The State of the State address, especially for a first-term Governor, is normally the moment in which the person ceases to be the candidate and starts to assume the mantle of leadership. It’s supposed to be the bully pulpit moment. Kasich didn’t deliver a State of the State address so much as he delivered a “State of his Mind” speech. And he seemed downright depressed throughout the speech.
There are so many layers of FAIL in Kasich’s speech, that I cannot possibly cover them all. The main problem was this: despite immersed in all the trappings of incumbency, Kasich didn’t look, act, or sound like a Governor. He talked in exacerbated tones—how the past seven weeks of his fledging Administration felt, to him, like seven years. His rambling, disorganized speech made him appeared to be a man overwhelmed by the challenges of his office. He spent most of the speech detailing the problems in Ohio, as if nobody else in the State had realized there were any. Seriously, it doesn’t read any better in the official transcript, either.
He was utter lacking in any optimism. Not only did Kasich continue his trend in the campaign of not offering any specifics, you almost have to wonder how he’ll dodge the budget deadline at this point.
Kasich speech created a rather unfortunate logical syllogism:
- Ohio can’t balance its budget on reform and consolidation alone;
- Ohio can’t cut its way to prosperity;
- Therefore, Kasich’s budget is not likely to lead us to prosperity.
After the jump, here are what I see are three glaring failures for Kasich today:
The nervous “swing district” Republican legislator standard
Imagine you’re a freshman Republican member in the General Assembly who is destined to be in a targeted swing district and worried what 2012 portends. What talking points did Kasich give you today to take back to your district to defend Kasich’s agenda? Nothing. Seriously, the speech was entirely forgettable, as ONN’s Jim Heath said afterwards. The backdrop of the protest and the tone of the speech will be remembered. Nobody is going to be quoting this speech in the future as examples of great political rhetoric. At best, all Kasich gave you was to just focus on how bad everything is in Ohio and suggest there was no choice.
Worse, Kasich said, tough luck, you need to not worry about what the people who elected you think. Easy for him. He’s not actually on the ballot in 2012. Kasich’s advice:
“You were elected to do this, not to have fear of who’s going to yell at me or vote against me . . . Don’t let—don’t let fear clog your mind or have you wring your hands.”
It’s almost like Kasich forget that the intended audience for this speech is the people of Ohio, not members of his own party’s legislative caucuses. This marks the first time a new Governor said in his first State of the State address to ignore the voters… to a General Assembly in which his party has comfortable majorities. Apparently having 23 out 33 Senators and 59 out of 99 House members isn’t comfortable enough given the jockeying we’ve already seen in both chambers on SB 5.
The problem is that Kasich went out of his way to avoid ownership of his own budget by not honestly detailing the key components of it until next week. Easy for him. He has the Patrol and doesn’t have to meet with constituents in personal settings. That nervous State Representative doesn’t have that luxury. The fact that Kasich just laughed off that concern and didn’t give them a rhetorical address they could co-opt and use to market their agenda was stunning.
Kasich said he couldn’t wait to tell people the details of his budget… everyone else shot back as if to say: Why do you think we’re here, then? Did Kasich think it was just a coincidence that the State of the State falls a week before his budget is due? Apparently so.
It’s no wonder there’s a betting pool when Kasich will announce that Senator Majority Leader Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) will not be running for re-election because he’s suddenly found his real dream job in Kasich’s Administration. Unfortunately, Kasich’s budget means there won’t be enough lifeboats for all the Jimmy Stewarts in the GOP world.
What Kasich omitted
No reference to his income tax repeal. Remember that? Today, all Kasich talked about was “preserving” the final phase of the income tax cuts passed in 2005. But those cuts are already in force today. Kasich needs to do nothing to “preserve” them but not raise taxes in his budget. What’s interesting is that Kasich apparently is not planning to make any further income tax cuts, right? Right?!?
What’s one the other major campaign promise Kasich made no reference to? His pledge to repeal the estate tax. Given that legislators were already getting an earful from local authorities about this before SB 5, the fact that Kasich made no case for estate tax repeal begs the question how big of a priority it really is. Or whether Kasich has one version of his vision he wants the rest of Ohio see, and the one he’s actually pursuing when people aren’t paying attention.
Regardless given that both of these were Kasich’s biggest issues since he essentially began running for Governor in 2007/2008, the fact that neither got mentioned is surprising. SB 5 was barely talked about at all during the campaign. But now, tax repeals are not for Kasich’s public consumption.
Another notable absence: Any details of any plan or anything original. Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro was correct. There was virtually nothing new in today’s speech. It’s been essentially the same snowball of a stump speech Kasich has given as a candidate, Governor-elect, and now Governor. Surprisingly then that it was so poorly delivered and organized.
