Editor’s Note: This is the final entry in a series covering why each and every candidate for president in 2016 is an awful human being who should not for the love of God be elected to any position of responsibility ever.

John Kasich is a nice guy, isn’t he? If you remember he’s running at all, your impression of the Ohio governor is likely his seemingly genial nature. He’s very golly, gee, Western, Pa., which is where he was born, with a splash of Midwestern dorkiness. Kasich was long ago a Congressman during the 1980s and 90s, including the time Newt Gingrich was all sassy and trying to balance the budget. Kasich was the Chairman of the House Budget committee for the last six years of his House tenure. After that he had a Fox News show for a while.

Kasich is indeed a political insider, one with a list of accomplishments. But something about the middle of America lingers about him in an avuncular sort of way. He comes off as friendly, and when he talks about some of the dispossessed people of Ohio he has seemingly helped with less jackbooted government policies – the mentally ill, the drug-addicted, the ignored – he sounds Jesus-y, not Christian right-y.

He’s trailing in the polls, and his one great coup in New Hampshire (second place) will not save him. If something weirdly successful doesn’t happen to Kasich during the Ohio primary, such as him winning it, he’ll drop out.

But had he done better – governors so often seem to list and then sink – he could have been the new Mitt Romney but in a less robotic way. He just wants to make the government smaller, but not in a crazy way! The New York Times thinks Kasich is “A Chance to Reset the Republican Party.” The Atlantic’s Molly Ball dubbed Kasich’s something “Unpleasant Charisma.” How much more sensible and non-scary a right-winger can there be?

In spite of such liberal approval, or more likely because of it, Kasich doesn’t seem to have fooled that many people into supporting him. However, neither liberal nor reasonable is the governor. He just has that knack for sounding like less of an asshole when he says bad things and suggests terrible policies. At least when he is standing next to D.C. and reality TV asshole titans. However, it’s not that hard to crack the Kasich code. Look up the shit he’s said, and then disapprove of him and his bad ideas accordingly.

Some social cons distrust Kasich, however, he’s pretty damned Christian. And he hates abortion enough to pass the test. He recently voted to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood in Ohio. (His moderate stance comes out in his belief in incest and rape exceptions for abortion, presumably.)

Back in the fall, before he was a confirmed dud of a candidate, Kasich made the appalling suggestion that the government should have a Department of Judeo-Christian Values, which would presumably deliver the Good News to Russia, the Middle East and other heathenish abodes. Secular liberals and anti-interventionists should be given the willies by this, and proper conservatives should disapprove of attaching a new department to the overstuffed government. There was a strange lack of outrage over something that sounds like a Rick Santorum policy joke, but Kasich still quietly shared the idea and continued coasting on his reputation as a the moderate who can’t catch a break in today’s kooky GOP.

And is he really that chill? One time in the 1990s Kasich got really upset about the violence in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo and tried to get Blockbuster to pull it from shelves.

Now he sees how that maybe was a dick move, but not that it was an eerie, censorious impulse – particularly coming from an elected official.

It’s only on the war on drugs and when he talks about prisons that Kasich seems like a decent, human sort of a guy. Though he’s pushed reform and alternatives to prison and is against mandatory minimums, as of 2012 Kasich wasn’t in favor of medical marijuana. Forget recreational legalization. Kasich isn’t sure if he would or would not crack down on the plant’s legal status in various states if he was elected president.

He may have signed a law that made the heroin-overdose-reversing naloxone available sans prescription, and his 2015 budget may have offered nearly $62 million dollars for prisoner drug treatment, but he’s not for reversing the foundation of this criminal justice mess – the war on drugs. Rather than being enlightened on the issue, Kasich is condescendingly Christian. He really does want to help people with drug problems. He just doesn’t want them to have the freedom to consume said drugs or to open them up to a legal market.

