Kasich Wants to Burn Down the GOP
Standing with Obama on TPP at White House, Ohio governor defies his state’s voters
Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich went to the White House on Friday to stump for a top priority item for President Obama and Wall Street — and to undercut Donald Trump.
If the irate reaction from Republicans when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie simply embraced Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is any measure, Kasich is in for a torrent of intense criticism from members of his own party.
“[Kasich] was so petty in not showing up at the RNC … he was consumed by rage and jealously over Trump’s rise and this was the adult equivalent of acting out.”
In the bizarre and unprecedented move, Kasich appeared at a White House press briefing to advocate for Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
The conference was billed as a bipartisan push for the TPP. Kasich was joined by former New York mayor, political independent and Wall Street billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and by Henry Paulson, the former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs who served as treasury secretary under Republican President George W. Bush and was the architect of TARP.
Both Bloomberg and Paulson have endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest. Kasich said it was “very unlikely” he would support his party’s nominee in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN Thursday.
The decision to stand in solidarity with Obama in support of the TPP comes at an awkward time for Kasich. A slew of recent polls suggest Republicans opposed to the TPP are gaining momentum in Kasich’s home state of Ohio.
At least three polls show that Trump, who has staked much of his economic appeal on opposition to flawed trade deals like the TPP, has taken the lead in the Buckeye State. At the same time, recent polls have shown that Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who declared his opposition to the TPP in February, is crushing his Democratic challenger, former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
Even in Washington, the controversial trade deal has been rejected in its current form by its chief former Republican proponents in Congress.
In the face of escalating public opposition, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan declared their opposition to the deal in its current form.
Kasich attacked those Republicans who oppose the deal.
"There are people in the House and the Senate who will play pure politics with our future," Kasich said. "I would call on my former colleagues in the United States Congress to think about the implications of saying 'no' to the TPP."
The implication was clear. Kasich wants Congress to ram through the TPP in the lame duck session before a new president takes office, public opposition be damned.
Kasich also took time at the press briefing to attack GOP nominee Donald Trump.
"Sometimes simple proposals to solve difficult problems sell, but they never work," Kasich said. Then he attacked Trump's immigration and trade positions as "a simple way to scapegoat." Kasich called them "just wrong."
The press briefing appearance with Obama is the latest notch in a long list of instances in which Kasich has toiled fruitlessly to discredit Trump.
In the latter days of the Republican primary season, Kasich waged a quixotic effort to deny Trump the nomination and throw the contest into an open-convention free-for-all. That effort obviously failed.
Then Kasich played ungracious host when the Republican National Convention kicked off in his own state. This was the first time the GOP had held its convention in Ohio in 80 years — but Kasich refused to attend. That provided liberal media outlets with a few extra headlines about a lack of GOP unity, but it did nothing to prevent Trump from getting a post-convention bump.
"[Kasich] was so petty in not showing up at the RNC," said one prominent GOP strategist who has advised Kasich in the past. "He was consumed by rage and jealously over Trump's rise and this was the adult equivalent of acting out."
The strategist, who asked to remain anonymous, said Kasich could not get over the rejection voters handed him during his failed 2016 bid.
"He thought of himself as an elder statesmen in the GOP and was shocked that most voters considered his campaign fairly lame," the strategist said.
But unlike other Republican governors, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose once-promising campaigns for the nation's top job similarly flamed out, Kasich never moved on — a fact on full display Friday afternoon at the White House.
Even in light of his personal vendetta against Trump, the decision to participate in the pro-TPP publicity stunt is an odd one for Gov. Kasich, who will be seen as undercutting his own party eight weeks before a national election — despite the GOP's rising support in his home state.
The decision to stand side-by-side with Obama and hammer any Republicans who oppose the TPP is not likely to damage Trump's campaign, but it could certainly provide fodder for attacks on down-ballot GOP congressmen who've pledged to oppose the TPP in a lame duck session.
Perhaps Kasich, who worked for investment bank Lehman Brothers before becoming governor, is looking for a fresh golden parachute from Wall Street or perhaps a prominent position in a Clinton cabinet. If rumors are true that Kasich intends to mount another presidential bid in 2020, the decision to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Obama and Bloomberg against his own party seems very odd indeed.