For a while now, we’ve been calling out Ohio governor and presidential candidate John Kasich on statements signaling a habitual willingness to let pro-aborts walk all over him, but he’s largely been given a pass in interviews. This weekend, however, Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace gave Kasich a bit more of a grilling than he’s used to.
When asked if he’s willing to shut down the government “if that’s what it takes to defund Planned Parenthood,” Kasich answered that he’s all for defunding in theory—which is notable because previously he’s refused to outright state even that—but not on board with the strongest way to actually make it happen:
[I]f you’re going to shut the government down, you’re never going to get anything signed by the President because he’s in total opposition. So you’d shut the government down, and then over time you’d have to open it back up again and you wouldn’t have achieved much. So, I think there are other ways for Congress to try to deal with this, and they need to be more creative in regard to Planned Parenthood. But when you shut the government down, people don’t like it. And you shouldn’t shut it down unless you have a great chance of success.
True, there are polls suggesting that most voters don’t think Planned Parenthood’s money is worth risking a shutdown. But treating a snapshot of public opinion like an immovable object to be invariably followed is a curious posture for someone running to be a, y’know, leader.
True leadership consists of understanding the public’s views, but also knowing how to persuade them to change when necessary. And considering that other polls suggest 63% of Americans haven’t even seen the Planned Parenthood videos yet, it’s obvious that simply telling them the truth would dramatically affect whether they think the organization is shutdown-worthy.
Interestingly, Kasich went on to reference another government shutdown he was much more open to:
I was involved in the shut down in the ‘90s but, as a result of that, we got a federally balanced budget because we kind of knew that there were a number of people in the Clinton administration that believed it needed to be done.
Wallace seized on the apparent contradiction by playing a 1995 clip of Congressman Kasich boasting it was “one of the best times in our nation’s history because we are fighting over deeply-held principles,” then asked how he’d address the obvious pro-life rejoinder—”that was just about money, that was just about the budget, and in this case, we’re talking about what Planned Parenthood is doing to fetuses.” Kasich’s answer:
[W]e had a pretty good sense that if we stood our ground back then that we could actually move a balanced budget forward. I think in this case, the President’s made it clear he’s not going to sign it. Now, look, I’m willing to fight all day long, but you’ve got to have a good prospect of being able to be successful because if you’re not successful, you shut the government down, and you open it up and you haven’t achieved anything, you’re just going to — you’re just going to have people shake their heads and wonder what your thinking was.
But Bill Clinton spoke just as uncompromisingly back then as Barack Obama is today. He blamed Republicans for “fail[ing] to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running,” claimed to be standing up for the “dignity and respect” of government employees harmed by the shutdown, and declared his “solemn responsibility to stand against a budget plan that is bad for America.”
And in response, 1995 John Kasich responded exactly the way pro-lifers have been advocating our leaders communicate about an abortion budget fight, saying things that are apparently unthinkable to 2015 John Kasich. He flatly declared that “the closing of the government is on the president’s back” for refusing to sign budgets that didn’t give in to his demands, he professed a willingness to take risks for the greater good in saying, “we know that there’s going to be some political hits we’re going to take in this, but frankly, Cokie, in my career, this is the best chance I have to serve America,” and even trusted that “when the people find out what this is, we’re going to be fine.”
Yet we’re supposed to believe that the same course simply isn’t viable today? That a national debate over dueling statistics and competing fiscal forecasts somehow has greater intuitive force than the raw, unparalleled evil of not merely destroying undefined cells but rending recognizable babies limb from limb, of dissecting human children like frogs?
It’s absurd. A far more likely explanation for the reluctance of the fields’ moderates to make Planned Parenthood’s blood money a hill to die on isn’t that the electorate would never stand for it… it’s that their donors wouldn’t.