June 22, 2018 | politics

John Kasich

Governor John Kasich of Ohio joins to discuss what it means to be a conservative in the age of Trump.

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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,

Governor Kasich.

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?

John: Absolutely.

I have been pushing it, traveling the country for it.

You want to hear the weirdest thing?

Margaret: Yes.

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

United states.


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

movement changed?


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

to do?

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.

How —


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

on China.


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.

But —


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.

Act together.

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

regime —


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

Jobs –

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

bumper stickers.

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.

Margaret: right.

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?

That’s cool.

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

the value.

Margaret: But you have evolved as a conservative,

Haven’t you?

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.