Former Ohio Governor John Kasich is still running for the presidency even though he is arguably the only candidate on the stage that is even less inspiring than Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. In the first GOP debate Kasich outperformed all expectations and some tipped him to be the establishment’s choice should Jeb Bush’s campaign collapse. However, because the debate has been forced to the right because of Donald Trump’s fascist statements, the establishment’s choice has also drifted to the right and is now widely thought to be Marco Rubio. As a result of this fact, Kasich needed to perform well in order to get some momentum back.
Kasich’s first contribution was in relation to the debate was about fighting ISIS. He said that the US, much like in the First Gulf War, needs to create a coalition of countries including Arab nations. Although this is a perfectly sensible suggestion, he later went on to talk about how America needs to lead this coalition which is really not a good idea. If the US leads any coalition ISIS will be able to use any military action in its propaganda whereas if Muslim nations, specifically Sunni Muslim nations like Kuwait or Turkey, took the lead this argument would be harder to make.
He then swiftly moved on from making modicum of sense by throwing some raw meat at the audience stating that the Paris climate conference should be about tackling ISIS. Even if you don’t believe in climate change surely you can work out that these conferences are planned months in advance and therefore are very rarely influenced by events from a few weeks prior. Unsurprisingly there was a large amount of clapping in the auditorium.
On the topic of surveillance Kasich came out in favour of the bulk collection of metadata and complained that the previous metadata collection programme was flawed because it didn’t allow authorities to hold information for long enough. Kasich basically defined himself firmly as one of the neo-cons in the race, which is illustrative of a strain of the Republican Party that refuses to acknowledge that the Bush Administration broke the Constitution.
By arguing that the Bush Administration’s counter-terrorism measures didn’t go far enough, Kasich has scored an own goal because as much as the Republican base is scared of terrorists, the one thing that they are arguably more hostile to is the power of the Federal government. With this kind of stance Kasich will not enthuse people to go out and support his campaign, especially as the other neo-cons in the race are either more hawkish (Lindsay Graham) or more appealing to voters in terms of tone (Chris Christie).
On Syria Kasich said that President Assad should be removed from power because evidently he thinks that the 2003 Iraq War was a good decision. His argument was that Assad is allied with Russia and Iran, and therefore removing him would be in America’s geopolitical interest. Removing Assad would be in geopolitical interest in the long-term, however in the short term removing Assad would allow ISIS to take total control of Syria. Kasich’s strategy would allow ISIS’s territory and power to expand because of a Cold War mentality to screw over the Russians.
On Iraq, however, Kasich made a point that John Kerry has been making for a long time which is that Iraq shouldn’t be a country. At first I was hesitant toward breaking up the country as the balance of power in the Middle East would be completely changed however as time has gone on it has become more apparent that Iraq shouldn’t exist. Kurdistan should be a separate state and if the Sunni and Shia populations want to form separate countries, they should have the right to self-determination.
In reference to the tone of the campaign, Kasich tried to appear presidential by calling for candidates to bring people together, rather than focussing on what divides people. Strangely all of the candidates nodded along to this statement even though half of them want to deport a load of immigrants and more than half want to keep LGBT Americans as second-class citizens.
Without a hint of irony Kasich, after issuing his plea for bringing people together, said that he would pause the flow refugees, thus showing that he’s more than willing to add to the fearmongering about people fleeing the Syrian Civil War.
So did Kasich perform well enough to breathe new life into his campaign? No, because that would mean that he did well. He didn’t really contribute much that other candidates weren’t already articulating. Furthermore, his lack of a performance was even less relevant as the establishment haven’t turned to him in the wake of Bush’s fall from popularity. If it was a straight fight for the backing of the establishment between Bush and Kasich, Kasich’s poor performance would have mattered less as it was still better than Bush’s. Because this isn’t the case Kasich’s bad performance has meant that he was largely ignored, which in a political campaign is possibly the worst thing that can happen to a candidate.