Gov. John Kasich of Ohio wants to bridge the divides in America.
And that’s exactly what Kasich, a Republican presidential contender in the 2016 election, spoke with Business Insider about this week while on tour promoting his new book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United.”
At times fiercely critical of President Donald Trump, both before and after the campaign, Kasich has positioned himself within the Republican Party as an outspoken voice on healthcare, the opioid crisis, immigration, and trade. And while he’s not revealing his plans, there is certainly plenty of speculation about whether he will make another run at the presidency in 2020.
With his term up in 2018, Kasich is gearing up for life after his governorship. A former nine-term congressman, Fox News host, and Lehman Bros. banker, Kasich said he could foresee a future in politics, media, or business — or something still to be determined.
As a voice of moderation in the 2016 campaign, he was the last competitor to drop out of the race before Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee.
His book is the first signal about what could be next for the Ohio Republican.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Allan Smith: Tell me first, what was the inspiration behind writing this book?
John Kasich: Well, the things I learned on the campaign shouldn’t just be dismissed, OK? I thought what I saw was sort of a — it was really something that got me so motivated to think about how did that happen and where are we going. And then I started to reflect on all of the things I’ve seen throughout my career, no matter what it is.
Whether it was in the media, business, politics — and I think the country is adrift, and I think there are ways out of it, so I felt compelled to do that and write the book. The people that I worked with, you know, this is my fourth book, they were very encouraging for me to do it. And then it just flowed. And I got a whole lot out about my observations and how it affects you and me.
So I want people to read this book not just because I have some ego trip and I want people to buy this book, but because I want you to read this book because I think you will be surprised. It covers so many different aspects of what’s happening in America and what they can do to be a part of what to do to fix this country. So I’m very excited about this book. I’m maybe more excited about this than any book I’ve done.
Smith: Through your campaign, what is the one big thing you learned about the country in 2016 that you didn’t necessarily know about it beforehand?
Kasich: Well, about the country, I think I came to learn that people are not that much into tax cuts or regulations. What they want is they want to feel that people care about them and they’re going to have a chance to get up on their feet. And that whatever situation they find themselves in, they want to know they’re not alone. I think that’s a big part of it. That’s why I think the United [Airlines] problems became viral, because it was an example of where people were treated, where this guy was treated as a widget and not as a human being. And I think people want to know that they’re not alone.
You know, I went into a store to get my smartphone replaced — I don’t have it with me; it’s a flip phone — and the lady — I had to wait for a while — the lady handed me a new phone. I dropped mine in the swimming pool. And I said, “How much does it cost me?” And she said, “We made you wait here, just take this phone. We’re not going to charge you.” I couldn’t believe them.
She said, “Well that’s nothing, because I had a lady come in with a smartphone and we fixed it, and it was our fault, and I gave it back to her, and she said, ‘What do I owe you?’ And I said, ‘You don’t owe me anything.’ And the lady almost started to cry. She said, ‘Nobody treats anybody like that anymore.'” Kindness seems to have gone out the window. And so she was so shocked. So what people want to know is that somebody else cares about them. I really believe that.
Smith: What do you believe has caused the sort of stark divisions that we’re seeing in the country play out? And again, that’s not a new thing. It’s something that’s been developing over a number of years.
Kasich: There are some people who say that your life is bad because other people took advantage of you. My view is no, no, no, you’re having tough times in your life — let’s work together to get you out. And the other problem is people have now been absorbing only that they agree with. You know, part of it is if you’re liberal, you consume liberal information. If you’re a conservative, you consume conservative information. And there’s a certain stridency in both that you know everything, and if somebody doesn’t agree with you, you think they don’t know what they’re talking about, and you become intolerant.
So that’s part of it. On Facebook, if someone posts something you don’t like, you unfriend them, right? We need to stop this. We need to have people listen to one another. And there’s a way to drive that. Look, I’m telling you some stuff I haven’t told anybody else. I got a letter from a young man — well, he’s not a young man now, but I think of him as a young man. He was a kid when I was a kid. He was younger than us, became a great athlete, played football at Penn State. He wrote me a letter the other day about doing something in my old hometown of McKees Rocks. And I really haven’t been very interested — I have enough to do in my state, in my community — but I read his letter, and it was compelling.
