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Gov. John Kasich Remarks at Town Hall Meeting. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 24, 2017 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: And welcome. Tonight, a CNN town hall event. Ohio Governor John Kasich opens up about his run for president, his campaign rivalry with the current president, the divisions in America, and the question over whether he'll run again.


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Tonight, he's been called every Democrat's favorite Republican.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R0OHIO: Maybe you don't all know this, but I ran for president.

ANNOUNCER: He's the Republican who goes against the grain, against the party, and straight to the heart.

KASICH: Somebody raised their hand and said, well, what about Trump? I said, what about Trump? Let's talk about Dr. King.

ANNOUNCER: Now, is this swing state blue-collar Republican keeping a primary eye on the president?

KASICH: I don't see it. I just don't see it.


KASICH: You don't close the door on anything.

ANNOUNCER: Donald Trump's once and perhaps future challenger, an Ohio governor with steel town roots and the iron determination to make a difference back in the spotlight.

KASICH: Somebody's got to stop breaking the logjam in this country. This is ridiculous. And the people are all poorer for it.

ANNOUNCER: Governor John Kasich, his party, our president, and your questions, all come together right now.

This is "America: Divided or United," a CNN town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper.


COOPER: And welcome to all of you who are just joining us here in the audience in New York, across the country, and around the world. We're being simulcast tonight on CNN International, CNN en Espanol, CNNGo, and SiriusXM satellite channel 116, and the Westwood One radio network.

With us here in the audience, voters of all political stripes, voters with some great questions about the direction of our country with a new president in the White House, and voters with questions about the political future of our future guest. Their questions for Governor Kasich are their own, but we have seen them in advance to make sure they do not overlap with each other.

I'll be asking a few of my own questions, but these nights we think are always best when we spend the most time possible with the audience. So with that, let's get started, bring out former candidate for president of the United States, current governor of Ohio, author of the new book "Two Paths: America Divided or United," Governor John Kasich.



KASICH: Great to be here. Appreciate.

COOPER: Have a seat. Thanks very much for being here.

KASICH: Well, I've got to tell you, you know, the last time I was here, by the way, my daughters were here and my wife. And one of my daughters, Reese, has a lot of opinions, and my other daughter, Emma, was a little bit quiet, so we went to the break, and I said, Emma, why don't you say more? And she said, well, if Reese would shut up, I might be able to have more to say.


KASICH: I'm standing back here -- listen, I'm standing back here, and here's what you say. Governor of Ohio, presidential candidate, it's -- and new book. Wow. And that's not false. I mean, it's like, wow, what a life.

COOPER: I will say, as soon as I got your book, I did look into the index to see if I made it in. And I actually did. You talked...

KASICH: You did?

COOPER: Yes, at the end, you talked about...

KASICH: I don't remember that.

COOPER: About the town hall -- oh, well...

KASICH: Oh, with my kids, yeah.

COOPER: That's not a good way to start off.

KASICH: Yeah, that's right.

(LAUGHTER) COOPER: We're going to get to the audience, because that's really where the focus is tonight. But I do have a couple questions just out of the headlines I want to get to you. The title of the book, "Two Paths: America Divided, United." I mean, the title suggests that right now you see this country at some sort of a crossroads. How so?

KASICH: Well, I think we are drifting. I think we've become very self-absorbed and we've become locked in our own silos. And we don't like to necessarily hear other people's point of view. Even on Facebook, you know, we unfriend people if we don't like them.

And I've found that, you know, as a kid, I was always told, listen, John, even when you don't like what you hear, listen, pay attention to what somebody else has to say. And I'm with self-absorption comes a sense that I'm not responsible for my neighbor or my brother, you know? And you know what the great -- two great commandments are, love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And I believe that the changes here, Anderson, are not going to come from the top down. Forget the politicians. They've got to come from the people on the way up when we unite ourselves around some common humanity, like mentoring kids or fighting drug addiction or helping, you know, a senior who's lost her spouse of 60 years. We have to drive the change and the unity in this country and fix this country from where we live to the top, and everybody is made special.

