Transcript: Ohio Gov. John Kasich on "Face the Nation," September 2, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Ohio Gov. John Kasich that aired Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the attendees at Saturday's memorial service for John McCain here in Washington was Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich. He joins me here.

Thank you for coming in. I know you were there at the memorial service. Something that Senator McCain thought through, planned--

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: Absolutely. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: orchestrated every little bit of it. What do you think his message was?

GOV. KASICH: Come together. Have guts. Stand up. You know, I mean, that's the thing about John. John was so comfortable with himself. Leaders walk a lonely road. And John did not like people that did this- put their finger in the air and get the wind. He was- he was so comfortable with himself. And it really didn't matter to him who he was going to have to take on or what cause he was going to go for. If he felt it in his bones, in his heart, and his soul then he went forward and I think that was the message. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Meghan McCain, has daughter, delivered a really--

GOV. KASICH: She made me cry. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: She made you cry?  

GOV. KASICH: She made me cry for two reasons. One was the deep love she had for her father. And you know the other thing that made me cry. The deep love that sometimes girls have for their daddies. And I've got two little girls that are not little anymore. They're in college and I- I- it just brought everything home. She was she was just incredible. And--

MARGARET BRENNAN: She is her father's daughter. She was strong in her words. And it was clear who she was speaking about.

GOV. KASICH: John McCain, no matter what position he took always figured out a way to build a bridge. And now we have a leader who is either unable or unwilling to unite the country and at the same time to be able to use this- the strength- the strength of America, whether it's the economic, whether it's the military, or the political strength to make the world a better place. To use our leadership to raise the bar to get to a better place in the world and that these are the things that frustrated John that we were not unified. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there another Republican like John McCain? I mean because many of your fellow Republicans many of them sitting there at that service would say yes the president may be a flawed individual but he is a flawed vessel for an agenda that we like. Whether it's tax reform or getting more conservative judges and courts throughout the country including the Supreme Court. So it's all excusable. It's a transaction.

GOV. KASICH: Yeah. But it is not a transaction and you know today we look for politicians that not only understand the issues but also can engage in a bit of poetry, can bring us together. So 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who is that? 

GOV. KASICH: Well, right. I don't think that's the time to project who that is. But I will tell you family separation is not American value at the border. It isn't. The idea we're going to deport these people--that's that's not to me American value. Ringing up massive debt. We like the tax cut. But there was no tax reform. It was a problem. And in trying to strip health care away from 20 million Americans.  It seems as though we have been backing a lot of people into a corner using our power--our economic power to get what we want. And in the short run we might win. But think about somebody who's powerful somebody who's rich who forces you to do things that you bitterly resent. There are better ways to get it done without having to use your power to extract what you want. Sometimes you've got to be tough as nails. McCain was. I am. But at the end most of the time it's persuasion it's seeking the better angels in life that allow us to be more successful than just pounding on people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As John McCain's longtime aide Mark Salter said sometimes he questions do you need to kill the party of Trump to save the party of Lincoln. Is that where we are?

GOV. KASICH: We're in a tug of war--and we understand--I understand--the difficulties that people have. But the party is worth fighting for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And yet this week we saw some primaries in Florida and Arizona where those running on the Republican ticket seem to have to pass a test--a loyalty test to Trumpism--and that kind of contradicts some of the Conservative party you're describing. 

GOV. KASICH: Unfortunately our party is shrinking. We're now down to about 25 percent. It's all becoming like a remnant.  Parties go through this. But the party has shrunk and in my state and in my community and in my district we had a congressional race that the Republican who took my place was able to win by 17 points. Just a couple of weeks ago--he won by the skin of his teeth. And I talked to him the other day. I'm proud of him. He's saying that the tariffs are a bad idea. He's also beginning to say you know he said he said turn off the television don't listen to all the talk television and get let us get together as Americans. I was proud of him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You endorsed him, President Trump endorsed him as well. 

GOV KASICH: I did because I work with him in the legislature and I saw him during the campaign articulate some views that I hope were going to be independent. But there are Republicans I'm not campaigning for. They're just I just won't do it because if you're a divider and if you can't see the fact that we need to unify people then I can't be for you. I mean nothing personal. I just can't help you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you campaign for Balderson in November, when he has to--

GOV. KASICH: I don't think it'll be a problem. I mean he's off to a good start and the ra-- and the district is so overwhelmingly Republican. That was what's so shocking about the closeness of the race. He's going to be fine. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the--

GOV. KASICH: But there are so many other places where Democrats will use their resources and by the way they need to get their act together. You know we spend so much time talking about how lost the Republicans are. But you think about the Democratic Party moving farther and farther to the left. That's not- Our country is center right or center left. It's not on the extremes. Your political party shouldn't matter so much. Vote for the person

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you were to run yourself in 2020, as many are saying you might, you would still run as a Republican? Not as an independent. Not as another voice out there--

GOV. KASICH: I-I-I'm a Republican.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The party is worth saving, you're saying? 

GOV. KASICH: Well, I'm going to do my level best. But at the end I worry about my country. I worry about my country being a great leader in the world, not more conflict which can lead to- let's not even go there. I want my country where the people that live in this country, whoever they are, to feel as though they have a hope they're respected and they can be successful. That to me is what it is really all about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last question you knelt in front of John McCain's coffin at the Capitol yesterday. What were you thinking? 

GOV. KASICH: Well I had a word with John. I said "John, you remember I called you when you were sick and I asked you if you were OK with the big guy? And I said- said John, I'll see ya up there someday. Keep the place open for me would you?" And I got up and left.  

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, thank you. 

GOV. KASICH: Thank you.