What they were doing, they researched it, and they found that if you can create and athletic field and it will also encourage other activities, that it can help rebuild a community. So he and a whole lot of people in this town of McKees Rocks are coming together to do something bigger than themselves for somebody else. That’s how we get unity again in the country. So I had my wife read the letter. She said, “We have to send them money, John.” So I did. I called them, and I really encouraged them, because it’s those kinds of things that can help get people to understand one another again.
Smith: Do you believe that part of the polarization in this country, whether it’s from people consuming liberal or conservative information, do you believe that it’s also an aspect of having just two parties, and that’s just a naturally polarising system?
Kasich: I think we tend to focus — look, this book is an awful lot about the campaign and politics, but it’s an awful lot about other things. We tend to focus in America on our political system. But what about the rest of our system? What about the business community? EpiPen, Wells Fargo, United? What about the sports community and some of these people who play on Sundays who have no business even being on the field? What about the media that became so focused on ratings that content didn’t matter? What about the religious types who engaged themselves in politics instead of church affairs?
In other words, it’s not just — there’s another thing I believe is going on. And that is self-absorption. I think that as societies mature — I might sound like a preacher here — as societies mature, there is a sense of putting man on the throne and taking God off. God is a compass. God is not about who you’re sleeping with or, I mean, I don’t care about that. It’s about loving your neighbour. It’s about living a life that’s bigger than yourself. As time goes on, societies have a tendency to put themselves on the throne, and that leads to self-absorption and that leads to “life is all about me.” And there’s not a compass that sends you in a direction where life can’t be just about you.
And I think this growing total … growing and strengthening secularization, I think, is having a significant impact. Now, you don’t have to be a religious person. You can be a humanist and care about other people. But when we only become self-absorbed, then we become divided. “I’m not really interested in what you think, and, by the way, when you send me something on Facebook that disagrees with me, I’m just dropping you off of it.” It’s all these kinds of things. Or “I’m in a company, and my company doesn’t have all the revenue — we’ll just fire all of those people” instead of saying, “Look, we’ve got to keep our people together and keep our people working.”
When it becomes all about money and all about me, which we’re all hypocrites — I mean, I could say anything I want to say here, but I’m chief hypocrite. I mean, I say these things, but I can’t do them all. But at least I should be aware of them. And that’s what I think has divided us is this self-absorption; we don’t have the compass. I think we need an awakening in America.
Does that make sense?
Smith: It does. What you just described, isn’t that kind of what happened in ancient societies that became the world’s superpower and eventually demised?
Kasich: They lost their values. That’s what I’m concerned about. Why are we not caring about other people? Why are there weddings today where family members are fighting each other over politics? Trump or no Trump, why are we getting so worked up about that? How did this happen? I know how it happened, because just one thing led to another and we’ve gone down this road. And driven by stridency, to some degree, and those that provide content.
Smith: You actually used to be someone who worked in the media — you had a program on Fox News for years. What do you make of the role that media organisations, you know, we are the media, have played in this?
Kasich: Well, I called a network executive, who will never be named, and I said: “I know you made $US1 billion in this campaign, and they’re going to now push you to make another billion. The question is, when you make the second billion, are you going to be able to look yourself in the mirror? What about your values? What is your family going to think about you? How are you going to think about yourself?”
So I think that media is critical in our country, absolutely vital. But I don’t think we can have a media that is — you’ve got to make money. Business Insider has to make money. But not at all costs. So I think that the media has to become — they just have to do what they do best. Report the news, hold people accountable and all that, and not get into all the hype. You know, and all the clicks for cash and everything else, you’ve got to reign that in.
Smith: How do you think during the past campaign —
Kasich: — and that’s up to you, and you (pointing to Business Insider Executive Editor Brett LoGiurato).
Smith: How do you think during the past campaign —
Kasich: — you mean how did the media do?
Kasich: I think they did terrible. I think they regret it today. I think they look back and say, “You know, we could’ve done better.”
Smith: What do you think specifically was terrible?
Kasich: Well, how do you put an empty podium up for 20 minutes, waiting for someone to speak. You know, it’s all about money, ratings. I was in the media. I know how it works. But there’s just some things that are more important than money. I mean, one philosopher said, “Money can’t buy you love.”
Smith: True. Do you believe that we are now in a post-truth environment?
Kasich: You know, I was a subject of a fake news article out of Europe. And it was really amazing.
