Don’t Say You Didn’t See It Coming

Can’t say I disagree with progressive radio host Sam Seder’s observation that Ohio Governor John Kasich would be a threat to the Democratic Party were he to somehow survive the Republican presidential primary:

Back in 1999, when then Rep. Kasich first contemplated running for the White House, I figured that he would be a lock to beat likely Democratic nominee Al Gore, since he could position himself (to those who don’t pay very close attention to politics, that is) as a Republican who wasn’t as cranky as Newt Gingrich or Trent Lott. Kasich, of course, ultimately abandoned his presidential ambitions and endorsed George W. Bush.

Seder noted that Kasich came across as quite personable on his old Fox television show, Heartland. Watching old clips of Heartland, you can tell that Kasich has the same faux-folksy charm that Ronald Reagan used to acquire power a generation ago. He’s less obnoxious than Chris Christie, less stiff than Scott Walker. If I wanted to hide a radical agenda behind an aw-shucks image, I’d choose Kasich as my standard-bearer.

Here’s an example of Kasich’s deceptive demeanor. Back in April 2012, Kasich earned plaudits from some climate hawks for rhetorically separating himself from the “Global warming is a hoax!” crowd by declaring:

“This isn’t popular to always say, but I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere…I believe it. I don’t know how much there is, but I also know the good Lord wants us to be good stewards of his creation. And so, at the end of the day, if we can find these breakthroughs to help us have a cleaner environment, I’m all for it.”

Lovely words! Such concern for our environment! His actions? Well, that’s another story:

The administrator who oversees [Ohio’s] efforts to protect streams, lakes and wetlands from pollution says he will resign in September, after [Governor John Kasich] asked him to step down over disputes with the coal industry.

In an email sent to his staff yesterday and obtained by [The Columbus Dispatch], George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s division of surface water, wrote that the coal industry wants “permits that may have a negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.

“Now, due to this situation, the governor’s office and the director have asked me to resign my position.”

The resignation will be effective on Sept. 13…

Since Kasich began his gubernatorial campaign in 2009, Ohio coal interests have poured nearly $1 million into campaign coffers of statewide and legislative candidates, a Dispatch analysis of secretary of state data shows.

The Kasich campaign received about $130,000; House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, took in about $85,000.

Kasich may indeed be a long shot for the Republican nomination, but a man with his charisma cannot possibly be ruled out. Extremism enveloped in ersatz earnestness has worked for Republicans before. Could it work again after Kasich makes his expected presidential announcement on July 21?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.