Continuing his peek-a-boo campaign for president in New Hampshire Tuesday, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich was exactly where he wanted to be, in front of a Republican audience that didn’t know enough about his record in Ohio to know it doesn’t smell as rosy as his carefully crafted narrative implies.
But Gov. Kasich, who refused to debate his main challenger last year and who won fewer than 25-percent of registered voters last fall in the lowest turnout election since World War II, loves to perform his one-man sermon to groups who don’t really know if his story holds up to scrutiny, the kind DC Beltway reporters have failed to perform so far.
Reports say Kasich has a leg-up in the early primary state, noting a tenuous friendship with a former Senate intern who was befriended by then Congressman Kasich. That contact, who served as majority whip of the New Hampshire House more than a decade ago, still holds the governor in high regard. As someone who allegedly is still prominent in Granite State GOP circles, his assessment of Gov. Kasich’s chances to get on the radar screens of New Hampshire voters is good. “He can really do well here, because basically he’s one of them. He’s a blue-collar guy,” Rogers Johnson said in one published report. “His message of what happened in Ohio can resonate because people want to know if that can happen here.” Kasich’s personal appeal will bode him well, according to his helper, who said, “His [Kasich] style of delivery, very blunt, very direct — people have been craving that forever. People like that because there’s a sense of passion there.”
Kasich Story Rocks Until It Doesn’t
The Kasich story follows the adage of, when the legend becomes fact, print it. And Kasich’s legendary story that he’s a blue-collar guy because his father was a federal government postal employee gels legend as fact, as articles about him that are mostly retreads of previous articles that take his talking points at face value buy-in to the narrative of a long-shot who comes from behind to be president when all others have fallen.
In an article by David Sherfinski in The Washington Times in early March, about Ohio’s Jack-In-The-Box governor, one starry eyed reader said, “KASICH TOTALLY ROCKS H!!!” The admirer said he’s followed John Kasich for many years, back to the 1990’s when he had legendary battles with Clinton over the balancing the budget and budget reforms. “I have always been impressed with his candor and open mindedness, and more important, his COMPETENCE, which is sadly lacking in the current president,” a fan of the governor said.
That fan compiled a list of reasons why he’ll “go out of his way to support John Kasich for president as the BEST QUALIFIED applicant for the job.” Really?! Let’s take a closer look.
1. He doesn’t B.S. and actually answers questions put to him.
Closer Look: Actually, Gov. Kasich doesn’t answer questions put to him. He banned me from covering his State of the State address last month, even though I covered his first three, and SOTS speeches from Govs Taft and Strickland. It’s one clear sign he doesn’t want to take questions from media. Of course, I’ve known Mr. Kasich since we met in 1977, when he pumped me for information on how to win his first campaign, which he did. You owe me a big one, governor. Meanwhile, he’s on record telling reporters last year to stop asking him questions because he wasn’t going to answer them. Gov. Kasich may never hold an actual press conference anymore, choosing instead to deliver sermons on the success of his administration where he gets to talk and others get to listen. When reporters used to ask questions, his response to them on difficult topics included favorite responses like “We don’t pay attention to that” or “We don’t respond to ….” [fill in the blank.]
2. He was chairman of the house budget committee when they actually BALANCED the federal budget without starving old people and all the other blah blah…
Closer Look: He was chairman of the HBC. He also voted against President Bill Clinton’s first budget, that raised taxes on the wealthy such that there was a surplus to balance the budget with. Had Congressman Kasich’s no vote on that budget won, his story, false already, would not have played out as it did. In fact, he helped shutdown the federal government, and said he it was one of his best moments. He wants to screw down on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which would help starve people, make life more difficult and lead to more deaths at an earlier age. And for those who live to be old, they’ll get less in Kasich compassion because he’s more interested in corporate budgets and the net worth of high-rollers than lives. His compassion, which rich people like himself hide behind, always comes with bitter medicine.
3. He served on the house armed services committee and has many years of foreign policy experience.
Closer Look: John Kasich never gave one thought to military service. He saw politics as his ticket to fame and fortune. He’s become rich in the process, catering to for-profiteers and the monied status quo. Now he says he’s ready to risk American lives as boots on the ground to take on ISIS. The governor loves talking about social safety net programs as debt generators, but he’s never said one word about the trillions his good buddy George W. Bush spent on unnecessary but politically motivated war spending. RepubDick Cheney famously said deficits don’t matter. John Kasich says they do, but only certain debts. He still doesn’t know, it seems, that Social Security has a dedicated funding source that by law prevents it from adding to the federal deficit. Yet he wants to raise age limits and cut earned benefits down instead of asking his rich donor base to pay just a little more income tax. This still leave them way beyond wealthy. And as a budget expert, he should know by now that raising the cap on taxable income sets Social Security up till nearly the end of this century.
