John Kasich's dire warning for the Republican party: EVOLVE OR DIE
Since ending his campaign in early May, Kasich has not followed the same course as fellow long-lasting GOP primary challengers, such as Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, in endorsing Trump. Instead, Kasich has expressed his dismay with the tone of Trump's presidential venture while criticizing his policy positions on trade and Russia, to name just a couple.
He has strongly condemned the leaked audio of Trump in 2005, released last week, that showed Trump making crude sexual remarks about women. But he said nothing about the tape surprised him.
"I mean, I don't have any more words," Kasich said of Trump. "I've tried to do the best I can to lead by my actions in an appropriate way without recrimination or anything like that, because I'm a very happy person. I don't think I need to say any more than what I've demonstrated."
Last month, Kasich joined President Barack Obama at the White House, alongside other leaders, to advocate for the passing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the landmark trade agreement that's being torched along the campaign trail. Neither major-party candidate is publicly supporting the agreement, with Trump going as far as saying it would continue "the rape of our country."
But that did not push Kasich to distance himself from the deal, which he believes is necessary economically and geopolitically. Since that press conference, he has continued to push for its passing as the most prominent elected Republican official to stand firmly behind the agreement.
In an interview with Business Insider this week, Kasich discussed TPP and the recent Wells Fargo scandal, and he gave a dire warning to the Republican Party.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Allan Smith: Last month, you gave a rather surreal speech at the White House on trade. Tell us what you've been up to regarding helping the Trans-Pacific Partnership pass since then, and what you're planning for the crucial lame-duck session?
John Kasich: Well, we just published a piece in The Washington Post, and I've talked to a few members about this. I was discouraged when I read that [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell said that it was dead, but then I was told he turned around and said, "No, it's not."
As long as the White House is deadly serious, which they tell me they are, I'll help them anyway I can. You know, whatever it takes. It's very important obviously from an economic point of view because of the need for innovation, for progress, to improve the standard of living of people. But I also think it's a critical issue in geopolitics too. With all those fledgling countries in Asia, who really want to stand with us but they live under the shadow of China and the smaller shadow of Russia. So I just think it's really important both economically and geopolitically.
Mike Nudelman, Business InsiderI have never worshipped at the altar of free trade, but I've always been an advocate of free trade. This — it's just now more clear than ever.
Look, we have a very lousy system for retraining workers that get disrupted. And, you know, I just don't see anybody that's particularly interested in fixing that. They think it's fixed, but it's not fixed. So, we need a dramatic improvement in the way we train people who get displaced. Furthermore, when there is cheating, the cheating needs to be called. And I see that the administration has become much more aggressive on that front.
Smith: Building off that, when you look at your state, and a lot of the press surrounding trade in Rust Belt states — such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — has been focused on how factories have closed and how manufacturing jobs are leaving.
Kasich: Well, first of all, we're not Rust Belt. I mean, that's an old term. We do have manufacturing. We have a half-a-billion-dollar investment from a Chinese individual, which brings a couple thousand jobs in Dayton. So manufacturing is still very important to us, but we are much more diversified state. And furthermore, anybody that says the steel mills are coming back to Youngstown is not telling the truth. They're not coming back. You could have some aspects of advanced manufacturing appear. But if you look even at Pittsburgh, where I grew up, you've now replaced steel jobs with technology jobs, and they pay better. So, I know that, you know, leaders have to lead. I don't read polls to decide what I'm going to do. But for the best interest of the people of our state, having a big mix of technology, healthcare, IT, financial services, and manufacturing is the ticket. To put all of your eggs in one basket is silly. We did that for a long time and I don't think it's very smart.
Smith: You won a sweeping reelection based mainly on touting your record of strengthening Ohio's economy following Gov. Strickland's years. So what has happened with the narrative that this anti-trade message, that the economy is not doing well, is really picking up steam in some areas?
Mike Nudelman, Business InsiderKasich:I don't really think it is. I don't really know — I don't think I believe that. When you ask people, do they believe that we ought to have trade, I think people understand it's important. Now, I think that they are hung up on, you know, that people cheat and we don't enforce the laws, and I think that's correct. But I don't think people want to just say, "We're not going to trade with anybody." I don't accept that. I really don't care — I'm going to be like one of these deniers — I don't care what the polls say. People intuitively know that trade is good for our country. We just have to get the right trade agreements.
Smith: Do you think the lame-duck session is the only time this agreement can get through? Or do you think it's still possible afterward?
Kasich: You know, I don't know enough to say. You watch people run for president, and a large part of what they say, they don't ever follow through on. But I don't think you can afford to wait on this. Do I think it could get passed in a lame duck? Probably tough. But impossible? No, or I wouldn't be wasting my time. It's going to take some leadership, and it takes a time where leadership is more important than people's political career at times.
Smith: What do you think the president needs to do to help get this passed?
Kasich: He needs to really engage both Republicans and Democrats. He needs to engage them in a very personal way. And he needs to tell them that this is something that America, the United States of America, needs. Not Republican. It's not Democrat. It's America.
Smith: Now certain media outlets — Breitbart, Drudge Report, Sean Hannity, places where a lot of conservative voters go to for information — have been pushing a strong protectionist message with this agenda that coincides with what Trump is pushing. This is out of step with more traditional conservative values. Do you think the Republican Party needs to take some control back from some of these outlets?
