This AJT column is part of a series giving a supporter of each of the remaining presidential candidates a chance to pitch the Jewish community on that candidate. Read the others here.
By Dan Israel
As Jewish Americans contemplate whom to support in the forthcoming presidential election, Gov. John Kasich from Ohio represents a hybrid candidate who appeals to our community’s desire for compassion and our intellectual need for financial probity and foreign policy prowess.
Let’s first examine Kasich’s compassionate side.
Kasich does not represent the fire-breathing cabal within the Republican Party. He has a track record of building broad coalitions, and, importantly, Kasich collaborates with Democrats to get things done.
His crowning achievement of working across the aisle was during the 1990s. As chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee, Kasich worked with President Bill Clinton to balance the federal budget for the first time since man walked on the moon.
Kasich truly believes that there is a moral purpose for government. He has famously created job-training schemes and school reforms in Ohio, as well as steered a higher percentage of state contracts to minority entrepreneurs. But Kasich goes even further, stressing that prosperous states such as Ohio should use their resources to help those who “live in the shadows,” to use his words.
In Kasich’s parlance, he is referring to the mentally ill and the drug addicts. For Kasich, government must lift them up, not push them aside. Perhaps that explains why he felt justified in taking federal money to expand Medicaid for the poor in Ohio.
Kasich still maintains his conservative credentials on financial matters. Elected twice to the governorship of Ohio, most recently in 2014, Kasich used a simple but effective tagline: “Kasich works.” His constituents agreed with him, as Kasich won by a staggering margin of 31 points despite the fact that the battleground state of Ohio went for Barack Obama in 2012. Why?
During his first term, Kasich closed Ohio’s $8 billion budget gap without raising taxes. Amazingly, he also cut taxes by $5 billion, the biggest in Ohio’s history. And he turned Ohio’s 89-cent rainy day fund into a $2 billion surplus. Even more important, he created more than 300,000 private-sector jobs.
For our community, it is important to know that a candidate’s heart and mind care about the Jewish people and Israel. Kasich led a three-year effort to build Ohio’s new Daniel Libeskind-designed Holocaust and Liberators Memorial on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse. At the memorial’s dedication in 2015, Kasich said, “One of the greatest contributions that the Jews have given to the world is the sense that every life is sacred.”
And, of course, there is Israel.
His support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship goes back more than 30 years. Kasich first visited Israel as a new member of Congress with Gordon Zacks, a constituent and an icon of the American Jewish community.
Over the years, Kasich has proactively sought to learn about Israel and the country’s security needs. He worked with President Ronald Reagan to institutionalize the bonds between Israel and the United States so that no president could destroy the relationship — no matter how hard Obama or others may try.
Kasich has publicly and privately admonished the treacherous deal that the Obama administration struck with the world’s biggest propagator of terrorism, Iran. Indeed, he even attended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress to stress the point and has called for the deal’s nullification if he is elected.
Kasich has committed to helping Israel maintain its qualitative advantage over potential adversaries. He also opposes any unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinian Authority or any U.S. recognition of it. These pronouncements are backed not by words, but by Kasich’s actions in Congress.
Beyond Israel, Kasich is well qualified to deal with the recalcitrant Vladimir Putin of Russia or the truculent Xi Jinping of China. Kasich served on the House Armed Services Committee for 18 years and has more national security experience than anyone running for president on either side.
Taken together, Kasich’s combination of compassion for his fellow citizens, wisdom when it comes to finances, and understanding of the Jewish people and commitment to Israel make him a compelling figure for the American Jewish community to support in 2016 for our next president.