Election 2016

John Kasich Is a Right-Wing Trojan Horse: Why the GOP Establishment’s Newest Pick Should Make Everybody Worried

Although he comes across as reasonable, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Ohio governor is anything but.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cline/Shutterstock

So it looks like John Kasich, the latest great hope for GOP establishment sanity, found himself a benefactor, and none too soon. (He’s down to his last two million.) This would be one of the benefits of former great hopes dropping out of the race, as Christ Christie did this week, leaving one of his billionaires shopping for someone else to buy. That billionaire is Home Depot co-founder and investment banker Ken Langone.

Politico reported yesterday:

In the first half of 2015, Langone gave $250,000 to the pro-Christie super PAC America Leads. “Would I write a check for $10 million? No, no I wouldn’t. But I do something better than that,” he said last year in an interview with National Journal. “I go out and get a lot people to write checks, and get them to get people to write checks, and hopefully result in a helluva lot more than $10 million.”

“I’m relentless. I’m not going to stop. I put a mirror under your nose. If I see mist, I ask you for money. If there’s nothing there, I’m talking to a stiff.”

This is a big get. Jeb Bush was in the hunt too and Langone was said to have been a fan. But Jeb doesn’t need money so Langone would just have jumped on top of a big pile of billionaires who are throwing away their cash, which doesn’t sound like much fun. If Kasich were to pull it off, he’d have Langone to thank for it.

Langone is known, for some reason, as an establishment guy but it’s hard to understand why. In a recent interview with CNBC he expressed a lot of admiration for Donald Trump because “he’s saying what the American people are thinking” and took the Tea Party view of Congress:

Last year, I can’t tell you how many times I got calls on how much money, how many checks I wrote. We’ve got to get control of the Senate. If we get control of the House and the Senate, we can get things done. Well, we’ve had control of the House and Senate since January and we’ve gotten nothing done.

I am absolutely — first of all, if I was John Boehner and I was Mitch McConnell I would resign as the leaders right now. I’d say somebody else take a shot at it. I am not getting anything done…they are being led around by their nose by the President of the United States. It’s almost as if the legislative branch doesn’t matter. And this is what is wrong. I think the American people are fed up.

Like so many right-wingers he seems confused about how government works. Apparently, he expected that the House and Senate could somehow force the president to do their bidding without offering any compromise or cooperation. It’s so interesting how differently they see things when a Republican is in the White House though.

His view of President Obama is pure Tea Party too:

He’s not bringing us together. He’s willfully dividing us. He’s petulant. Ronald Reagan would never go into the Oval Office without his jacket on — that’s how much he revered the presidency…

Divide us and we all lose. And this has got to stop. And if [Obama’s] listening, or one of his people are listening, and you can quote me exactly for what I say, he is not acting presidential, he is behaving in a way designed, in my opinion, to divide us and make us look at each other with skepticism, with suspicion.

That’s the end of America as we know it when that happens.

This guy [Obama] worked like hell to be president . . . Behave like a president. Let me look at you as a model to how we should behave. What does he say? Fat cats, jet airplanes. What is the purpose? Us versus them.

It’s an article of faith among many on the right that Barack Obama misbehaved so badly that he forced them to take extreme measures to obstruct all of his proposals and do everything in their power to keep the country from functioning normally. Langone obviously signs on to that view, and people nonetheless persist in believing that he’s moderate based solely on the fact that he’s previously supported guys like Rudy Giuliani and his old friend Ross Perot. (And yes, he’s occasionally thrown some money at New York Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer.) But his own views are not moderate in the least.

Langone’s ire at Obama’s comments about “fat cats” can probably be explained by his history of malfeasance and corruption as the head of the New York Stock Exchange’s compensation committee that ended in his friend Dick Grasso’s downfall at the hands of New York’s Attorney General at the time, Elliot Spitzer. It’s a delightful story of greed and avarice in which Langone demonstrated the grace under pressure of an upstanding American businessman:

“They got the wrong fucking guy…I’m nuts, I’m rich, and boy, do I love a fight. I’m going to make them shit in their pants. When I get through with these fucking captains of industry, they’re going to wish they were in a Cuisinart–at high speed.”

Despite his profane rhetoric, Langone is a devout Catholic. But he does part ways with the Pope on one important issue. He doesn’t care for the pontiff’s statements on market capitalism and complained to Cardinal Dolan of New York that big donors were balking at pitching in for a 180 million dollar renovation for St Patrick’s cathedral unless the Pope changed his tune. He suggested that the Pope would “get more with honey than with vinegar” and said he thought he was probably just confused because he had spent so much time with crony capitalists in Argentina and hadn’t been exposed to the higher caliber of billionaires we have here in America. Cardinal Dolan hastened to explain that the pope is “very grateful for the … legendary generosity of the Catholic Church in the United States.” Langone was presumably appeased by the Church’s reassurance of his superiority and goodness, because the renovations of the cathedral are proceeding apace.

Langone is staunchly anti-choice as you might expect. And that brings us back to his latest project, Ohio Governor John Kasich, the Sunny Optimist™ presidential candidate and latest object of establishment desire. I wrote about Kasich when he announced last summer noting that his personality is eccentric, to put it mildly, and that his reputation for moderation, like Ken Langone’s, is overstated.

As governor of Ohio, he did agree to take federal government money to expand Medicaid and even said he was doing it out of Christian kindness, which is refreshing. He also tried to break up all the public employee unions, although he foolishly didn’t confine himself to destroying workplace rights for kindergarten teachers and nurses, including cops and firefighters, which didn’t go over so well. Nonetheless, he rode into the governor’s office on the Tea Party wave in 2010 and he’s more than justified their faith in him.

This week he took some action that was virtually designed to please his constituents, his benefactor Ken Langone and  hardcore conservatives in South Carolina. According to the Washington Post:

The Ohio legislature moved Wednesday to cut off $1.3 million in public health grants to Planned Parenthood in a closely watched vote that could have repercussions for the surging presidential campaign of Gov. John Kasich (R).

The bill, which cleared the Senate last month and passed the House on Wednesday, prohibits the Ohio Department of Health from giving state or federal grants to organizations that conduct or “promote” abortions. Kasich, who placed second in the Republican primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, has said he would sign the bill.

[…] The measure had been a top priority of antiabortion activists in the state. The effort to strip Planned Parenthood of government funding got a boost last summer, after antiabortion activists released covertly filmed video purporting to show that the women’s health organization and abortion provider illegally sold fetal tissue for a profit.

[…] The Ohio bill is different in that it targets state and federal programs addressing HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, infant mortality and other problems. Planned Parenthood receives a large percentage of that money every year to administer the programs across the state. Under the new bill, the organization would be barred from administering those programs because of its role as an abortion provider.

So John Kasich, the so-called moderate in the GOP race, is going to sign a bill that will deny life-saving programs for his constituents in order to destroy Planned Parenthood. It’s impossible to know if this was what tipped the scales for Ken Langone to fund his race but either way, he must be so pleased. They are a match made in heaven.

 

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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