John Kasich discusses presidential plans with “Morning Joe”

by Caroline Berens | 10/22/15 7:26pm

Presidential candidate John Kasich appeared in Collis Common Ground to discuss policy goals.

Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich spoke to a crowded Collis Common Ground on Thursday afternoon, touching on topics such as health care, economic reform and his past political experiences. The forum was taped as part of a segment for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, hosted by former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-Fla) and Mika Brzezinski, and will air on Friday morning.

On a raised platform in front of a blazing fireplace, Kasich sat between Scarborough, Brzezinkski and Steven Rattner, a famous financier and economic expert. Set a little apart from the stage was a large calculator that reported the increasing national debt, including the amount of debt per citizen. The audience included students, professors, administrators and Upper Valley residents.

Scarborough’s first few questions for Kasich centered around his thoughts on his Republican competitor and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Scarborough asked Kasich how he has been able to keep his “eye on the prize” amidst the frenzies of polls.

Kasich conceded that Trump has “touched a nerve” in the American people, in that they are frustrated at the lack of growth in the economy and the dishonesty of political leaders. He said ultimately, people want a leader who can actually “land the plane.” Kasich said he has done this in Ohio, which he transformed from a “disintegrating” state to one that he said is doing quite well.

Kasich went on to say that the best way to judge a politician on what he or she will do is to examine what he or she has done before. He noted that despite frequent pressures on politicians to spend, the spending has to stop because overspending hurts job growth. He said without jobs, families disintegrate and young people lack opportunities.

Although he said that he typically does not criticize President Barack Obama, Kasich said the current situation in Washington, D.C., is very poor.

“There is too much fighting, too much disagreement, not smart leadership,” he said. “The President does not understand how to do the congressional relationship and how to build leaders.”

These issues are rectifiable, and unity is possible with a strong Republican president — or a president of any party that has a strong vision, he said. Kasich’s extensive experience with and understanding of Congress’s functioning is one of his greatest assets as a candidate, he said.

Kasich then alluded to his religion — a recurring theme throughout his talk — as his impetus for running in the campaign. Scarborough mentioned Kasich’s Christian values in relation to a past decision to accept Medicaid money from the federal government in Ohio, an action that was criticized by Republicans for being too liberal.

Although Kasich later said he would eliminate the Affordable Care Act if he became president, he expressed support for preserving Medicare. He also spoke passionately about criminal justice reform and its success in Ohio, topics he touched on in the first Republican national debate in August.

“I don’t forget about people who live in the shadows,” Kasich said. “I’m not trying to judge anyone else’s morals or beliefs, but to me, we can’t ignore people who are down on their luck.”

He later said he has been labeled one of the most progressive and forward-thinking governors in America in terms of concern for the poor.

Kasich then spoke about his desire to take power away from the federal government and distribute it back to the states, particularly for the purposes of infrastructure, education and job training. He also noted that he believes the government should increase defense spending, but only after “massive reform” in the Pentagon.

Scarborough then asked about Kasich’s stances on foreign policy, particularly in relation to the current refugee crisis in Syria, to which Kasich responded that creating a sanctuary in Syria is immediately necessary. He then described his own reluctance to intervene in civil wars, saying that we should only go to war if it is in our direct interest.

A key facet of being a good leader is having the strength to make unpopular decisions, Kasich said, something he said he experienced after his first term in Ohio. Politicians must be “willing to walk a lonely road,” he said.

About halfway through the event, the forum opened to questions from the audience. In response to a student’s question about relations with Israel, Kasich affirmed that we need to show support for the country.

“We need to stop dissing prime ministers,” Kasich said. “The president wouldn’t even meet with [Israel’s prime minister]. I couldn’t believe that. We need to show support and not let them be an existential threat.”

In response to another student’s question about dealing with the “personalities” of the caucus, Kasich said while it is not easy to undo the partisanship in Washington, if you show people adequate respect and get them to see a “higher purpose” then unity can be achieved.

Kasich affirmed his support for decreasing the national debt, increasing privatization and reforming redistricting to control campaign finance. He closed the forum by reasserting his platform as being centered around tax reform, balancing the budget, promoting responsible trade and encouraging independent sources of energy.

Ben Vihstadt ’16, who attended the event, said Kasich did an excellent job in the forum.

“He worked the crowd very well, was very unscripted, very relaxed,” Vihstadt said.

Tomas La Porta ’18 also said he was very impressed with Kasich’s performance and that it seemed the governor was being very honest throughout the talk, especially at the end when answering audience questions.

“He was very clear about his goals and ideas, which is not something you always see in a politician,” La Porta said.

Hanover resident Frank Lesher expressed a similar sentiment, saying Kasich seemed very genuine.

Vihstadt said many students he spoke to were relatively unfamiliar with Kasich before the speech, but afterwards were pleasantly surprised by his moderate stances.

“There were saying, how could a Republican be so sane, moderate, level-headed, thoughtful?” Vihstadt said.

Josh Otoo ’18 was one of these students, who said he did not know Kasich coming into the speech. Although he has a stronger preference for more liberal stances, he said Kasich’s policies seemed reasonable and called his desire to enact social change laudable.

Vihstadt said the fact that Kasich event came to Hanover, a more reputably liberal place, speaks volumes.

“He’s going to a place that might not be conventional for a Republican candidate,” Vihstadt said, explaining that actions like this will help his popularity with younger people.