Smith: What was it?
Kasich: I don’t want to repeat it. But it was a real hit on me. All made up. It looked really official. And the post-truth environment or fake news or any of this other stuff, sometimes it’s hard to discern the truth, right? Unless you are on it. I mean, we all have to be, as consumers of information and news, we have to be a little more circumspect. And let’s not take everything in that gets fed to us. We need to become more — it’s kind of like when you go shopping, we need to be a little bit more discriminating. You know, if I say something.
Look at the issue on climate change, OK? Are we in a post-truth environment? Some people say there’s no issue; other people say the world is coming to an end. I mean, yeah, I think that it’s easy for people to make things up to convince people of their point of view, and I think it’s dangerous. Fake news is dangerous. Post-truth, you know, what is the truth? It’s important we know the truth.
Smith: Well, I mean, right now we’ve got the president who’s used the term fake news to describe —
Kasich: — anything that is criticism.
Kasich: And I think that’s bad.
Smith: So what do you consider to be the definition of fake news?
Kasich: Made-up stuff. Things that are not founded in reality. Something that is of somebody’s imagination.
Smith: And as being somebody who was on Fox News for a while, specifically —
Kasich: — let me tell you how I did my job, OK?
Kasich: I mean, the first show I had was called “Heroes.” And the second show I had was “From the Heartland.” And I did “O’Reilly” for almost 10 years. If there was a segment I didn’t like, I just would tell them I’m not doing it. “Sorry, I’m not doing it.” Now, you can’t always have it your way. Sometimes they’d say, “We really think this is important.” And you don’t want to be, you know, a self-righteous guy, but there were a number of times where I’d say, “Nope, I’m not doing it.”
Same is true when I was at Lehman Bros. Some of the bankers finally figured out “We’re not going to take him to see some certain clients because he just is not going to go along.” Now, I’m not putting myself on this pedestal. I don’t want to be knocked off my self-righteous petard here, you know. But you kind of struggle to get it right. And sometimes you get it wrong. But I was interested in trying to present things in a very interesting way because I’m not sure that — I think that boring content when presented right can be quite interesting. How do you like that?
Smith: I would agree with that.
Kasich: That’s a great quote.
Smith: Hang that up on the wall at Business Insider. That’s the model.
Kasich: I tell you, I did a show one time. They said it was going to be a failure. And I had Elie Wiesel, an imam, a rabbi, and a priest. And the show did exceedingly well. They didn’t want me to do the show. And I said, “Well, I think this will be great.” And it did well. So you know, I think, guys, two young guys here (pointing to Smith and LoGiurato) you, much younger than he is (pointing at LoGiurato, who is actually three years older than Smith), they’re going to remember you for what you did, not for your title and your money.
No one cares about that when they put us in the box, right? I’ve never been to a funeral where they said, “Well, this guy was really rich.” You know? It’s never about that. It’s like, “Well, with his wealth, he gave to charity.” I’d like at least 70% of what they say about me when I die to actually be true. That’s my goal.
Smith: That’s a good threshold.
Kasich: They can go 30% made-up. Fake news. Give me at least 70%.
Smith: So I think an age-old idea was that —
Kasich: — do you understand what I was saying though, about this field in McKees Rocks?
Kasich: You’ve got all these different people working on a single project. You know what happens? You get done with your meeting, you go out and have a couple beers. And then you’re talking about the [Pittsburgh] Penguins, and the Steelers, and the Pirates, and then all of a sudden, nobody cares about all this political bulls—, OK? All of a sudden it’s like, “Hey man, how’re you doing?” as opposed to “Who’re you for?”
You know what I mean? One of my boyhood friends — I can tell you who it is, it’s Judge [David] Cercone. He cannot talk to his father, because his father is 90 years old, has these political opinions. I don’t even know how it happened. And I said, “Dave, we’ve got to get your father off of that stuff.” I mean, I was shocked to hear it. But he absorbs one kind of news and yells at Dave about it. His father! Isn’t that crazy.
Smith: I think a lot of people can relate to that.
Kasich: I mean, that’s not where we want to live, fighting with somebody over Donald Trump. I mean, are you kidding me? Or Nancy Pelosi? I mean, what’re we thinking here?
I’m sorry, you were saying something about campaigns.
