Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The grown up in the room

Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of many republicans seeking that party’s 2016 presidential nomination, held a town hall event at the University of Richmond on October 5. Although he was overshadowed by the snarky food fight of the recent CNN debate, his low key common sense approach to hot button issues could resonate with the electorate.

Free of the distraction of the traveling circus created by more colorful candidates, Kasich presented a very compelling talk to a standing room only crowd. Grey heads and curious students listened attentively as Kasich addressed a laundry list of issues.

Kasich served for 18 years in Congress and worked as an investment banker before running for governor.

Experience in federal and state government, as well as in the private sector, gives him broad knowledge of complex issues—especially the federal budget process--and, just as important, perspective on ways to bring about meaningful change.

Kasich began his remarks by contending the country needs a true uniter. “I’m not interested in hot rhetoric and I’m not playing to the cheap seats. I’m interested in being a leader, not a warrior.”

He believes that the country needs to embrace a set of values that transcends time. America was built by “people working together where we live doing simple things in everyday life.” As Kasich spoke, rays of sun—welcome after too many rainy days-- filled the room.

During the televised “debates” held earlier this year, which quickly degenerated into snarky food fights, Kasich seemed to be the only grown-up on stage. While others promised to fix this and that on their first day in office, Kasich offered thoughtful, low key responses to hot button issues.

Kasich outlined his no-nonsense approach to governing. When he became Governor of Ohio, the Buckeye State, plagued by mounting debt, rising unemployment, and few prospects for improvement, was dying. He got to work, walking “the lonely road” of the reformer. By the end of his first year in office, he was the most unpopular governor in America. Yet, four years later, he was reelected by a 30 percent margin. Ohio now has a budget surplus and low unemployment.

Kasich declared that the atmosphere of government must change in order to get things done. “You don’t go to war over an issue if it’s not necessary and you don’t hate people who don’t agree with you. Find things you agree on and get them done.”

Kasich contended that “politicians who spend their time being ideologues need to change; we’ve become a nation of yellers and screamers,” which also must change.

Although Kasich’s craggy visage gives him a somewhat grumpy appearance, he can be light-hearted. Learning that the first questioner, a student, was celebrating his birthday, Kasich led the assemblage in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Kasich addressed a laundry list of issues.

Had he been president, Planned Parenthood would be defunded by now, but he would not kill family planning.

Veterans would immediately receive vouchers for whatever medical services they need as a start to clean up the VA mess.

Kasich said he wrote America’s last balanced budget while in Congress. He believes that economic growth is vital to the success of the country, but is not an end in itself. “No one should be left in the shadows.” Kasich said that he worked to create emergency mental health beds in Ohio, which might have prevented the tragedy in Creigh Deeds’ family.

He defended his decision to accept federal Medicaid money as other states shun the practice. “Instead of incarcerating bipolar people, we used the money to get them proper medication so they could be functioning citizens, working and paying taxes. Without Medicaid funds, the poor clog emergency rooms, which helps no one.” Kasich contended that moving decisions like Medicaid to the state rather than federal level results in better use of the money and greater accountability.

He advocates less regulation and believes that things are built from the bottom up, not by mandate from Washington.

Kasich was clearly not pandering to segments of the audience. He told people from Virginia Beach concerned about reduction in military sending that the Pentagon needs to be reformed and that too much money has been spent on infrastructure.

Kasich claimed he had spoken at an early meeting of the Tea Party, but told that group to stick to the balancing budget and tax reform. This remark was greeted with enthusiastic applause.

He told the young people in the audience “don’t mess with drugs. I’ve known too many people who buried their kids.”

Kasich advocates a two pronged approach to Social Security that would hold older folks harmless but give young people other options.

The federal government, said Kasich, needs to get out of education. Local board of education know better how to teach their kids than Washington bureaucrats.
He said we need a border, something we presently do not have. Those here illegally should pay a penalty to be registered as a guest worker and become acclimated to our society. No one should be able to “jump ahead in line” of those working their way through the legal process for citizenship.

Kasich said that Isis fighters who rape children believe that action gets them closer to Allah. He said that if he were president, a red line would not be violated without consequences.

“If I become your president, tighten your seatbelts,” Kasich warned. “I was born to make trouble.”

It’s a long way to the presidential election, and too soon to predict the republican nominee. Will the election mimic America Idol, or will the voters select a grown up? Time will tell.

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