Former Ohio governor John Kasich has sent mixed signals about whether he will launch a primary challenge to President Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination. Now a senior political commentator for CNN, Kasich says he has bigger things on his mind.
You said recently [about challenging Trump]: “There’s no path right now for me. ... I’ve never gotten involved in a race that I didn’t think I could win.” Then you tweeted, “While the path looks tough, all of my options are on the table.” What factors are you considering before you make the final decision?
Whether there’s a path. I mean, I don’t have anything to add. I didn’t say anything that is any different than what I’ve been saying for the last year. You know, things are very volatile in this business, and you just cannot predict what might change.
How do you determine that there is, or there isn’t, a path?
Have you ever been out hiking in your life? When you’re looking to how you’re going to get to the top of the hill, you kind of make an assessment as to which is the right way to go — if you can even make it.
What motivates you to be thinking so hard about running in the first place? What would you do differently from President Trump?
Wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. You know, I’m not thinking hard about — look, there’s lots of things that I’m doing. I’m an idea guy. And I’m very interested in what’s happening with our country, what’s happening around the world. I mean, I just finished [reading] a chapter last night, a book by Edith Hamilton called “The Greek Way,” about the battle between the Persians and the Greeks. I now have finished [writing] my fifth book, and this book is going to be very surprising to people because it’s not about politics. I don’t spend my time sitting around thinking about this. I have a lot of things I think about — including the state of my golf game.
I was going to ask you about your book [to be published in October]. The title is, “It’s Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change.” What is one of the 10 ways?
Well, start a movement. Best example of that would be Greta Thunberg, that young Swedish girl who started standing outside the parliament and talking about the fact that adults were ruining her environment. She started a worldwide movement. Or join a movement. Or realize that life doesn’t go on forever. Or get out of your silo. So basically, as somebody said to me in Michigan, if there was one thing that you would like to lay on people’s hearts, what would it be? And I said that everybody matters and everybody can do something to change the world. I’ll give you another simple example. You know what a minyan is?
When a Jew dies, they want to have a minyan; that means you must have 10 people attend your burial. So there was a Holocaust survivor who grew old and lost touch with his supporters and friends and family. And when he died, this hospital chaplain was very concerned he wouldn’t have a minyan. So he went on Facebook and he said: This man is going to be buried tomorrow; we need to have a minyan. And when he got to the cemetery there was, like, 100 cars, and he thought, Wow, I wonder who has been so popular that they’re all here for this burial. Well, it turned out it was for the guy who he wrote about on Facebook. Now what’s the lesson? Sometimes you change the world just by showing up. So the book is going to be much different. There’ll be a chapter about slowing down. You know when you drive in your car in a beautiful part of the country, and you’re driving like you’re some racecar driver, you never stop to see what’s around you? And when your life moves too fast, you never hear the little voice inside of you telling you what your purpose is and what’s next. So this is a book about life, not a book about politics.
It sounds like your thoughts or interests are moving beyond politics, or are bigger than politics.
My thoughts have always been bigger than politics. It’s just that politics happens to be something I’ve worked in. I mean, how many people do you know who are reading “The Greek Way” by Edith Hamilton? And then I spent some time last night reading the last couple chapters of First Corinthians, at the same time I’m watching the NBA game. I have a lot of interests.
Why First Corinthians?
Well, First Corinthians, [Chapter] 15, talks about the new creation body that we would have. It’s Paul writing about what eternity will look like. It’s very, very compelling, and I don’t think most people know anything about it. It’s a really exciting concept about eternity.
A couple political questions: If there ends up not being a path for a John Kasich, and [Maryland Gov.] Larry Hogan has decided there’s not a path for him, what does that say about the Republican Party? Can it still be a home for conservatives like you?
Well, look, I think this is sort of a temporary deal. I think that the party is historically concerned about debt. They’re concerned about having free and open trade. They’re concerned about welcoming immigrants into the country. And I think that the Republican Party is stumbling around because there have been no new really exciting ideas coming out of the Republican Party for a number of years. They keep going back to Reagan. Well, I knew Reagan — it was 100 hundred years ago. They don’t focus on the issue of workforce training, of dramatic reforms in education, the need to address climate change — it’s like we’re sunk. And then you add where the party is right now. I don’t even recognize it. It’s Luddite in a way. I mean, it’s unbelievable. I think members of the Republican Party are in a coma right now, is what I think. And at some point they’ll wake up and say, What’s happened? [Laughs]. And then we’re going to tell them, and they’re going to go, Really?
Is it a coma because of their allegiance to President Trump?
There’s a tribal instinct, and a willingness to only absorb that that supports what you currently think. Anything that is dissonant information should be rejected. And I think it’s true for both political parties, to be honest with you. I think that we live in a siloed, tribal world right now.
When you were in the Congress, you voted to impeach Bill Clinton. And I was wondering how the current case that some Democrats would make against Trump compares to that situation?
I think it’s two different things. Look, that was a very difficult time for us, but it involved, you know, a grand jury and those kinds of things. I was not a main participant in that, I just wasn’t. It was a difficult decision for me. In terms of what they should do now, the country doesn’t want this man to be impeached. One thing the Democrats have to be careful of is that they’re not blinded by hatred. I’m not telling you that they don’t have a legitimate case to investigate, but some of them are bordering on really, you know, deep-seated anger, which is never a good thing.
Maybe you’re done with politics.
We’ll see. You know, I still haven’t written off the chance to play on the PGA Tour.
This interview has been edited and condensed.