Smith: So it was an age-old truth that during a general election campaign, people would run to the center to get those moderate, middle-of-the-road voters that could swing either way, that would swing an election. And people would campaign to get that little 10% sliver. And now it seems like — and not only in this past presidential election — but it seems like people, candidates, no longer have to do that. And I’m curious what you think.
Kasich: Well, let’s forget about the presidential election for a second and talk about Congress. All this gerrymandering has just carved people up into safe districts, but they’re not safe, because they have to fear primaries. If you’re a Democrat, it’s from the left. If you’re a Republican, it’s from the right. So it further polarizes people. And then when you have the public, which is increasingly sort of knowledgeable about what’s happening, compromise is like evil. So the system is dysfunctional. Gerrymandering is horrific.
The role of money in politics is terrible, particularly when you’re running for president. You get a handful of billionaires who can basically buy the White House. It’s disgraceful. So the changes need to come. There’s a Supreme Court case on redistricting. I hope that the court rules and that the people who were there win and they have to draw more reasonable lines. We’re trying to do something about it in Ohio. On the presidential side, I think because of the changing economy, economics of America, people are very unsettled. And so there is a different way in which you talk to people today because of the fear that they have because of the economic change.
Smith: So you were talking about gerrymandering. Do you believe there is this sense that people are migrating to places in the country where the ideologies are in cohesion.
Kasich: You mean like moving there?
Smith: Yeah, yeah. There’s a great migration of people who have more liberal beliefs to move to coastal cities.
Smith: Yeah, and it could have more of an effect than gerrymandering.
Kasich: I’ve never thought about that. I’ve never — why are they doing that? (Looking at an aide in the room.) Are you aware of that?
Aide: I don’t know which comes first, why they go to a particular state. Most cases, it’s because of the economy.
Kasich: Yeah, I think it’s more about jobs than it is …
John Weaver: I think a lot of it is about lifestyle.
Kasich: Is it?
Smith: It’s definitely a mix of both.
Kasich: Well, I really never thought about it.
Aide: I think they get there and change the politics rather than go there because of them. Like right now, North Carolina is complaining about how they’re getting too liberal.
Kasich: I don’t think most people — let’s take things I know about Ohio. People go to Chicago because they think it’s cool, or they go to New York. But you know what they ultimately do? They come back. I don’t know anybody who says, “Well, I better move to Hawaii because they have better politics” I think people move places, maybe lifestyle might be one thing but that’s not political. That’s like, I’m older, I want to play golf, I want to live where it’s warm. If you look at the most rapidly growing states, where would they be? Florida, it’s warm. Texas? It’s warm. I mean there aren’t that many people heading to Minnesota. Right, John?
I mean, I don’t know.
Weaver: I don’t know anyone moving to Minnesota.
Smith: A couple of things about the early Trump presidency. What do you believe to be the greatest success he’s had over the first 100 days? And where do you think he’s come up short?
Kasich: I actually think the Syria strike mattered, and I’ll tell you why I say it. I was at the Munich [Security] Conference with John McCain. And people were really wondering about the country. And I think that strike sort of demonstrated, you know, like some American strength, which I think some people wanted to see. I think that was good. And less Twitter has been good. But it’s 100 days. You have somebody who never held public office, right? And now all of a sudden, he’s president. I mean, it’s really a big leap. And so there has to be a learning curve in all this.
And hopefully he is learning. But there are some things going on that I really don’t like at all. Like ICE agents yanking people out of their homes. It’s terrible. I saw an interview with the Homeland [Security] Secretary Kelly, who said, “Well, if we knock on their homes” — what do they call it? Knock-and-talk? Knock-and-talk in America? So if we knock and we talk to them and we find out they’re here illegally, they’re criminals. They have got to go. We “can’t turn a blind eye.” Really? Knock-and-talk? Anyway. I don’t like knock-and-talk. I’m against knock-and-talk. I will say that clearly.
Smith: So what do you think about the sanctuary-city stuff that he’s trying to do right now?
Kasich: I don’t believe in the sanctuary cities. We have laws. You have to abide by the laws. Some people say, “Well, people will go underground and all that.” You just cannot have people just looking the other way on everything. Now, I say knock-and-talk, you know, I’m not for knock-and-talk, but I’m also not for sanctuary cities.
Smith: You mentioned Syria. Do you see evidence that there is a strategy behind this?