Between his position in Congress, and his current one as governor of one of the three most politically important boring states, John Kasich hosted a show on Fox News. That show was called Heartland with John Kasich, which sounds like the worst John Cougar Mellencamp album. Kasich wrote three books, all of which have similarly awful titles such as Courageous is Contagious. While dabbling in the private-ish sector, Kasich, a banker, also worked for Lehman Brothers until they went splat along with much of the economy in 2008.

Kasich seems mixed and really is so on Republican-friendly issues such as gun rights. To the delight of moderate moderates, he expanded Medicaid by $13 billion in Ohio. He has delayed all of his state’s pending executions and has attempted to set up better police accountability after the 2014 police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. However, Kasich has approved only about 4.4. percent of the requests for gubernatorial clemency during his time in office. He wants to be kinder to prisoners, except for the ones that hit his desk directly asking for mercy.

For a religious Republican he is pretty pleasantly okay with gay people, in that he was against them being allowed to wed, however he went to one of their weddings once and thinks the Kim Davises of the world should do their fucking job and pass out requested marriage licenses. However, he was happily in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and he was ready to ban same-sex marriage in Ohio.

Something about the magic word “moderate” makes people confused about where Kasich hides a whole score of nasty policy suggestions. (If by hides we mean distracts people from Googling John Kasich’s policy suggestions.) Most strange and blatant is his fever for war.

In several of his presidential debates Kasich came off less hungry for blood than some of the candidates simply based on how words sound in his mouth. However, during the Iowa debate he noted that the battle against ISIS needed to be coalition-based and involve ground troops.

Don’t forget his crystal-clear stance on spying, which is that spying on Americans is maybe bad, and so is maybe encryption, but for the love of God don’t discuss it on an Iowa debate stage.

He wants a no-fly zone over Syria to arm dissidents and to boot out Bashar Al-Assad. He is so keen on going hard on Russia that he’s down to arm Ukrainian rebels, and he doesn’t actually seem to care if when trying to take out Assad he starts a war with Russia. He yearns to change the regime in North Korea. (Who not named Kim doesn’t? Still an absurd suggestion.) Back in 2002 he was excited about the War in Iraq, and then said he wouldn’t have voted for it in 2015, though he did want to leave troops there in 2011. He wants the drone assassination program to continue, and he hates the U.S. deal with Iran.

Oh, and don’t forget his crystal-clear stance on spying, which is that spying on Americans is maybe bad, and so is maybe encryption, but for the love of God don’t discuss it on an Iowa debate stage. Nobody should be forced to put backdoors in their product, but the man who helped reveal the details of government pressure on tech companies, Edward Snowden, is a big fat traitor.

John Kasich, and the people of New Hampshire, and that is all. Oh, and myriad liberal newspaper editorial boards who think he’s just the chillest Republican.

Tim Allen, which is awful because of Home Improvement but acceptable because of Galaxy Quest.

Kasich isn’t a regular D.C. slick guy. He has no filter and doesn’t follow his party’s dogma. He can be tough or funny, but he doesn’t speak in soundbites. Shit, that guy sounds familiar, and he’s both massively popular and terrifying the political establishment from neocons to liberals (and for good reason).

OK, so Kasich isn’t Trump. However, he and his bafflingly mild reputation are proof that you have to reach beyond the style of the fellow or gal reaching for ultimate power. What does the candidate actually want? What are they willing to spout off about on the campaign trail? That will tell you what they would actually plan to get done and how they want to be seen by the audience.

The governor of Ohio is ready to go to war and change regimes across the globe. He doesn’t talk about such things with vitriol but with cheery gusto. He thinks we should all stop the partisan bickering and destabilize a few more regions already. Every policy suggestion from John Kasich sounds reasonable in his mouth – like when he notices gay people are people, and that jail isn’t magic – because we have no idea what reasonable might actually entail. Sure, lump the destabilization of Syria in the moderate mélange of flavors. Gov. John Kasich is just so fucking nice, but politics and what it does to people isn’t.

Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com. Twitter: @lucystag.


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