Kasich tackles budget, security issues, stressing experience
By Samantha-Rae Tuthill | December 22, 2015, 14:40 EST
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Republican presidential contender John Kasich focused a town hall-style meeting on the art of getting things done in government, pointing to his track record as governor of Ohio since 2011, and expounded on terrorism and Middle East turmoil.
Kasich, who trails in Granite State voter opinion polls, told nearly 100 people at the meeting Sunday that the biggest threats to the nation today are terrorism spawned by Middle East conflicts and government overspending. He outlined his experience related to both: He led efforts to craft a balanced budget as chairman of the Budget Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, turned an $8 billion Ohio deficit into a $2 billion surplus as governor, and served for 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee.
“It’s not that hard to balance budgets; I’ve done it,” he said. He also told the crowd in the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside meeting room that while devising balanced fiscal policies isn’t as tough as the politics involved in putting them into effect.
That often means reaching across the aisle to members of the opposition, or to those in your own party who hold differing views, and reminding them that they got elected to get things done, not stand in the way, the governor said. It’s not a matter of always getting your way and winning, he said, but requires a give and take that lets the other side “win sometimes.”
With veiled references to some of his louder rivals in the presidential hunt, Kasich acknowledged that he isn’t the type to “shout” or “bang his fists on the table.”
“You just can’t beat people up to get them to do what you want them to do,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, the benefits of lower taxes and fiscal restraint he has created in Ohio have led to steady gains in jobs and an unemployment rate below the national average.
Turning to terrorism and the Middle East, Kasich pointed out that America can’t afford to elect a president who needs on-the-job training in dealing with international affairs and national defense. He said his almost two decades on the House Armed Services panel gave him essential experience in those areas that other candidates don’t have.
When questioned from the audience about his comment about the 2003 Iraq invasion during the Dec. 15 Republican debate, Kasich said he would avoid involving U.S. ground forces in another Mideast conflict, such as the Syrian civil war.
Faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction led to the Iraq invasion, and he supported that move based on that information. On Dec. 15, Kasich said he would have opposed the invasion if Saddam Hussein hadn’t had those weapons.
“I wouldn’t have wanted us involved in a civil war,” he said in Portsmouth. Kasich said the upheaval in Iraq after the invasion stems from the nation’s origin, arbitrarily created after World War I to include followers of both Sunni and Shia Muslim faiths, as well as Kurds. Much of the unrest since 2003 has pitted members of these groups against one another. The Islamic State terrorist group, which has claimed territory in both Iraq and Syria, is mainly comprised of Sunnis.
Likening involvement in Mideast civil wars to stepping into the middle of a knife fight among strangers in a dark alley, Kasich said the U.S. needs to coordinate better with allies in the region, like Turkey. The member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, should be our bridge to the Middle East, he said.
As for Syria, Kasich says he opposes letting President Bashar al-Assad remain in power but would not want to get the U.S. into the middle of the civil war that has raged there since 2012. Similarly, he said he would seek to destroy the Islamic State but not by inserting U.S. troops into the Syrian conflict. The civil war has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced more than 11 million, including 4 million international refugees.
On U.S. immigration and refugee policies, Kasich said he supports improving the screening methods to prevent anyone from the region who may pose a security risk from entering the U.S. But he refused to shut the door on refugees and immigrants as not in keeping with the American way.
If the nation had banned immigrants in the past, he quipped, “I’d be running for president in Croatia.”
Kasich, who trails in Granite State polls with support of about 7.7 percent, according to a RealClear Politics average, said he has held more than 40 such meetings in New Hampshire since declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in late July. He beefed up his field staff in recent weeks in hopes of a surprise win in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, set for Feb. 9.
Who would you like to see become the next president of the United States?
Bush, Jeb (R)
Carson, Ben (R)
Christie, Chris (R)
Clinton, Hillary (D)
Cruz, Ted (R)
Fiorina, Carly (R)
Gilmore, Jim (R)
Graham, Lindsey (R)
Huckabee, Mike (R)
Kasich, John (R)
O’Malley, Martin (D)
Pataki, George (R)
Paul, Rand (R)
Rubio, Marco (R)
Sanders, Bernie (D)
Santorum, Rick (R)
Trump, Donald (R)
None of the above