Why is Kasich Unpopular Among Defense Contractors?

Kevin Rutledge on January 06, 2016
Gov. Kasich was asked about President Eisenhower's warning of the military-industrial complex and it's excessive influence in politics. After mentioning his work in Congress to reduce B-2 bombers during Cold War and rebuilding military, "But we don’t need to rebuild it by doing things that just put money in somebody’s pocket and I’ve never done that in my lifetime."

On Monday, January 4, I was the second person to ask Ohio Governor John Kasich a question during his town hall meeting in West Des Moines, Iowa. I began my question with President Eisenhower’s warning five decades ago about the influence of the military-industrial complex.

I asked, “With Pentagon spending consuming half the discretionary budget, what specific steps would you take to ensure that corporations that are profiting from a bottomless appetite for more missiles, subs, planes, and bombers, are not having too much influence in politics?”

Gov. Kasich addressed the issues of having a strong national defense, Russian air defense systems in the Middle East, then shifted towards special interest groups and his Congressional experience in limiting B-2 bomber production from 132 to 20 during the height of the Cold War.

“Back to the simple question of how does special interest work,” Kasich said. “See I think people in the country think the whole system is bogus. That’s where this anger comes from. You know if you’re rich, if you have a lobbyist, if you’re powerful and you get want you want and I’m just a regular old person and I get the shaft. Okay, I gotta tell ya, I understand why people feel that way and sometimes it’s true. It ain’t true with me. It isn’t true in my state. It wasn’t true of me when I was in Congress and I’ll give you a perfect example.”

Kasich continued, “When I was a Congressman, I went to a briefing on a thing called the B-2 bomber. The Pentagon wanted to buy 132 of them and when I saw what the mission was, which was to fly into the middle of the Soviet Union in the middle of a nuclear war and drop more nuclear weapons, I was like I don’t know why we need to do that. You know, a couple nuclear weapons will ruin your whole day, right?

“So, I worked to limit the production of the B-2 bomber. I proposed 13, the Pentagon wanted 132. All the defense contractors and sub-contractors all across the country were for the system. And they spread the system out so all parts of the plane were built in a different part of the country to protect their ability to protect that program. So I spent 10 years trying to limit the production of that plane.

“How popular do you think I was with the defense contractors? Okay, I wanted to take the weapons, the money, and I wanted to put it in standoff weapons which would still strengthen the United States but would do it in a different way. At the end of the day, I negotiated 20. So the Pentagon went from 132 to 20 and I went from 13 to 20. Who won?

“Now how much money do you think I raised from defense contractors? But that’s not the issue. The issue is you go, you do the right thing, and I’m going to tell you this, we need to rebuild our defense. But we don’t need to rebuild it by doing things that just put money in somebody’s pocket and I’ve never done that in my lifetime.”

While finishing his answer to my question, Gov. Kasich discussed his similarities with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley claiming both are independent from outside influence, saying “Nobody tells him what to do. Nobody tells me what to do.” Some of Gov. Kasich’s response to my question also appeared in The Des Moines Register, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), and the Globe Gazette (Mason City, IA).

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Kevin Rutledge

Kevin Rutledge AFSC Governing Under the Influence Presidential Campaign Project

Kevin Rutledge is the Grassroots Education Coordinator with AFSC’s Presidential Campaign Project in Iowa.  Kevin has deep family roots in Quaker activism for peace and social justice.  A graduate from Iowa State University in Sociology and Criminal Justice, his previous work includes: United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) organizer, Public Citizen online organizer to overturn Citizens United, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, and a youth residential treatment facility.  Kevin hopes to one day return to Brazil and live by the beach.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill .