster that was.
There’s all these little fledgling countries in Asia.
They want us.
Believe it or not, people watching this show, I know
you are going to find this hard to believe, the world,
the western world loves us.
I went to Munich at the invitation of one of my heroes,
John McCain and I sat with Europeans.
They may complain and yell.
They love us and they need us.
Over there in Asia, the little countries over there wanted us.
We created a vacuum.
Margaret: Well they needed us to help balance, then, to keep china —
John: Yes, and we didn’t do it.
Margaret: What do we do now?
We’re imposing tariffs, and some
people in the conservative base now see that as being
tough on china, right?
They didn’t understand the transpacific partnership was
a way of being tough on china too.
John: Well, that might be, but look, that was not only
an economic mistake, but it was a geopolitical mistake,
a military mistake, to withdraw, the same way that
loose talk around military exercises in south Korea
begins to undermine the confidence in our allies in
We don’t want to leave Asia, just china.
We want to have our allies, particularly the Japanese,
Who are in a panic although they’re not gonna say it —
Margaret: We want to prevent a nuclear arms race.
John: What I’m suggesting is yes, you have to through
this organization call china, but right now, we are not
doing it, so what would you do?
You would need to sit down and say these rules have to be
abided by, because it’s not just hurting us.
It’s hurting your friends around the world.
Margaret: How do you enforce it? How do you enforce it if you —
John: Well, you act together.
Don’t act unilaterally on this.
The other part is all politics is local.
Tip O’Neil was right.
When china offers stuff to people when we’re not
around, they take it, because I helps them to be more
popular at home.
Margaret: But what’s happening at home in Ohio when you
have 55% of Ohio supporting the tariff on Chinese
goods, then you have, when you tell them that’s going
to affect prices negativity, it goes town to 46/46.
In other words, people in Ohio like this trade
John: A lot of times people like sugar, too.
Doesn’t make it right.
Margaret: Right, how do you make the case for free trade?
John: It is a hard case to make.
I think that the party, the conservative movement
stopped making that case, but I think there’s another
element and that is when countries cheat, we shouldn’t
have to go through some giant bureaucracy which takes
forever to resolve a trade case, then at the end, if we
win, the jobs are lost, so we need an expedited
process to be able to blow the whistle and to take
action. The problem with our allies is we use the flimsy
excuse. My concern about China, I think the president is right,
there is a concern there, but to just do it
unilaterally on a back and forth to me is not the
right way to proceed.
And in regard to the people, and what they think, look, I
have to lead, and I have to tell people here’s the
40 million Americans are working in trade-related
You are going to hurt them.
Secondly, the majority of exporting comes from small
and medium businesses.
Thirdly, your goods are not going to be quality,
because we are not — we are going to be keeping people
out who are innovating, providing better things and
it’s going to drive up the price for the consumer.
I mean, this is going to hurt the middle class and the
lower-income folks more than the
The rich, you know, the rich always survive, you know.
Margaret: If you were running for governor again now,
You would be making that case to Ohioans.
John: No, I would be making the case, if I were running
for re-election for governor, I would tell them we are
on the right path and keep going the way we are going.
Margaret: But the trade wars are not helpful.
John: Yeah, if someone asks, but that’s not what they’re
thinking about, but I would make the case.
But I am not going to lead with that.
I’m gonna talk about the success we’ve had and why we
need to continue to do it, which is what I’m hopeful
that the people who come after me are going to do and
not get sloppy, either with the spending, uh, you know,
raising taxes, overregulating, destroying the jobs Ohio
private entity that’s helpful, those are the things – oh, by
the way, Margaret, workforce.
We have a tsunami coming at us going to disrupt so many
Margaret: And you’re working on automation.
John: But, but and you know what, Margaret, I mean, look, there are schools
now that are doing better in my state, but this tsunami
is a devastating thing, and if you think we have the
vision now. If we don’t get on this with business being
responsible, and the education institutions changing
dramatically, we’re going to have a chaotic situation
in this country that just gonna be terrible.
Margaret: You’re one of the governors who’s spent a lot
of time thinking about that, and how to attack it on the policy-wise,
but I want to – I’d like to –
John: Hickenlooper is in Colorado, too, I give him a lot of credit,
Hickenlooper. you know, you say, you’re gonna run
with Hickenlooper for president.
Yes, well, Hickenlooper and Kasich, you can’t fit it on two
Margaret: In that case though if you have a unity ticket, right?
If you have a unity ticket, there’s no question on how that works, but let’s turn to politics, because the
ideas you are espousing, in a lot of ways one
questions whose been a lifelong Republican– rather the Republican party can be the
vessel for those ideas.
I know you haven’t left the party, but you’ve said you
want to bring the party home, right, home to those
ideas, right. How? How do you do it?
John: I think I’ve got to talk about how it’s worked. You know,
it’s one thing to use rhetoric and talk about what you
are going to do. It’s another thing to show what you have done.
So the president by you know trying to fix coal and steel and all that stuff, there
Haven’t been jobs that have come from his activities yet.
He has nothing to prove that it works.
John: what we’ve done in Ohio is
we can prove that it works if anybody would pay
attention and people are paying attention.
We have the formula and the formula is leave no one
behind, but create the environment for prosperity. You know,
everything goes in cycles, we know that.
The “Firing Line” was here, then it was gone, now it’s
back, you see so everything goes in cycles, and i think that’s
what happens with economics, but we know what works,
and when you know what works, you got to do more of
Margaret: Is there a constituency for those ideas in
the Republican party right now?
John: Right now?
I don’t think so.
You know somebody said to me –
Margaret: you’re more popular with Democrats in Ohio
than with republicans. And you’re very popular with —
You are popular enough with Republicans, but you’re more
popular with Democrats.
John: Here is – here is the problem that I – that — with republicans.
First of all, if the president does something I don’t
like, I criticize him.
And if you are part of a tribe, you don’t like that.
Margaret: So it’s the tribalism, not the policy? It’s the tribalism?
John: yes. And the second issue is I did not endorse him and I did
not go to our convention – and people are still mad at me for that.
You know what? Why didn’t I go?
I’m not going to a party, where I can’t behave.
Right, I’m not positive about going to the party.
So that’s what’s really aggravated people.
It’s – it’s sort of this Trump thing.
Margaret: Do you think it’s – on the policies –
John: That’s not overwhelming majority.
I’m still fine with Republicans.
There’s some that really don’t like me.
And you know what?
Margaret: So then if there’s no constituency in the Republican
party, is there another vessel? I mean you mentioned Hickenlooper.
There’s this sort of dalliance of well — do the center left and the center
Right have more in common than the extremes of their parties?
John: There’s no question.
Margaret: Right? And then – and then, you know, is there a vehicle for that?
John: Well, I don’t know. Um
that’ s a good question.
Is there a way in which — here’s what I’ve said, uh, Margaret.
Look, the extremes — the extreme left and the extreme right, they don’t want to
listen. They just don’t want to listen.
you can’t argue with them, so I believe the vast sea of
people are in the middle.
And I don’t mean squishy middle or weak middle, but they
are seeking the truth, they’re rational and they are
That’s what I’m interested in, pursuing people who are
objective about things, who are seeking the truth in a
post-truth environment. You know,
that’s the other thing. We are in a post-truth, like a post-truth
environment. There would be people that would say that we
didn’t even sit together and do this interview.
It’s fake news.
You know, it is very dangerous. Very dangerous.
What do i think will happen over time?
I think things will come around.
But we got to get into our hearts again and we’ve got to
remember what those values are.
It’s not just you and me, but the folks that might be
watching this, who could come out of what i sometimes
think is a stupor on the left and the right, a stupor.
And come out of it and go oh, yeah, this isn’t good for
my kids or my grandchildren.
They need to think about what this means for the future
of America, and I don’t want to believe that we are
Margaret: The ideas will come back around again.
And I’d like to play a clip from an early “Firing Line”
with William F. Buckley, interviewing, of all people, his brother, who is a
sitting senator in the state of New York.
Let’s play that clip.
John: Well that’s really — is that a flashback or are they talking about today?
Margaret: Well you talk about things coming around in circles.
These ideas do come back.
John: You know, I think that’s right, Margaret, the fact
that I have a voice, I don’t think is
because of me. I think that the Lord’s been good to me and he’s given
me a position to be able to say some things that could
help bring us together.
We need more people to do that.
And do i think it’s growing?
Think about what’s been happening with the quote renegades in Washington in the house who were saying we need to do
something about immigration and we’re not gonna take it
anymore, we aren’t asking permission from the
president, we’re not asking permission from the leadership.
You are going to see people emerge, and I’m looking at
your board here and I see Frederick Douglass and what
Frederick Douglass did and how there are little
revolutions that get started.
Nothing happens overnight.
The little spark, you know, the little train that can.
Margaret: You’re laying the groundwork, laying the groundwork
that might ignite.
John: And then the other side of it is people want to know are you going
to run for president?
I don’t know, but here’s what i aim starting to think
about seriously. It may be possible, with this
unbelievable media we have, whether it’s Facebook or
whether it’s — I love PBS, I do.
One time I tried to kill the funding for it, but I see
Margaret: But you have evolved as a conservative,
John: I was small potatoes. And beyond that
it does a really good job.
Margaret: We are also privately funded here at “Firing
Line,” you should know that.
John: I heard the beginning of it, yes.
I guess what I’m suggesting is, there may be a way to have
a voice that is — and a movement, a movement that is
You see, movements come when people in — if you think
about the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King
didn’t create it.
He was part of it, and he emerged from it, because the,
quote, elites or the normal leaders in the churches
said we need to do this, and he became the leader.
We need to be thinking about how we can take
people who share these views that we have, whether
They’re left or right, doesn’t matter.
Maybe we need to change all the political parties, I
don’t know, but to take them and bond together to
create a movement that can change the way in which
America is now operating and being described, and you
know what, it’s not just politics either.
You know that. I mean it’s everything.
It’s the businesses communities sometimes that acts without
conscience. We need to say enough of that. Time for us to rise again.
Cause, we’re never gonna be measured at the end of our lives
for how much money we raised, or how much fame we had.
We’re all equal. In the eyes of the Lord, we’re all equal.
Margaret: You are talking about a specific awakening.
John: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think that is right.
William Wilberforce did it over in Great Britain and gave his
life for that, he wore himself out fighting the slave trade, but he brought manners.
Manners were just the right way to treat one another.
Yeah, I think that’s part of it. It is part of it.
Wouldn’t that be a great thing to get America back on
the tracks, so our kids could be proud again of the way
we do things as adults? It would be great, wouldn’t it?
Margaret: It would be great. It would be great. John Kasich,
Thank you for coming to “Firing Line”.
John: I hope you enjoyed it. I’m the first guest.
Margaret: You are the first national guest.
John: Thanks Margaret.
Margaret: Thank you very much Governor Kasich.
Welcome to “Firing Line”. Take care.