Ohio Gov. John Kasich is showing fellow Republicans how to respond to President Donald Trump’s daily outrages and assaults on democracy. Too bad most of them aren’t paying attention - or are too nervous to depart from the example set by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (complete acquiescence and self-debasement).
Asked on Sunday about Roy Moore on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Kasich was emphatic: “I think he should step aside. If not, maybe you can get a write-in candidate. Lisa Murkowski did it in Alaska. She was elected. I think she’s urging somebody down there to do that.” He had no problem saying flat-out that “this is not acceptable.”
Compare that with the response on “Face the Nation” from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who sounded tethered to a mindless script:
“SCOTT: Well, certainly, the allegations are very, very strong. The denial was not as strong as the allegations. I think, if the allegations are true, there’s no doubt that he should step aside, and not for the party, but for the American people. We have to find a way to restore trust and confidence in our elected officials, in our government. And this goes in the wrong direction.
“JOHN DICKERSON: In this case, though, if the allegations are true, he’s denying them. How do you find proof? What seemed interesting about what Mitt Romney said and [Sens. Mike] Lee and [Steve] Daines have said is, they have looked at the case as presented by The Washington Post, and that was sufficient evidence for them.
“SCOTT: Yes, there’s no doubt that the case is compelling. The judge and the jury in this case will be the people of Alabama, the voters of Alabama. They will have an opportunity to weigh in very clearly and decisively and very shortly.
“DICKERSON: Do you - what’s your reaction to some of the supporters in Alabama, Republicans, who have said, even if this is true, they still support Moore? That’s the voters of Alabama having their say, but does that have any effect on the larger Republican Party?
“SCOTT: Well, certainly, I think the reality of it, the voters will be heard.”
Scott sounds as though he knows the women are telling the truth, but he cannot find the gumption to say so. Who will look like the more principled and decent leader in a possible 2020 run - Scott or Kasich? It’s not even close.
Perhaps Kasich and a few daring Republicans have gotten through to leadership. There are reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now says he believes the women and that Moore should step aside. Strenuously backing a write-in candidate and vowing to expel Moore would be an indication that the GOP finally grasps the gravity of the situation. McConnell’s statement now makes equivocators such as Scott look even worse.
Kasich was also asked about Trump’s remarks in Asia, where he disparaged our intelligence services and put confidence in the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I couldn’t believe it. I was sort of incredulous at what the president was saying,” Kasich said. “Now, apparently, he’s walked back his comments to some degree. There’s no question what Russia did. They Russia meddled in our election. They support a butcher over in Syria. They invaded Ukraine. I mean, the whole thing is just crazy.” He went on: “And, look, I just - I just don’t understand it. And I don’t know why he’s saying those things. I would just tell you that Putin is a - is a former KGB agent. This is not a guy you can trust or a guy you can really have any confidence in.”
No “what-aboutism” and no claim that the reports of what Trump said were “fake news.” The GOP president sounds nutty - period. Who will sound more decisive and responsible - Kasich or someone like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who was eager to side with the White House when it came to giving code-word intelligence to the Russians in the Oval Office, defended the firing of former FBI director James Comey (and played Trump’s defense attorney at the hearing) and has been a willing spinner for the White House? It’s not even close.
Likewise, Kasich is ready to take on Trump’s deference to China (“You now have 11 countries agreeing that they’re going to get together and be involved in trade. You have China rising with their economic program, trying to influence the world, and we’re, like, coming home. We’re staying home. And it doesn’t make any sense, both from an economic point of view, but also from a geopolitical point of view. The United States matters. We need to have influence in the world.”) Who will sound like a more robust defender of American interests - Kasich or silent Republicans who would have been enraged if President Barack Obama had behaved as deferential to China’s president as Trump did on his trip? It’s not even close.
Kasich is now considered some kind of liberal sellout by the right-wing media. In fact, he’s showing moral clarity and voicing traditional center-right views. (“Look, the Republican Party has just gotten smaller here, you know, [being] anti-trade, anti-immigrant, trying to take health care away from folks. This is not going to work.”) He recognizes that the GOP may be in the process of blowing itself up. “The millennials and the Gen Xers are going to equal the baby boomers in 2018. And the millennials and the Gen Xers are coming. They’re pro-environment, pro-trade, comfortable with America’s place in the world,” he said. He cautioned that if “the Democrats [are] moving farther and farther to the left, [and] the Republicans [are] worried about everything on the extreme right, playing to their base, if this continues, these - these millennials and Gen Xers are totally up for grabs.” That’s a good thing, he says.
Whether or not the GOP implodes, who is going to look better in 2020 to the American people - Kasich or Tim Scott, Tom Cotton and the rest of the Trump enablers? The Ohio governor who wouldn’t endorse an unfit candidate in the 2016 race, or the GOP tribalists who made excuses for him? Will Kasich seem more prepared to lead, or will it be the people who wouldn’t defend our intelligence services against Trump, wouldn’t admonish the White House for being weak on Russia and China and wouldn’t reject a Senate candidate against whom there was ample evidence of child sexual predation? It’s not even close.