The PJ Tatler

Kasich: 'I Have a Right to Define What It Means to be a Conservative'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he’s “not playing cat and mouse” and “not being evasive” about his 2016 presidential plans.

“I just don’t know yet,” Kasich told Fox from early primary state New Hampshire. “…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.”

Kasich said his focus on issues that affect the poor stems from his belief that the GOP “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,” he said. “…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…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.”

Kasich touted his gubernatorial record of starting with an $8 billion deficit to a $2 billion surplus.

“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,” the governor said.

“…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.”

Kasich stressed that “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 since 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,” he said. “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.”