The time I interviewed John Kasich in Davos

John Kasich interviewed by Tony Ganzer for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. (Jump to transcript)

I recognized John Kasich more from his days at Fox News than as a politician as I searched through the Davos Congress Centre for potential interview partners.

My bureau chief from Zurich and I made up a two-person team for twice daily reports from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, and we took turns hopping from web feeds, to live events, to demonstrations, and sometimes just walking through a convention center looking for interviews.

These days in January 2013, saw me interview journalist Lara Setrakian who created the innovative Syria Deeply platform; saw me sit in on an event with sometimes polarizing billionaire George Soros; and saw me get denied a quick interview with the New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who insisted he was on deadline. (I think he just didn’t want to talk, but we’ll never know.)

The Congress Centre is like a giant lounge, with juice bars and beverage stands, stylish chairs, and meeting spaces in abundant supply–custom built for networking, or if you’re a journalist, finding an interview.

I saw the silhouette of a familiar figure sitting in front of a giant screen. I was pretty sure this was John Kasich, the Ohio governor and former host of Heartland on Fox News from the early aughts, though I wasn’t entirely sure. Even at this time, I knew Kasich’s name was sometimes mentioned as a possible candidate for national office, so I decided to try for a couple minutes on tape, not knowing if I would actually run it.

“No, no, no, I love Ohio, that’s all I’m interested in.”

-John Kasich at the 2013 WEF annual meeting, comment on ambitions

Kasich had an entourage, including what appeared to be a reporter with him. (I later heard this may have been Joe Vardon, formerly of The Columbus Dispatch, and then the LeBron beat writer for Cleveland.com, and now of The Athletic, I believe.) I politely stepped in, and got the interview below.

Public media is a small world, and I had a very good friend at WCPN in Cleveland. Reporter Brian Bull and I had met at The Poynter Institute for journalism training in 2007, and he was happy to take some audio of the traveling governor in a far away land.

The WEF meeting is a fascinating place, and this meeting with John Kasich is even more intriguing given the fact I ended up as a radio host in Cleveland at the end of that same year. My English-language broadcaster would be privatized, and as a non-EU citizen, I had to leave Switzerland, despite award-winning coverage and a fair bit of knowledge about the spunky Alpine nation.

I had thought I lost the Kasich interview to time and transatlantic moves, but I stumbled across it on an old memory card. So from my perch still in Cleveland, here are a couple minutes with the former governor of Ohio during a trip to Davos.

Transcript of interview with John Kasich

Q: I guess the question some people might ask, especially Swiss listeners: why is the governor of a U.S. state coming to Davos?

KASICH: “Well, because I want the people here to know about Ohio, because I want them to bring their jobs to Ohio. And it gives me an opportunity to come here and meet lots of people in a very close setting. So instead of having to travel around the world to see different business leaders, I can see many of them here, and it’s extremely valuable.”

Q: Is there a particular industry you’re trying to attract? We know automotive industry is strong in Ohio, but others?

KASICH: “No, we are a very diversified state now, so we have health care, and IT, and energy, and manufacturing, so we are a diverse state, and so we’re open with whatever it is that people can do, we can do, because we’re within 600 miles of 60% of the country, we’re stable politically, we’re running surpluses, and we think that we can be a good home for people.”

Q: At least based on the participant list, it seemed like quite a few Republican politicians would be coming. Was this a coordinated effort, or just did it work out that way?

KASICH: “You know, I’m the only Republican governor here, and they came to see me and really pressed me to come, so I can’t tell you about any of the rest of them. And I’m fundamentally just doing business sessions, not political.”

Q: Just lastly, this week we got a report from the International Labor Organization. It said unemployment numbers are remaining high, a lot of U.S. states are affected by that as well. But the Organization also said governments need to do more to protect vulnerable workers. I know these have been hot topics within Republican states. Can you comment on the tactics that you’re taking to either increase the social net, or provide more jobs?

KASICH: “Well, first of all, when you want to raise an economy, everyone should be raised, not just one segment. And secondly, you don’t want people to be just abandoned and left out there. But look, I mean, we are compassionate when it comes to people who are displaced, people who are vulnerable, people who are disabled, it’s a priority for us. Nobody that ignores the poor and disabled would be found in good stead with the Lord. But beyond that, we believe very strongly in retraining, and training, and in education. And we’re embarking on a major initiative on job training, which we think can help people at all levels to get work.”

Q: And lastly, are you happy in the state, or will you return to national politics?

KASICH: “No, no, no, I love Ohio, that’s all I’m interested in.”

Thank you, Mr. Governor.

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