So it's funny, the book has politics, but the book has a larger message than just some political message.

COOPER: I mean, there is so much polarization. And we see it in how people interpret events, the lens through which people see things. We see it in the polls, 94 percent of Trump voters approve of the job the president trump is doing. Among all Americans, only 42 percent approve. Why do you think that divide is still so strong? Has the president done enough to try to bring the country together?

KASICH: Well, I think, first of all, it's not even been 100 days so you've got to give a guy a chance, right? He's never held public office before. But I think this is sort of symptomatic. You know, I voted for him, I wear that uniform. I didn't vote for him, I wear a different uniform.

And I think people who voted for him, who see things they don't like, need to recognize that, and people who didn't vote for him have to recognize when he does something that's positive.

I mean, we want to be for our president, because if we're tearing each other apart, nothing will ever get done, not healthcare, not fixing Social Security, none of those things.

And also, a very important issue, which is not to ignore the people who live in the shadows. Not to just, you know, be in Congress and say let's just pass this law without seriously considering the impact on people like the drug-addicted, the mentally ill, the poor. It's so easy for people in public life to run over people who have no power, but that's not good. And it's not right. And when people lose hope, then bad things happen. We have to give them hope.

COOPER: It also seems like a lot of politicians focus on their base, the base that got them in power, and not...

KASICH: Yeah. Terrible.

COOPER: ... everybody.

KASICH: Well, look, I mean, people worry when they have -- when they're elected, they want to be elected. I mean, it's natural, you don't want to lose your job. But the way you have to look at politics is you don't know what tomorrow's going to bring, so you better let it all hang out when you're there.

And I'm a Republican. But I don't check with the Republican National Committee as to what my position should be. I'm in politics because I do want to change the world. I still believe that I do and can and do more, and, you know, I'm going to let it all hang out there. And I -- a career, I have no regrets, absolutely no regrets.

And when I see politicians, I want them to be more confident in doing things that they feel in their guts and not having to look around the room and check with somebody as to whether -- is this right? Or, you know, that's nonsense.

COOPER: You mentioned the hundred days. It's going to be a hundred days on Saturday for this president. He's basically saying, look, it's an artificial deadline. It certainly is an artificial deadline, but it is one that he mentioned a lot during the campaign about what he would do in those first hundred days. How do you grade his performance so far?

KASICH: Incomplete.

COOPER: I knew you were going to say that.

KASICH: You did?

COOPER: Yeah, I did kind of.

KASICH: Well, I mean, it's incomplete. Look, I had a meeting with him in the Oval Office. And it was a very pleasant meeting. And, you know, I told him, you know, some things that I wasn't sure he knew. And one of the things I did tell him was, when I first became governor, I was acting like a congressman in a governor's office.

And things were a little bit rocky in the beginning. I was a little bit thin-skinned, maybe a little bit of a smart aleck, because I got that in me. And my wife looked at me one day and she said, you know, John, you're the father of Ohio. Act like it. And I relayed that story to him.

But, you know, when you're president, you're the father of America or the mother of America, had Hillary won. And with it comes a certain responsibility and gravity. That's why I was so upset about the way the campaign was run, because the campaign was about name-calling and division, not just from him, but for all the candidates. I would stand on the edge of the stage like, you know, in the worst lane in the Olympics at the swim meet, because I didn't have the best time, and I would listen to these people. And I was like, are you kidding me? If I talked like that, they'd throw me out of Ohio.

So, it's early. And he -- you know, frankly, I think those words about, you're the father of America, should be thought about seriously.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, though, just tonight the president's opened the door to waiting until the fall to figure out how to pay for the border wall. That just came out tonight. A lot of the president's positions which he seemed to be holding during the primary when you were debating him, he has now changed to sound...


COOPER: ... a lot more like your positions, and quickly, a number of the other people who were running on a number of subjects. Are you surprised by the change? Or is that...

KASICH: No. No. You know, see, being governor of Ohio was a handicap, because I know not to overpromise. Because when you then get in, you have a responsibility to deliver.

