John’s Con: The Fourth Estate Glorifies a False Moderate

When will they stop putting John Kasich on television and radio? Never, it seems.

The Ohio Governor has the Fourth Estate eating out of his hand as he promotes his destined-for-the-discount-bin new book, Two Paths: America Divided or United. (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was particularly fawning last week.) It’s hard to remember the last time a Democratic politician received this sort of media worship.

Kasich has for years demonstrated an ability to hornswoggle the press into believing that he isn’t as partisan as his Republican brethren, that he isn’t as nasty as the more openly uncouth members of his party. The sight of Kasich being carried on a media throne is enough to make one reach for the Pepto-Bismol.

Remember that awful show Kasich used to have on Fox News? Why would an actual “moderate” Republican have anything to do with that sick, sexually harassing enterprise? Kasich has always talked an optimistic, bipartisan game while giving the far right almost everything it wants behind the scenes.

Kasich’s naked phoniness strongly aroused the Beltway press five years ago, when he appeared to break with the right wing on climate change:

“This isn’t popular to always say, but I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere,” Kasich told a Ross County Republican function on Thursday. “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.”

However, when it came to actually doing something to protect the environment, Kasich wasn’t terribly interested; by 2015, he was running around calling the reality of human-caused climate change “some theory that is not proven.”

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, who strangely regards this fraud as the “apostle of positive politics,” thinks Kasich is angling for something:

Kasich neither endorsed nor supported Trump last year. He didn’t even attend the Republican National Convention, though it took place in the Buckeye State. So: Is this book tour a signal he’s open to mounting a GOP primary challenge to Trump in 2020?

“This is not a campaign kick-start book,” he answers. “I am going to have to feel an unbelievable call to duty to run for any public office again. Is that possible? I guess it’s possible.”

But no, he says, his book “is not designed to say . . . ” — and then he gets distracted from his demurral. “By the way, I am going to New Hampshire, so that will cause people to even ask it more,” he notes. But then, New Hampshire plays prominently into his book and the story it tells, he says. (Everybody clear?)

So what to make of all this? Well, let’s call it John Kasich’s keep-your-profile-high-and-your-options-open-and-see-what-happens tour. After all, as Morris Udall once observed, there’s really only one cure for Potomac Fever: embalming fluid.

I have a better chance of getting married to Jennifer Lawrence than Kasich has of knocking off Trump in a GOP primary. In all likelihood, Kasich is using this book tour as a way to, in effect, audition for another cable show, this time on CNN or MSNBC. Kasich knows that cable-TV execs go wild for Republicans who can come across as partisan but not too partisan: he may believe that anything Joe Scarborough (or Hugh Hewitt) can do, he can do better.

I wouldn’t put it past Kasich to hustle his way back to a cable-TV berth after his second term as Ohio Governor ends. From a certain perspective, that wouldn’t be a bad thing: put him on at 9 or 10 at night, and the rate of insomnia in the United States would drop to zero.

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.