Kasich: I have yet to see a strategy, but I do think the act in and of itself did have an impact on the world in the way they were looking at us. I do believe that.
Smith: What has surprised you most from Trump’s early presidency? Anything he’s shifted on?
Kasich: Well, a couple of things have surprised me. The administration and Republicans are taking a lot of positions that I took during the campaign. That’s not surprising me, but in a way, it has. It’s sort of like, I shake my head. China’s not a currency manipulator. We like NATO. We’re not going to deport 13 million people. It’s interesting. You see, never in my lifetime have I been called boring. But I think I was a boring candidate for president because I tried to be responsible. And one of the greatest problems I had is that I was governor. And so as governor, I couldn’t actually say that this guy (pointing at LoGiurato) could jump 12 feet in the air and slam dunk over [Golden State Warriors star] Draymond Green.
LoGiurato: You could say that.
Kasich: Yeah, but that would be what we would call fake news. So I wouldn’t say these things.
I’ll give you a good one. “When I’m president, I’m ripping up the Iran deal on Day One!” I haven’t seen anybody rip up anything, including a number of the members of the United States Senate.
Smith: So all of these things that you’re mentioning were all promised, especially the stuff that was “we’re doing this on Day One,” it’s clearly not happening. It didn’t happen. Do you see any evidence that voters who voted for those things are reacting in a negative way when these things aren’t happening?
Kasich: I think it’s too early. I think there will be great disappointment if all of a sudden there’s not economic growth. Look, it always gets down to jobs. You don’t have economic growth, things go south. If you have economic growth, people feel better about things. You know that. People would rather live in an area of poverty than in an area where there are no jobs, because if they live in poverty, they have a certain sense of hope they can get out of it. If there are no jobs, there’s no hope. And bad things come from that.
Smith: What do you make of the certain sectors that President Trump has sort of focused his job-related capital on? He’s definitely made a beeline on focusing on the manufacturing sector, and, additionally, he’s really taken an interest in the coal industry, which, being from the Midwest, we both know is not what it once was. And there are other industries like natural gas that are coming along and replacing a lot of it. What do you make of all that?
Kasich: Well, here’s the thing. The whole debate about coal — coal is going to continue to be an important component of our energy. It really has to be because renewables haven’t come along to take them out. And even natural gas, you want to have hedges to prevent against dramatic increases in natural-gas prices. But it’s not going to be the same, and even the people in the coal industry say it’s not going to be what it once was, OK? So there’s a certain reality that’s setting in.
Our biggest challenge in this digital age that we are entering is how do we effectively begin to train people for the jobs that are going to exist and not have them be stuck on jobs that are going to go away? And this is a big deal. And it requires the businesses of this country to, in my opinion, first of all, demand changes in the education system and also develop innovative, creative ways to have industries train people for the skills that are necessary for the jobs that are coming. So I’m a big believer in companies like Udacity, you know, but Udacity is one company like that, but we need competency-based education.
Look, I just called a couple of guys in the insurance industry. I want them to put curriculum online that people can take at their own speed and their own time, in their own home or the library, and take the curriculum, pass it, and be guaranteed a job interview in areas like basic insurance business. Because there’s going to be a lot of change. Now, I hope I can get the insurance industry to develop a curriculum and do that. That’s where this has to go in my opinion.
Smith: And I’ll do one last one before we do a little bit of video, but I’m curious — you’re easily one of the more outspoken voices on healthcare in the Republican Party. We saw the first iteration of the Republican healthcare bill fail. It was not very popular. There’s a huge debate in this country whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act or fix it.
Kasich: Well, you have to fix it, not repeal it. We always say “repeal and replace,” those are, like, political words. And I could use that phrase, or I could say we need to fix it. It needs reformed. And the exchanges need to be reformed. And with Medicaid expansion, you can, over time, begin to return that to a more reasonable match with the states. I mean, there are ways to deal with this. I just don’t want people being cut off.
Look, I will tell you one campaign promise they ought not to fulfil, and that is just repeal Obamacare without a decent replacement. And I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can tell you this, one of the things that I’m really concerned about is that people who don’t have power are not priorities for people in public life. Maybe it’s always been that way, but I see it more starkly now.
