Gov. Kasich’s boorish behavior during his so-called appearance before an editorial board collection from the Plain Dealer and NEO Media Group emphasized once again that his ego has placed strict limits on even mildly deferring to the media and his political opponents. He likes his own rigid vision of governance in an open society.

Sort of name, rank and serial number. He even felt it was unworthy of his unique status to return a questionnaire from the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland as he slouches toward Election Day.

From video clips, I caught a few glimpses of his shadowy performance with the editorial board on Cleveland TV with Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate, and Green Party candidate Anita Rios. With his huge lead in the polls, he should have led the discussion while extending gentlemanly courtesies to FitzGerald and Rios. But not even a fist bump.

That has always been the governor’s raffish disposition. As the self-anointed Blue Collar Kid, he remains in his old schoolyard stance daring the other kids to annoy him.

Although his rise in politics has been well documented, it still is interesting to see how his various career tasks have shaped the odds and ends of his political bravado, from earlier elected offices to his works as a Fox News host and as managing director of Lehman Brothers in Columbus, the Wall Street outfit that collapsed in 2008.

He began to lay the foundation of his career with a 3-year hitch as the administrative assistant to then state Sen. Donald E. Buz Lukens in 1975. Lukens, a poster child for hard-right conservatism, died in 2010 in disgrace with a rap sheet that sent him to jail for propositioning a young elevator operator in D.C.; he was still later convicted of bribery involving two Ohio businessmen. The New York Times’ obit described him as a “scandal-tainted lawmaker”.

A modern Machiavellian, the guy never knew when or where to stop. A dashingly handsome operative from Middletown, Oh., he left a trail of questions, many unanswered, about his public and private moves that spanned his campaign expenditures and other wrong turns.

But his biggest political gambit came against Gov. Rhodes, who was going to run for the U.S. Senate a job that Lukens also coveted. Life magazine entered the Ohio landscape with a piece that accused Rhodes of misusing campaign money.

AbePhotoWhen I wrote a long story in the Beacon Journal shifting some of the curse to Lukens’ hand in the piece, he blew up, held a press conference in D.C. and referred to me as a liar and a “kid” (Didn’t I wish!). But my reportorial equilibrium was restored by a Lukens aide who later confided to me that Buz was furious that the story was so accurate that it clearly was leaked to me by somebody on his staff.

So now I won’t insist that with Kasich hanging out earlier – from 1975 to 1978 – with then State Sen. Lukens as his administrative assistant, he learned all of his current bad habits. But at the least, some seeds could have been planted in an easily impressed young man with his own soaring career goals being etched in stone.

Although the governor’s current spate of commercials have rebranded him as a born-again Mr. Nice Guy, there has been little evidence of that beyond his carefully honed TV claims.

Ohio, we have a problem.

 

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