It's interesting. What were they going -- what did some of them say? Well, we're going to deport 13 million people. Not going to do it. We're going to go to war on trade with China. Apparently, not going to do it. You know, we're going to just repeal all this health care stuff. I hope they can fix it, but not necessarily repeal it.

And what we're beginning to see is -- I was a boring candidate for president because I didn't make wild accusations or wild promises. And now I find them -- I'll give you another one. We're going to tear up that Iran deal on day one! I said, well, we can't do that. Well, that was boring because it wasn't like, yes, you know? And now we begin to see this settling...

COOPER: Is that annoying, though, to have run -- you know, arguably making, you know, responsible sort of presidential, you know, decisions, and not being able to say things which you knew you weren't going to be able to follow through on?

KASICH: You know, Anderson, there's not a heck of a lot that annoys me. I had a thing happen to me, though. I had this Democrat who -- this is really pretty remarkable. I made a video for my last State of the State Address. And I had Republicans who were leaders when we turned Ohio around, and I had some Democrats.

I had a great friend of mine. She's a former senator, Nina Turner, who helped this community and policing initiative I had, and we've settled down and brought greater relationships between police and community. I had a former union guy that helped me be able to do a record amount of infrastructure.

And then I had this lady who talked to me about human trafficking. And I asked her to be in this video. And the night before, she called my staff and said, I don't want to be in the video because I don't want to be in there with Republicans. That annoyed me, because it shouldn't come to that.

We shouldn't be -- I mean, it's petty. It's silly, right? These are serious issues. So -- but not much annoys me, because I've been around long enough, and that's kind of why I wrote the book. I've been in politics. I've been in business. I was in the media. I've taught. I've been a teacher. All these things. And I wanted people to see where I thought the country was going and what all of them could do about getting us back on the right track.

COOPER: This question is going to annoy you. It's the obvious question, now that -- with the book out and you're going to be on the road...

KASICH: That's not what -- no.

COOPER: You know what the question is.

KASICH: I'm not -- I did not write this great book, OK? No. I did not write this book so I could run for president.

COOPER: Are you going to run for president in 2020?

KASICH: Very unlikely.

COOPER: Very unlikely?

KASICH: Very unlikely that I'm going to run for public office. But, look...

COOPER: You wouldn't close the door on it?

KASICH: Well, you know, how do you close the door on anything? If I start closing the door and all of a sudden I see some duty that I have to perform -- now, my wife is going to be double-checking my duty, believe me, because she doesn't want me to be doing these things. But if I see something I need to do to help my country that I really believe I have to do, you know, then I would think I would probably do it. You know, but I can't say.

But this is not a plan to try to -- and, you know, when it comes to the president, you know, sometimes I criticize Trump. I used to criticize President Bush when I was -- I wrote budgets against President Bush. I mean, look, I don't operate at the whim of a political party. My whole thing in politics has been, how can I call them the way I see them? How can I make life better? And by the way, how can I avoid being self-righteous and be hoisted on my own self- righteous petard?

Because, you know what, I don't get it always right. And, you know, the other thing I say in this book is we all have to live a life bigger than ourselves, but we're all hypocrites. I'll be the first number-one hypocrite. We don't get it right all the time. But the great thing about faith, the great thing about grace, the great thing about forgiveness, I get another shot. And that's all I'm trying to do. Be the best guy I can be, but I'm going to fail. I know it, but I'm going to do my best.

COOPER: There's a lot about faith in the book. I want to talk to you about that. I know we have a lot of audience questions. We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more with the governor when this special CNN town hall with Governor John Kasich continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to this CNN special town hall with Governor John Kasich. We're going to go to the audience in just a second. You said something that interested me before. You said that when you became governor, you weren't acting like a governor, you were acting like a congressman. What's the difference?

KASICH: You know, when you're a congressman, you're in Washington, you kind of are operating -- you know, I was on a roll to do things like fix the economy and all that. But when I became a governor, I realized it's not just about the head. It's also about the heart. That you have to operate with your heart at the same time you're using your brain to figure out intellectually what you want to do.

