“Meet the GOP’s newest power player,” the ABC News banner instructed us, thus anointing Ohio Gov. John Kasich when he appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning.
Before the interview even began, Stephanopoulos made sure to plant a big and slobbery on Kasich’s posterior.
“Now with back-to-back wins and a booming Ohio economy, this party maverick with a reputation for plain talk is stirring up all kinds of White House buzz,” he gushed in his intro.
Good God, George, I know that Sunday Morning Hackery has become an American Institution, but did Kasich’s team write this line for you? Ohio’s booming economy? Party maverick? Plain talk? Cripes.
Of course, this is all part of the show, and not George’s show: John Kasich’s long stroll down the GOP presidential primary catwalk.
When Stephanopoulos asked Kasich to acknowledge what everybody already knows about his unslaked thirst for the presidency, he said, “Well, George, well, look, you know, you knew you were never going to get a good answer out of me here today.”
Yes, sadly, a lot of us have come to expect no good answers from Kasich any day, on any subject. And though good answers Kasich may be short on, patronizing platitudes, he’s chockablock.
Do your little turn, John.
“In our country today, there’s too much division, too much polarization: black-white, rich-poor, Democrat-Republican. America does best when we’re united,” Kasich said.
Barack Obama won the presidency on that message in 2008. And as soon as he got into office John Kasich’s Republican Party cynically exploited those divisions in every way they could, opposing him on everything, big and small, far and wide.
They went about their roles in government as legislative arsonists. They tapped the nativist veins, with all the old poisons, infecting as many national conversations as they could, and skipping away merrily.
And while Kasich has been willing to play obstructionist and turn down free money for high-speed rail, he went “party maverick” by accepting free money for Medicaid expansion.
But don’t panic, Obamacare haters. He still wants the Affordable Care Act repealed, just not the parts that have made him so party mavericky, I suppose.
So John Kasich will attempt to appropriate the Obama “unity” rhetoric by way of the McCain “maverick” bromide while counting on Americans not to notice the blinding zirconian hypocrisy in his political diadem.
Unity Maverick John Kasich, on the catwalk, on the catwalk. Do your little turn on the catwalk.
“In Ohio, I think what works best is when everybody feels like they have a chance, that everybody who has grievances can be heard,” Kasich said.
What say ye, Ohioans with grievances? Do you feel heard? Do the teachers, police officers, firefighters, and union members who have lost their jobs under Kasich’s budget cuts feel heard?
I don’t think we’re feelin’ heard over here, John. Maybe it’s the southeastern Ohio hills. Shall I try yodeling my grievances from atop Mt. Nebo?
“And that’s what we’re doing in the state, trying to lift everyone,” he said.
As far as I can tell, the only time Kasich successfully lifted everyone was when he signed Senate Bill 5 and we rose to repeal that Koch Brother-driven, anti-collective bargaining law. Quite a bit more voters turned out in 2011 to vote that down than turned out in 2014 to re-elect him.
“We want everybody to at least have the sense that somebody listens to them and that there’s a place for them in our society,” Kasich said.
A place for everyone, and everyone in their place. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. The Ohio Department of Development privatized, and racked by scandal in the hands of Kasich’s corporate cronies. The general assembly under the thumb of the state-by-state bribe-and-conquer campaign.
Local governments in their place, bleeding from cuts. Public education in its place, starved and supplanted by investment in for-profit charter schools. Struggling workers in their place, getting their benefits reduced. University students in their place, drowning in debt while higher education prices in Ohio skyrocket.
John Kasich’s friends in their place, stuffing their pockets with tax cuts.
“It’s what I think the lord wants us to do, George,” Kasich concluded.
The lord’s work, is that what you’re doing? I was curious.
“We helped the drug addicted,” he said. His way of doing so? Cut $20 million from county drug treatment facilities in the middle of a heroin crisis in order to speed up his income tax cuts.
“We helped the mentally ill,” he said. Yes, after $93 million worth of cuts to mental health services in Ohio between 2009 and 2012, including under his first state budget, John Kasich used expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act—the law his party promises to repeal—to give a pittance back.
“We’ve helped the working poor,” said Kasich, who oversaw reduced benefits while the family poverty rate in Ohio didn’t budge, and the number of children living in poverty increased under his watch to one in four.
When a young, mop-headed John Kasich met Richard Nixon, and was inspired to pursue his own political ambition, he learned well the old traitor‘s rule to be willing to say anything, facts be damned. And George Stephanopoulos was happy to sit there and let him say it.
David DeWitt is a journalist and universal minister based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.