Maybe because of my job as governor. So, if you’re drug-addicted, “Well, well.” If you’re mentally ill, “Well, well.” If you’re really poor, “Well, you know, bootstraps.” This is concerning to me because nobody should be left behind. And I see it happening too much. And then we’re going to fix Obamacare by repealing some of the tax increases on some of the richest people in the country and then have less resources to help people with mental illness and drug addiction? It’s foolhardy. It’s nonsense. I don’t buy it.
(The next part of the interview took place on Facebook Live.)
Smith: Could you tell me one way in which America is divided right now and what you believe needs to be done to bridge that gap?
Kasich: Well, a lot of people who would watch this know that there’s a lot of fighting going on in their family and among friends about politics. It’s so crazy. There’s too many other things to argue about, like Yankees/Mets, not Trump or not Trump. And it’s gotten serious, and it’s gotten personal. People are lining up in politics like they are for Sunday football or Saturday football.
They are wearing these uniforms, red or blue, liberal or conservative, and it’s not healthy, because it separates us. The best way to build anything is to build it together and build it with diversity, because then you really get good ideas about how to be strong. And you need a strong foundation, which brings about the notion that all of us in the neighbourhoods, I still consider myself to be one of them. I mean, I live in a regular home, and I have kids that go to school, and I have a wife, and I hang out at the gym. I mean, we have to build a strong foundation. We have to find common purpose.
So I was thinking about this just a few minutes ago. Let me tell you what would be a really, really great project for all of us. Why don’t we start mentoring kids? Whether we’re liberal or conservative, why don’t we start going into the schools and giving the kids a sense of their own purpose, their own self-worth, their future, and what they can learn from us? You know, if we’re mentoring kids together, we might actually begin to talk to one another again and listen to one another. We have a big crisis all over the country and in our state on drugs.
The single biggest way to stop the drug crisis is to educate people on the fact that if you do it, it’s probably going to kill you or it’s going to ruin your life. So why don’t we all work together to stop that? We don’t have to be fighting about some national security policy. Let’s start talking about the things that pull us together, and then maybe we can send a message to the politicians and the other leaders in the business world and the sports world. Can we remember some decent values? Can we work together? Can we solve problems?
Smith: When we were speaking earlier downstairs, you mentioned the United flight, and I thought you gave a pretty good answer about that. So can you just explain for our viewers what you thought that went —
Kasich: Well, let’s think about United. First of all, they must have had a series of rules where they did not have judgment that came from the top. But then, as we get further down, what were the people at the gate at the United employees? Why didn’t they say, “We’re not yanking this guy off, that’s not appropriate”? Organisations work well when they have a leader that has a vision to take that organisation to a better place. And then you have followers in that organisation that buy in. Now, if the leader gets off track, why are the followers blindly following? They shouldn’t. And there are leaders within the followers. Somebody should have said something.
Not just in that, but in so many things. You know, Wells Fargo, there’s a perfect example. Opening phony accounts. Now, there were people in that organisation who complained, but the leaders didn’t listen. So what I think we need to do is realise that values matter, that virtue is good. Look, anybody who talks about these kinds of things could be hoisted on their own self-righteous petard. That’s — you can Google that.
Here’s the thing: We’re all hypocrites. We all say one thing and do another. But why don’t we try to do what we say more than what we don’t? And so, when I look at United, I see a breakdown throughout that company. But not just the guy at the top. But I think also the people that were there that day saying, “You know what, I don’t think that’s how you treat a human being.”
My wife says the problem is, “John, when you ask people to speak up and they have mortgages and kids, it’s tough.” And it is tough. And maybe that’s why the managers and leaders within an organisation need to stand up. But these are not acceptable things. And the reason why this went viral is because people feel like nobody cares about them. “Oh, I’m just a passenger on a plane. I’m a widget. They’re just going to yank me off.” The people are now saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not right.”
There is a growing sense in this country that being disconnected is not good. And there’s also some people that are staying in their silos and not coming out, but we have to pull them out, and we have to pull ourselves together at some point, I think.
Smith: Now, you met with President Trump, I believe in [February], right around the time the American Health Care Act. What did you discuss with the president in that meeting, and how receptive was he?
Kasich: I told him about how I thought we should reform healthcare. How receptive was he? Extremely receptive. I even talked about the crisis with the pharmaceutical industry and how the government has to have some leverage on these prices. You know, I was there for a long time, and it was a very pleasant meeting. Where it ended up was not where I wanted it to, and that’s why I kind of stood against this healthcare bill.
