Could John Kasich’s Anti-Green Legacy Propel Him to the White House?
Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich has joined the 2016 herd: He has declared himself a candidate for the presidency.
But he may very well get the vice presidential nomination instead.
He may very well also be America’s most anti-green governor.
Kasich is an inveterate maverick. He recently created a characteristic stir by saying he would not have invaded Iraq. Over the decades he’s been a “budget hawk” congressman, hard-right Fox commentator, Wall Street speculator and now a second-term governor of the Buckeye State. Edgy and unpredictable, he’s gone against the GOP grain by supporting Medicaid and occasionally preaching compassion for the sick and the poor.
All of which could make him unacceptable for the GOP presidential nod.
But his stance on the environment is another story.
Since taking over the Ohio governorship in 2011, Kasich has voted the straight Koch-brothers anti-green ticket.
He’s killed an intrastate passenger rail system, joined the fossil/nuke-energy-owned Legislature to fight the arrival of Tesla cars and gutted a bipartisan plan to move the state toward renewable energy. With a rider attached to a state budget bill—and without public hearings or a separate legislative vote—he singlehandedly sabotaged the state’s once-booming commercial wind power industry. He has branded fracking opponents as extremists. Despite his loud disdain for higher taxes, he has said nothing about a proposed $3.1 billion bailout for the crumbling Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, widely viewed as the world’s most dangerously decrepit reactor.
All of which could win him the “Koch Primary” as the GOP’s man for VP.
Kasich has already met with the Baron brothers of coal and gas, who are poised to try to purchase the 2016 election.
He has loudly warned that Hillary Clinton could carry Ohio — a clear pitch to make himself the hometown choice for Republican vice presidential nominee.
Which would make a lot of sense for the GOP. Should Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio get the top nod, the Republicans will carry Florida. With Kasich bringing in the Buckeye swing state, a Republican lock on a White House victory could be a done deal.
He made that “budget hawk” name for himself as a young congressman by fighting the B-2 bomber and loudly opposing the federal deficit.
He then made himself a few million bucks on Wall Street, shuffling public securities for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers.
He also went very public as a right-wing commentator for Fox, which brought him the last-minute million-dollar check from Rupert Murdoch that bought him the governor’s seat in 2010.
Kasich’s actual beliefs on the environment are murky.
I met Kasich once while he was perhaps surprisingly courting the environmental vote in an earlier presidential run. Calls to Ralph Nader were part of the repertoire.
He also interviewed me on Fox in 2003, when a problem in the transmission network of Akron’s FirstEnergy blacked out much of the Northeast. Like George W. Bush we know the joy of being a father of twin daughters. Kasich speaks movingly about drunk driving, which caused the deaths of his parents when their automobile was hit by an intoxicated motorist. Credible rumors of his alleged pot smoking at Ohio State University still run rampant through the Capital. I found him smart, challenging, edgy, very sure of himself and only marginally tolerant of opposing points of view.
However, taking these personal meetings into account, and having followed his career for decades now, it’s clear Kasich is smart enough to understand much of the core environmental agenda. So his willingness to come down on the other side strikes me as coming not out of ignorance (as is clearly the case with so many other Republican politicians), but as a cynical play to win the “Koch/Adelson” primary within the GOP.
Now he’s spearheading the corporate assault on what’s left of Ohio’s environment, labeling fracking opponents as extremists while effectively gutting green power.
Throughout his career, the mantra of “job creation” has been Kasich’s public hallmark. But his veto of the rail line cost Ohio scores of them, and now his Koch-sponsored assault on renewables could severely damage the state’s future. While New York, New England and California have taken at least half steps toward a green-powered economy, and while Germany has jumped in whole-hog, Kasich and the corporate-owned Ohio GOP are calling for an all-out sprint in the opposite direction.
Ohio is not alone in this. But with Ohio at the heart of the Rust Belt, it’s a suicidal strategy that will lock in the state’s postindustrial death spiral. Economist Ned Ford of Cincinnati says the multibillion-dollar investments in Davis-Besse and its sister nuclear plant at Perry, east of Cleveland, have consigned northern Ohio to years of decline.
If Kasich supports FirstEnergy’s latest grab for $3 billion-plus in further subsidies to keep Davis-Besse and at least one 50-year-old coal burner on the public dole, there may be no hope for an already hollowed-out economy. Coal is clearly in decline here, and fracked gas has a laundry list of problems, from questionable long-term supply to its contributions to ecological disaster.
But a steadfast devotion to a fossil/nuke past is what the Koch brothers seem to demand in exchange for a near-billion-dollar investment in the 2016 election. And, accordingly, down-bound Ohio is what Kasich is expected to deliver for them.
Kasich may have some Biden-like quirks when it comes to displeasing his own party. He has been willing to tweak conventional GOP wisdom from time to time, especially on medical care and bygones like the initial invasion of Iraq.
But when push comes to shove, John Kasich seems more than willing to dig Ohio a fossil/nuke grave — which may be the key Koch-certified, anti-green, swing state credential needed to land him the White House office right next to the one shaped like an oval.
Harvey Wasserman has covered Ohio politics for five decades. With Bob Fitrakis, he is co-author of six books on election protection and the 2004 presidential campaign. Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and wrote or co-wrote a dozen other books, including “SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth.” His radio show is at prn.fm.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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