And so I've changed in that job. I've become much more aware of the challenges that people have, because when you're way in Washington, you pass a welfare bill, you think you did great, or they're trying to work on this health care bill, what they don't understand about this health care bill is there are going to be a lot of people who have these, you know, mental illness or drug addictions or chronic illness, if they don't do this right, these people are going to be hurt. I see it because I'm right there.

And so it forces you to change. You listen more. You're more patient. I mean, it's why being a governor is actually a really good position to have if you are going to be president, because you understand the weight of the office.

COOPER: Let's go to our audience. I want to introduce you to John Lane. He's chief of police in East Liverpool, Ohio. Last year, he released a photo, which we're going to put up. It was seen around the world. It's a photo of two parents who'd overdosed on opioids with their toddler in the back seat of their car.

Chief Lane, thanks for what you do, and thanks for being here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

COOPER: Do you have a question?

QUESTION: Small town Ohio.

KASICH: I know it.

QUESTION: Obviously, overwhelmed with the drugs, overwhelmed with the out-of-town drug dealers, overwhelmed with the taxing on our resources. My question is, if this opiate epidemic, which is the worst public health crisis in decades, doesn't qualify for the use of the $2 billion emergency fund that we have in Ohio, then what does? How many lives do we have to lose? How many families have to be destroyed? How much money does it take to be saved before we can finally put the resources where they need to be to save lives?

KASICH: Yeah. Well, we've spent almost a billion. And I've been working on the drug problem since before I was governor, because I went to southern Ohio, and I met a group of women who walked around with photographs of their children who had died from overdoses. They had pill mills. We shut them down. We went after the crooked doctors. We're busting more people in the highway patrol than any time in our history.

And we also now have very stringent rules on what doctors can prescribe. That follows up on a program to come up with limits on their practice, and we've seen a 20 percent drop in opiates.

The challenge we have in our state is we're a major artery, as you know. We're a day's trip from Mexico, and we're just hours from Chicago. And we're an artery. But we are now seeing a reduction in the prescribed doses. And what happens is the gateway to heroin is through these opiates, these prescription drugs.

Sir, I met with the Drug Enforcement Agency two weeks ago in Columbus. And I said, guys, you've been in 25, 30, 32 years, what's it's going to take? And they all looked at me and they said one simple thing: Education in our schools, starting when kids are very little and moving all the way up through school, maybe even at the university level.

So we're doing the drug enforcement, we're doing the rehab, we're doing all these things. We're reducing the amount of prescriptions. But at the end of the day, we have a program called Start Talking, and I have invited the schools to participate. I'm going to be even more aggressive on getting them to participate, because we have to tell the young people, do not do this.

We lost a generation of people because of the addiction to opiates because doctors didn't have the right prescribing guidelines all over the country. Now we've changed it. Now there are limits. And I believe we're going to see better results. It's just going to take -- it's going to take time to begin to see them. But I think we're on top of it.

COOPER: To the question of emergency funding, though, is that part...

KASICH: Well, we're spending almost a billion on it right now. And why do we have a rainy day fund? I'll tell you why, because we don't want to be in the middle of a fiscal year and having to start chopping programs. I have that as a reserve.

And that money, that $2 billion is gone in the snap of a finger. And then I've got to go back and I've got to cut the schools in the middle of the fiscal year or I have to cut these drug programs because we're going to have a balanced budget. We're up 460,000 jobs in Ohio. And when people have work, they're

less likely to be on drugs. When people don't have work, when people are depressed, when they don't have any faith or any hope, that's when they -- not everybody, but that's where many go. So tapping more into that. I think we're in a good position now and we're going to stay aggressive on this issue.

COOPER: All right. Appreciate your...

KASICH: I appreciate your service, too, in East Liverpool.


COOPER: This is Joseph Pinion. He runs a nonprofit here in New York. He voted for you last year in the Republican primary. Joseph, what's your question?

QUESTION: Governor Kasich...