But to tell you the truth, I don’t think the president has any hard feelings about this, hard feelings about healthcare. I don’t think he’s in stone on something. He’d just like to see something get done. And I think there’s a battle for him inside that White House. Those who want him to be more reasonable and those who want him to be more hardline and whoever wins, it’s like a tug-of-war, and we’ll judge him on the basis of who he’ll listen to.
Smith: What side of that tug-of-war do you think is ultimately going to come out on top?
Kasich: I can’t predict. I don’t know. I just can’t tell you. I’m going to watch. If at some point it works, good, then I’ll be praiseworthy. If it’s something I think is bad, when I think about it and there’s something I have to say, I’ll say it. I’ve done that all of my career. Even when I was a very young man. Just to give you an example, when Ronald Reagan was president, I opposed US involvement in Lebanon.
I was one of 13, 14 Republicans who voted no against President Reagan. It’s not my job to be reporting to any political organisation or office. It’s my job as a public official to try to determine, with the help of my friends and advisers, what is the best thing to do to serve the public, and that’s what I try to do. And the chips fall where they may. You know, they have fallen pretty well.
You know, I was a state senator, I was a congressman for 18 years. Now I’ve been governor for two terms. Ed Koch used to say when he ran for governor, he didn’t win, and he said, “But I’m mayor of New York, and that ain’t bad.” Well, I may not be president, but I’m governor of Ohio, and that ain’t bad.
Smith: As someone who formerly had a show on Fox News, I’m curious what your thoughts on some of the developments that happened over the past year. Roger Ailes is out. Bill O’Reilly was just basically forced out. What do you think of the culture at Fox News, and what do you think of what’s transpired over the past year, which has been monumental?
Kasich: Well, look, I was there about seven years ago. I had my own show. I had a show on “Heroes.” I used to substitute for O’Reilly. It was fine. If it wasn’t fine, I wouldn’t have stayed. So there are changes going on. We’ll see how it all works out. But I don’t think — I’m not in the management of Fox News. I think they’re finding their way. I’ve had a private conversation with James Murdoch about Fox News, and I just want to leave it there.
Smith: Now, the title of this book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United” —
Kasich: Now just think if I looked better how many more books would sell.
Smith: It’s a pretty good cover. It’s a pretty good cover. I’m curious —
Kasich: Here’s what I like (points to the back cover of the book). I’m giving this kid a high-five. It’s a fun story. So I was in Maryland. I think we were in Annapolis. And people come backstage, like when you have concerts and things. Well, some people came backstage to see me. Political backstage. This dad brought his son. And he was a baseball player. He was just a young kid. And I said, “Well, let me see your stance.” And then I said, “Well, let me see you swing.” So I gave him some tips, because, you know, I was nearly a world-class baseball player. Not really.
But — so it was kind of fun. So I was out doing a town hall, and I spied the kid in the audience, and I said, “Hey, kid, come up here. Show these people how your stance is and how you swing.” That made that kid feel 10,000 times better. Everybody cheered, and they got a great picture, which that kid will probably keep, and his father loved it.
Politics doesn’t have to be a drag. It can be positive, and it can be fun, and it can be inspiring.
Smith: Now, recently, your longtime good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger —
Kasich: Oh, I love Arnold.
Smith: — came out and said he would be really excited if you ran for president again in 2020 in some capacity. I’m curious what your response is.
Kasich: What I thought about that? I thought “God, I don’t know what the heck Arnold is doing saying these things.” No, I love Arnold. We’ve been friends for a very long time. And I was very honored by it. Look, in terms of my political future, I don’t know. I’m going to complete my jobs as governor, get out of politics for at least that year and a half. I’m not sure I’ll come back in. But you can’t always talk about the future. You want to be a leader in whatever way you can. I just don’t know. And that’s OK for me to be there.
Smith: Lastly, I’m curious — from the book, do you have any last parting message to our viewers? What the main takeaway is from “Two Paths”?
Kasich: Look, I want people to read it not just because it’s my book, but I think there are things in here that will give you insight into the way presidential campaigns work, into the problems that we have, and what we can do it pull out of it. And that’s why I wrote the book, really. I hope they will check it out.
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