4. He has been a very successful governor of Ohio which gives him executive experience and management experience.
Closer Look: Citizen Kasich barely won his 2010 election, and fewer than one in four registered voters bothered to vote for him last year. Yet his margin of winning in the lowest voter turnout since WWII was an impressive 2-1. He refused to debate his challenger, which means he refused to answer questions reporters at those debates would have asked him. He suffers from foot-in-mouth disease so sever, that if it were a real disease he would have been under the constant care of a doctor for the last nearly 40 years. His so-called “Ohio Model” is hardly different than the Florida, Wisconsin or South Carolina model—cut income taxes by raising other taxes to pay for subsidies to his wealthy donor base. Withholding transfer payments that used to go to cities and schools is another Kasich “good management” tactic, but Ohioans are not buying it anymore. Meanwhile, Ohio is 37th in job creation even though it has JobsOhio, his secret, hand-picked non-profit group exempted from public record laws with billions to dole out. Ohio has underperformed the national age for more than 26 straight months, and half of the jobs he took bows for in his first year were really created in the last year of Gov. Strickland, who took the worse the Great Recession could dish out and still put Ohio on a roaring road to recovery, beating the national average on job creation in the process. Ohio under Kasich is routinely below the national average. Ohio’s economy also stalled on Kasich’s watch, and he admitted it on Meet The Press. In 2010, John Kasich was gifted with an all-Republican legislature, and there’s you answer for why some but not all of his hair-brained schemes have become law.
5. Because he understands how congress works and EVERY ITEM of the budget, he will be much better than OBAMA at negotiating with congress.
Closer Look: John Kasich went to Washington to make and get money. Period. He’s clearly enriched himself, which is why he refused to show any of his tax returns this year, and only showed one for about 30-minutes in 2010. That one return showed he earned over $1 million. He parlayed his time in Congress to land him his job at Lehman Brothers, before it melted down. As a so-called “rainmaker,” Kasich made it rain income for Lehman Brothers, but Ohio suffered its own deluge as some Buckeye retirement funds lost $400 million in bogus investments in the process. The Teflon governor said he had nothing to do with it. And when the going got tough for Lehman Brothers, he dumped LB’s super wealthy CEO Dick Fuld like a hot potato. And even though he preaches against spending in DC, it’s more than Okay in Columbus, based on his last three budgets, which have been the highest in history, each higher than the last. Republicans in congress do not want to negotiate with the President, not the other way around.
6. He has CREDIBILITY with BOTH conservatives and establishment republicans.
Closer Look: Gov. Kasich has lost his credibility with Ohio Tea Party leaders, even though he jumped in front of their parade in 2010 and readily accepted their help to give him a win. Since then, he’s mostly done everything they don’t like, and as a result they have cast him out. Congress is dysfunctional, many say, because the Tea Party caucus so hates President Obama that it will do everything it can, including shutdown the federal government, to show its bonafides as the dysfunctional arm of the GOP. Kasich has news, in part, by appearing to buck his own party, but that’s mainly an optical illusion. He’s GOP through and through; he’s a relic of the Reagan Era, and still thinks supply-side economics works, which we know it doesn’t. He says he’s against spending in Washington, but he took more than his fair share while in Congress for 18 years, and only accepted Medicaid expansion in Ohio because $2.5 billion [in federal funds] came along with it. It’s doubtful he would have gone along with it if no money came with the deal. Meanwhile, he’s silent, for good reason, on raising the minium wage, among other positions he could hold that would boost wages for workers. The majority of jobs created on his watch are minimum wage jobs.
7. Conservatives KNOW, based on his track record, that he WON’T sell them out and, unlike many politicians he ACTUALLY BELIEVES in balancing the budget and has actually BALANCED the BUDGET.
Closer Look: Gov. Kasich readily takes credit for balancing the federal budget “for the first time since man walked on the moon.” His PR machine has created that narrative and it’s stuck. Kasich voted to ban assault weapons, not a plus in hard right circles. His one limp-wristed attempt at healthcare included an individual mandate, because the governor gets irritated by all those people who don’t show as much “personal responsibility” as they should. But he doesn’t every ask corporations, who he believes are people, to do the same. He balanced Ohio’s budget just like every other governor before him has, because that what’s the state constitution calls for. If there was a choice, Kasich loves bonded debt, just like Lehman Brothers did. He bonded out Ohio’s Turnpike revenues and state liquor sales, so he’s all about leverage, which conservatives who like personal responsibility probably don’t think is a good idea. he balanced the state budget, agreed. But he did it by withholding billions in state transfers to local governments and schools and others in order to amass funds for income tax cuts, which allows him to say he balanced the budget without raising taxes. He’s raised lots of taxes in his four years as state CEO, which shows how much he’s fallen in love with his goal of reducing Ohio income tax rates to zero. He has siphoned off money from those who can least afford, by forcing them to pay more in sales taxes and hiking fees. The very wealthy have taken more than one bite of the apple, thanks to Gov. Kasich. Anyone can produce a surplus if you keep money meant for others. This has only forced locals to raise local taxes to keep government services where they want them. Kasich doesn’t care about locals do keep the wolf away from the door. He does care to restrict what they can do. That is irresponsible governance, which is why Ohio is going backwards.
8. He is a straight shooter and will tell you, TO YOUR FACE, if he disagrees.
Closer Look: It’s well known, even by the Beltway Boys, that he has a combative, abrasive personality that doesn’t accept or learn from criticism, no matter how legitimate. He’s learned he can shout the press down, shout his critics down, and be a bully ala Chris Christie and get complimented doing so. He sells his style as tough and disciplined, central to his story as a “good manager.” He refused to debate his Democratic challenger, a first in Ohio in modern times, but he did show up for an editorial board meeting last year. The video of that event showed him in such an ugly, mean-spirited light that his PR handlers forced the Cleveland Plain Dealer to take the video interview down from its website in short order. He loves to tell others to word harder and do more with less, but he doesn’t follow his own advice. His standard routine is to invoke God when he can, which is often. It may sell well to evangelical Republicans, but others see it as pure political theater. It dogwhistles his base. Based on record, Ohio’s governor is more like Pontius Pilate than Jesus of Nazareth.