KASICH: (Inaudible) Manhattan. I'm, you know, president of a Manhattan. I might not -- you know, of the United States if I did all right here (ph).

QUESTION: Absolutely. Well, one, obviously, thank you for coming here. My question is that obviously that political parties are defined by the values that we tout and also as well as the individuals within that party willing to fight for those principles.

My question to you is, what do you say to the millions of Republicans around this country who, like myself, fear that core conservative principles have been compromised by a willingness to accept "winning" over accountability for our commander-in-chief and the standard-bearer de facto for the party of Lincoln?

KASICH: Well, I -- core Republican principles have been compromised. Let me just tell you the way I see the party. I believe in -- we've got to balance budgets. We have to keep our taxes low. We can't have too much regulation. And we need to make sure we don't leave anybody behind, and we have to have a strong national defense.

That's -- I mean, there's a lot of other things. I think we ought to be concerned about the environment. We ought to give everybody a chance. And so economic growth is a key to it. But that's my definition of what it means to be a Republican.

I got some young people traveling around the country with me now, one guy's up from Alabama, another guy's up from Georgia. And I said, well, why are you here? And how is the Republican Party doing in your area? They said, well, we're here because we're Kasich Republicans. I said, what does that mean? Optimistic, hopeful.

So I'm doing my best to define what it means to be a Republican. And sometimes I take a lot of heat for that. I mean, I accepted Medicaid expansion. You know, people didn't like that in the Republican Party. I said, wait a minute, if I can have a partnership with the federal government that can help 700,000 people in my state get help and talking about the prescription drug problem, it's part of it -- of that money goes to cover people who have those problems, I mean, that's my definition of what's the right thing to do as a party.

I won -- you know, I first won election by a narrow margin. The last time I ran, I had -- I won like 86 out of 88 counties. I won significant numbers of Democrats, African-American votes. You know why? Bring people together and lift them.

I'd say the biggest challenge I have now is sometimes in my own party who say, you know, why didn't you go for Trump or, you know, why did you expand Medicaid? You know what? I try to explain it to them. If they get agree with it, great. If they don't, I feel badly, but I'm not changing my positions on these things.

So let me also tell you, I think the political parties are undergoing either great change or could actually be phased out. Not phased out, but eroded. And I'll tell you why. Young people are not saying, "I want to be a young Democrat" or "I want to be a young Republican."

They're conservative, they're liberal, they're progressive. But they're not like I got to -- where is the Republican club? I don't hear much of that out there. And I think it's because they're becoming more and more independent, which changes the very nature of our political system. At least I think that's what we're seeing.

COOPER: Joseph, thanks for your question. We appreciate it.

I want you to meet Paula Rogovin. She's from Teaneck, New Jersey. She's been a public school teacher in New York City for 43 years. That's incredible. Her son's in the Marine Reserves. Served twice in Iraq.


COOPER: Paula?

QUESTION: Governor Kasich, I'm asking this question on behalf of my friends and military families speak out whose sons were killed by injuries suffered in Iraq. Sergeant Matthew Fenton, Specialist Thomas Young (ph), Sergeant Sherwood Baker, and on behalf of my friends, whose sons Jeffrey Lucey, and Sergeant Tyler, Sergeant First Class Tyler Westbrook died by suicide after their deployments in Iraq. Their deaths are a heartbreak and the deaths of other soldiers and Marines and civilians are a heartbreak.


QUESTION: Our organization opposes military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. You said that you agreed with the missile strike in Syria, yet our military actions can drag us further into Syria's civil war. How can the president attack a country then expect it to end there? Once you start a military intervention, it will be a quagmire like in Iraq. How will you work to prevent the United States from getting involved in a military quagmire in Syria?

KASICH: Yeah, well, first of all, I'm really sorry about what you said. I have a friend with me tonight who actually went to the Pentagon and was a lawyer to try to make sure that this problem of PTSD would be recognized. And he changed the system through the Congress, because of the work of one lawyer and a handful of no-name lawyers who said we're going to fight for the military.