Kasich got an applause line for saying he was going to reform education… then he moved onto job training. All he claimed was his reform would be about “more choice” and “more accountability.” Apparently for the GOP, being for “reform” is good enough. They’ll expect people to support it without no details of what Kasich’s definition of “reform” means. The Governor left for next week that it will also offer “less money” and “higher property taxes.”
At one point, Kasich went and talked about making it so that “Teach for America” can work in Ohio. Which is somewhat odd since in the 1990s then Budget Chairman John Kasich pushed for getting rid of programs… like AmeriCorps which is a major source of funding for Teach for America. Here’s what Chairman Kasich had to say about programs like Teach for America at the time:
"[I]t’s an oxymoron — hey, I’m a volunteer, how much am I going to get paid?" House Budget Chairman John Kasich [Washington Post, 10/26/1995]
Kasich seems to want to gloss over his past. In the mid-1990s, he pushed the federal government to dump this kind of program… citing the unprecedented budget deficit. Now he wants to rely on them to cover the costs of his massive budget cuts. When Kasich talks about getting Teach for America to come to Ohio, what he’s talking about is replacing teachers supported by our tax dollars with public-interest volunteers supported by federal tax dollars and other funding instead.
Kasich’s missed opportunity on SB 5
Kasich spent roughly 20 seconds on what is the number one political story in Ohio right now. He spent more time addressing opponents of the bill to not shout out the supporters than actually building a case for it in the speech. Seriously, here’s the transcript on SB 5:
He finished his point by declaring that opponents of the bill needed to respect those who disagreed with them, and then moved on to the next point.
Of course, there’s a reason for Kasich not to want to talk about the supporters of the bill. There are precious few of them willing to be publicly seen. Yep, the Tea Party/9-12 groups called for yet again another protest of support to try to counterweigh the pro-labor side. Yet again, it was even more of a spectacular failure than the last Tea Party pro-SB 5 protest. This time, I’d say the supporters for SB 5 was nearly outgunned by the bagpipe-playin’ opponents of SB 5 alone as this Cleveland Plain Dealer video demonstrates:
He didn’t even refer to SB 5 by name. Of all the shout outs Kasich gave today, not one went to Shannon Jones. Kasich seemed generally timid to broach the subject. When heckled (which was a mistake), Kasich appeared to be visibly shaken for a moment.
And that was a major mistake for him. Kasich knows just as assuredly that SB 5 is likely to pass the General Assembly that it is likely to face a referendum repeal effort. Today, Kasich had the opportunity to use his bully pulpit of his office in a speech that is one of the major advantage of his office to start building the case to the people of Ohio as to why SB 5 is necessary. Again, how can Kasich expect legislators to show conservative “profiles in courage” in supporting a bill that was treated like an audible fart in his speech by him in what is one of the pivotal moments in a new Administration?
Kasich’s odd shout outs
Speaking of which, notice what each one of the legislators who got a special shout out from the Governor in his State of the State (again, a highly unusual thing) have in common? Here’s the list: Wilson, Cafaro, Sykes, Patton, and the “black legislative caucus.” They’re all people who have been on record to oppose a major part of Kasich’s agenda that he hopes to win over in later battles.
Am I the only one who found Kasich’s comments to the Black Legislative Caucus off-putting? He’s talking about sentencing reform, and he points them out and then says he’s troubled by certain “felony convictions?” It didn’t help that he kept referring to Kelly Bonar-Williams as “that lady in Akron.”
Kasich seemed to be oddly reflective on his career for a guy giving his first State of the State address. Anyone know what point he was making in talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bono? Anyone?
In the end, Kasich didn’t look like a Governor or a leader. His speech was disjointed, disorganized, and at times off putting in its informality which was only outpaced by its breathtaking lack of details. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, read the transcript his office put out.
Kasich seemed to be giving a stream of conscious speech that said more about his state of mind than the State of the State. He feels like the past seven weeks has been seven years. He expressed frustration that the “historic” nature of what he’s done hasn’t gotten the public accolades he feels is warranted, and he wants to talk up education reform, the importance of higher education, and helping fight the scourge of “low-weight babies,” but without admitting the budgetary realities he himself will create next week on those very issues. Speeches without facts can be popular, but in one week’s time Kasich’s rhetoric will be faced with his own budgetary numbers.
Kasich offered no coherent vision, no optimism, and worse for his own political party, no confidence that Ohio has a bright future with his leadership. From beginning to end, Kasich’s State of the State failed to achieve anything favorable for his agenda. And allowing Kasich to “wing it” today was political malpractice by his staff.