Kasich: Well, I don't want to comment on media outlets, but I will tell you that if the Republican Party does not evolve, the Republican Party is going to die. The Republican Party cannot be anti-trade, anti-immigrant, not out there practicing the politics of people, you know, the issues surrounding drug addiction and mental illness and the cost of prescription drugs and healthcare and student debt and all of these things are very personal to people now. And if the party wants to have an ideological debate, it's never going to win anything in a major way. So I do believe that the party needs to evolve, or I won't be a part of it.
Smith: In your Washington Post op-ed, you called Vladimir Putin a latter-day Stalin. What do you make of the state of US-Russia relations, which are seemingly at a low point since the Cold War?
Kasich: I've been frankly very surprised at the intensity of our differences. I mean, between what appears to be hacking of our political system to the aggressive use of nukes on the borders, to these atrocities in Syria and their warnings. I've been very, very surprised at the intensity of all this. You know, I think to a degree this happens when they spot a softness in us, which I think for a while they did. But I think that's coming to an end. And, you know, when we ... we can't beg them to get along with us. And I think there was some of that going on, which has now ended.
Mike Nudelman, Business InsiderIt's a very serious matter. And what should we do about it? We should reinforce NATO. We need to be prepared to take solid actions to make it clear that we will not tolerate any intervention, and Russian intervention. These are serious matters, and we can never let up on these sanctions. Frankly, we should publicly increase them. And when it comes to the cyberwarfare piece, we're going to have to deal with it. I mean, it would be very easy to make an inflammatory statement on what we ought to do on cyber. I don't think that that's productive. But to allow the Russian activity to go unresponded to is not acceptable. So the administration is going to have to figure out, you know, a tough response on the basis of this hacking.
Smith: Now there was just a story published on how the administration is weighing military options regarding Syria, not necessarily looking at ISIS but at Assad and Russia backing them. Do you think we're at the point where that needs to be on the table?
Kasich: I think it's too late. I think that there's been too much. This all started with the red line, walking away from it. The inability to arm the legitimate Assad opposition. And, you know, it's trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. Not only are there a lot of outsiders intervening but this also involves a vicious internal war. There are many who believe the Alawites will fight to the death because they believe that, should they lose power, the majority would take, would show no compassion for them. They ruled that country for a long time, ruthlessly. It is a vicious civil war that makes one want to cry every day. We've just let too many things happen. And now, try to turn around and fix it. Getting involved in a civil war directly was never something I thought made sense.
Smith: Moving on to Wells Fargo, this is one of the biggest banking scandals that I can remember in my lifetime. What were some of your thoughts on what happened?
Kasich: It's a disgrace. And everybody who was involved in that culture should be held accountable. And there is no way they should walk out of that place with millions, tens of millions, tens and tens of millions of dollars, when innocent people who actually flagged this culture of conceit and culture of rip off should've been fired while the people who were doing it somehow are able to just resign and reap the big reward. It's just an outrage. It's people who have forgotten decent values towards other people.
Smith: I know that California and Illinois have both suspended doing business with Wells Fargo. Would you recommend that Ohio do the same? (Kasich would announce Friday that state agencies under his control would cut off business with the bank for at least one year.)
Kasich: Well, I don't know the extent to which they do business. I just want to see how this thing continues to unfold and if they have a legitimately major change in their culture. They have a new CEO. I don't know much about him. The lady who was involved to some degree in the shenanigans along with the CEO are gone. So I need to see where things stand before we go any farther at this point.
Mike Nudelman, Business InsiderSmith: As someone who worked with a major bank, how do you suggest preventing scandals like this from happening in the future? What's your fix to prevent this?
Kasich: How do you prevent people from doing inappropriate things? We can write laws. But at the end of the day, I actually wonder what the board was doing. What had the board been doing when they see these things happening. I mean, you can write a law that says you cannot provide incentives for the openings of accounts, but I think it gets to be a deeper issue of the value structure of any organization and the value of its leaders. And if you talk to anybody who's been successful in business, they will tell you the thing that matters the most are people. And clearly, in this case, the quality of the people was not paid attention to. By the board and I don't know what they were doing. And I think there is a certain accountability by the board here.
In terms of what law you could pass, I don't know. I mean if there was something specific that made sense, then I'd be OK with that. I would favor that. But just passing something without having a great impact, look, laws only go so far. It's an individual morality in values that matters in these companies. I mean, they ought to clean house. And they ought to figure out how to claw back all this money. That is a given. In terms of additional laws, there are reasonable approaches to this, but I'd have to see what they are. I'm not a federal lawmaker.
Smith: You released probably the strongest statement over the weekend regarding the leaked audio from Donald Trump. You've been steadfast in your position post-primary season, and you haven't wavered. Is there any advice you'd have for fellow Republicans? And what do you make of this ongoing situation?
Kasich: I think you lead by example, that's my advice. I mean, I don't have any more words. I've tried to do the best I can to lead by my actions in an appropriate way without recrimination or anything like that, because I'm a very happy person. I don't think I need to say any more than what I've demonstrated. And my action over the weekend was not based on just this incident, which is terrible — it's been a whole consistent message of division and anger, and I don't support that.