Now, let's talk a little bit about -- I don't like getting involved in civil wars. When Ronald Reagan was president, I voted against U.S. involvement in Lebanon because I didn't see its direct threat to us and I didn't see a strategy of going in and getting out.

Let me tell you about Syria. First of all, I think we let a great opportunity go. I think we should have supported the rebels early on who would have worked to overthrow Assad, who is clearly a butcher. But we didn't do that.

And then I wanted to see a no-fly zone, so refugees would have somewhere to go without having to come get on these boats and risk their lives and have a place, a safe haven. We didn't do any of that.

Now, I then went to Munich with John McCain. And when I was in Munich -- this is just recently. I heard these world leaders starting to wonder about America. And what the military strike did, for whatever it's worth there, it sent a message that don't count America out, that we matter.

Now, that's not enough if you don't have a follow-on strategy. And could they have done a better job at that? Perhaps. But as it comes to me, it's the direct interests of the United States and, not only that, how do we go and how do we come out and how do we have success? And if you don't have an answer to that, then I don't think you intervene. And so that's kind of my sense about this whole thing.

With Afghanistan, I'd like to see us come home as soon as possible. I said that during the campaign. In terms of Syria, I don't want a direct American intervention in Syria. It's a civil war. So, you know, that's kind of the way I see it, ma'am.

And the sacrifice -- see, when I talk about common humanity, here's what's really amazing. Our people come home from serving in the military and they're unemployed. They are the most employable people that there are. They are drug free. They have leadership qualities. We as a community ought to demand in our communities that they get work. And I don't think -- that would be a great thing for all of us to take on.

And I want to say to you, sir, thank you. And I know it's tough out there. I know it's tough out there when you're being a policeman and you're seeing these things. But I want you to know, we believe that we are pursuing the right things, and we believe what we're doing is solid, and we're going to keep doing it. And we're going to win this war.

But you know when we're going to win this war? When you and your wife and me and the friends around here walk up to a young person at a dinner table who you don't even know and say, kids, kid, please, don't use these drugs. You're going to destroy your purpose for which God created you and do not go there.

I have two 17-year-old daughters. You know what I worry about? We pound on them about not doing drugs. I've stopped, Anderson, lately, because I don't want to overdo it, OK? But here's the critical thing. When they go to college, and they go to a party, and somebody says to them, by the way, in the back room, there's some pills, let's go try it, or their peers or somebody. That's the moment of truth where my daughters are going to have to say no and they have the resilience.

And the only way they'll get it is if we warn them about the dangers of these drugs, and these are not just my opinion. These are the opinion of people who have been involved and busting these cartels and chasing this poison all of their adult lifetime.

I actually sent a note -- sending a note to all of their families thanking these DEA agents for putting themselves on the line. We will win this if we work together. And that's another great initiative. Another great initiative in this country that can help bring us together, whether we're Republican or Democrat, because we all care about drug addiction and defeating it. We all care about our veterans.

You see, we're going to drive the change and the unity in America from where we live to the top. Don't -- forget the politicians. Martin Luther King couldn't even get a meeting with the president. He got neighbors and he got Republicans and Democrats and liberals and conservatives, and he put them together, and he showed them the moral outrage of racism, and he changed the country from the bottom up. That's what we have to do as Americans, because if we keep fighting, we're not going to win. And that's in everything, not just in politics. In case you wonder about it, just check out United Airlines.


COOPER: Governor, I want you to meet, this is Laurie Merges. She came here from Lakewood, Ohio.

KASICH: God, I mean, is anybody in Ohio? Are you all -- that's a good thing.

COOPER: She's a single mom. She has three young kids. She's a breast cancer survivor. Laurie and her kids qualified for Medicaid after she lost her job due to corporate downsizing. Laurie?

QUESTION: Thank you. First of all, thank you for the Medicaid expansion in Ohio.

KASICH: So you qualified for Medicaid, and you are a mom with three kids, and that's helping you?

QUESTION: That saved my life.

KASICH: To have health care? Huh?

QUESTION: It saved my life. KASICH: In case these Republicans wonder...


