OTR Interviews

Gov. John Kasich: We need more people who are uniters, who will put country first

Uncut: Ohio Gov. John Kasich on why he focuses so much on the poor in his policies, the ned to cure dysfunction in Washington and whether he will be running for president

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 24, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Ted Cruz, the first Republican candidate to make it official he is running. Will Ohio Governor John Kasich be next?

Right now, Governor Kasich is visiting New Hampshire. He joins us from Concord. Good evening, Governor.

JOHN KASICH, GOVERNOR OF OHIO: How are you, Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. Governor, I have heard you speak a number of times. You often talk about the struggling middle class, but the thing I always hear you talk about is the poor. You talk about the poor a lot, don't you?

KASICH: Well, Greta, first of all, you have to have economic growth because if you don't have economic growth and a stable economy, you spend your time digging out. When you dig out and you have economic growth, it shouldn't be an end unto itself. I think then you can certainly reach out and help people who live in the shadows. So what we want is we want the mentally ill not to be in our prisons. We want the drug addicted to get rehab so they can get on their feet. And we want the working poor to have incentives to become independent. We are doing all of that but we are also reforming welfare so that, when people go in the welfare office, they have one person that works with them, that they get them to a baseline where they can begin to get trained for a job. We want the employers in the welfare office. We want them to be trained for a job that exists and we want them to be independent.

So you know a lot of times people say are you a compassionate conservative? That sounds like we just help people. We want to help them but we want to help them to get on their feet so they can be independent, Greta. But, yes, I think it is important that everyone in our country, black, white, everyone feels as though they have a stake in America, that America can be a land of promise for everybody.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So, since you have been governor of Ohio, how were things when you started and how are things now in the economy for poor people, struggling middle class? What's the story in Ohio?

KASICH: Well, first of all, we were $8 billion in the hole, and now - - you know, $8 billion, historic debt. We're now two billion to the plus. We have a surplus now of $2 billion. Many of the states in America are not structurally balanced, including some run by Republican governors. We are up almost 350,000 jobs. We have cut taxes by over $3 billion. And we have significant resources to help people be rehabbed, to get mental health treatment. We are helping the working poor by eliminating some disincentives for them to get ahead. In this state, things are much better but our work is not done. Greta, interestingly enough, we have a task force on community and police so that we can begin to address some of the most serious problems we have in our society today. But, you know, everybody has a chance to rise. And we do our best to provide for that in the state of Ohio.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party?

KASICH: Say that again, Greta? I'm sorry.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in your mind?

KASICH: Well, I think the Republican Party says that we need to have solutions that don't involve government because they can be more specialized. Government sometimes is a blunt object. I think Democrats, not all of them, but many liberals say if we just create more government or pour more money in, we will fix things. There is a partnership between the government and private sector to address some of our problems. Frankly, what is too similar between Republicans and Democrats is they are just all fighting with one another. And they're even fighting internally.

And, Greta, we are never as strong as a nation when we spend our time fighting. We have got to have more people who are uniters. We can fight for a while but, at the end of the day, like Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did, you have a drink and you say we are going to have put the country first. That, to me, is most important in terms of getting America back on track again. End the polarization, end the division, and you can do that without losing your principles.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where do you sort of step aside from some of the more traditional thoughts in the Republican Party or even some of the Republican governors? I know that you were out front taking the Medicaid expansion, which drew some heat from Republicans. Where do you step out off the Republican Party or at least the common ideology of the Republican Party?

KASICH: Well, I think I have a right, Greta, after being the governor of Ohio for two terms, a chairman of the Budget Committee in Washington that got the budget balanced for the first time we walked on the moon, I think I have a right to define what it means to be a conservative. To me, a conservative is to give everybody an opportunity to be successful.

Look, if we ignore the mentally ill and we let them go into prison, how is that helping? How is it helping if we just ignore the drug addicted and tell them to fend for themselves and they end up sleeping under bridges or they are in our local jails? That's not conservatism. Conservatism is getting to the root of the problem, personal responsibility and accountability, and getting them on their feet. To me, that's the defense of conservatism.

And at the same time, of course, we can't ignore the fact that we can't punish the successful. We have got to make sure that we have a lack -- you know, less government in terms of helping businesses to grow. That doesn't mean they get away with anything.

But it's very, very important that we honor free markets and free enterprise because that helps us be more prosperous. And when we are more prosperous, Greta, we can help more people. It's a virtuous circle, right?

By the way, I have some good news. The state of North Dakota today just passed a balanced budget amendment. I have been traveling all over the country. I now have three states that I have visited that have done that. I'm for a balanced budget amendment because Congress is unable to restrain themselves to be creative and innovative. If we don't watch it, we are going to bankrupt ourselves is. That's not a good American value. So I have got good news today. And we are making progress in terms of forcing that Congress to be responsible. That's good news, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Another question I got to ask you. Are you going to run for president and, if so, when will you be announcing? I've got to ask you that question. I know you are going to say you haven't decided and you are looking at it but give me the best answer you can.

KASICH: Well, you know, this is a good start being on -- you know, on with Greta Van Susteren or on Gretawire.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll take that as an ad.

KASICH: I don't know, because these are deeply personal decisions. I'm here in New Hampshire to talk about what we have done in Ohio, the value of leadership and what I think is it is and, hopefully people will learn from it, and we'll have a better country. We'll see what's in store. I'm not playing cat and mouse. I'm not being evasive. I just don't know yet. And that's OK. And as one guy told me, who wanted to run for president and didn't, you are the governor of Ohio, take your time, decide what you think is best for yourself and for the country and go from there. And I think that's pretty good, Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you. And I hope you will come back and, of course, we will be watching to see what you decide.

Thank you, sir.

KASICH: All right, Greta. Thank you.