No, why did he -- why did he expand Medicaid? You just heard it right here. A mom with three kids. And she's getting some help. Now, we want to get you on your feet and we want to get you a job. OK, we have to work at that, right?

QUESTION: Exactly. So, right before I was diagnosed, my company downsized, and I lost my position. And I was in the middle of a job search when I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. So this Medicaid expansion literally did save my life. And I've been in breast cancer treatment for the last 17 months. And I just finished last month. So...


My question for you is, going forward, if the current administration repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act and slashes federal funding for Medicaid, how do you think this is going to affect people across America, people like me that rely on Medicaid for life-saving care?

KASICH: Well, why don't you say how it would affect you?

QUESTION: I'm not the only one. There's other people, too. So how does it affect all of us?

KASICH: Yeah, well, you know what? Here's the other thing. Maybe we don't know this, but if you're drug-addicted, you know how many times you're likely to fail to beat your addiction? Do you know that if you're mentally ill, if you are schizophrenic -- I'll tell you a story.

I was driving home, had one of the guys that looks after me, one of the troopers with me. And we drive up to this corner, and there's a guy -- and I'm thinking he's combing his hair with his hand. And as I look at him, I can see he has a cigarette lighter and that's how he's giving himself a haircut.

And I looked at the trooper. And I said, you know, that's your brother. And he looked at me. I said, yeah, it's my brother, too. That's a human being that was created for a purpose. I don't want these people to be lost. And that's why I've spoken out so aggressively on this.

I don't know if I'll win, because when you're in Congress, you try to meet these little standards and you don't really understand the impact as much as you should. So I'm going to continue to speak out for those people.

Now, do I think Obamacare can be dramatically changed and should be? Absolutely, I believe it should. I'll tell you another thing. I believe it is dead wrong to cut the funding for the National Institutes of Health. I think funding for NIH ought to be dramatically increased.


Because we need cures for these problems. And, look, have your priorities. You know, have the priorities you need, but you got to understand, you know, it's back to that thing I said just a few minutes ago, Anderson. It's not just your head, but your heart. And I believe that we can continue to fund NIH and have major breakthroughs. I believe it's possible.

We're going to stick 20 million into research on what we can use to try to keep people from having these desires once they are addicted. I mean, research and science -- oh, by the way, science matters, too. OK? I believe that. Our environment matters, too.


COOPER: Governor, let me ask you, you know, President Trump recently said that nobody knew health care could be so complicated.


It seemed to me watching the debates you and pretty much all the other Republicans running knew how complicated it was. Did it surprise you to hear the president say that?

KASICH: Well, look, I mean, here's what you have to understand. The guy's never held public office before. He's in a real estate business. And he was focused. And apparently he's done extremely well in the real estate business. So, you know, when you're doing that, you don't necessarily accumulate all these facts.

Now look, I had this meeting with him, and I told him some of the things that I thought should be done. And he was agreeing with me in this meeting. Now, where it ended up, I think there's a little tug of war going on inside the White House with some saying, you know, we got to do this, and other people saying, well, wait a minute. I don't know who's going to win that tug of war.

But I'll tell you another thing that needs to be done in my state, in every state. We, as the government of Ohio, need to have some leverage to prevent pharmaceutical companies from running over us and overcharging us. And all I'm asking for is this. Right now, I'm required to take these drugs, regardless of what they cost. I mean, there are exceptions, but it's basically the situation.

You know what I want? I want the power to take your drug out of my formulary. You don't want to give me a good price? Fine, then I won't sell your drug. You know what would happen? They'd still give us the drugs, and we'd have better prices, and we could control our costs, because we cannot let these costs of Medicaid or any of these other things run out of control. We have a $20 trillion debt! Who do you think's going to pay that? The man in the moon? Our children are going to pay it.

That's why we need a constitutional amendment to require a federal balanced budget, the same way the states have it. Tell those...

COOPER: We've got to take a break.

KASICH: You got it.

COOPER: We're going to have more audience questions when our town hall continues with Governor John Kasich, author of the new book, "Two Paths: America Divided or United."


COOPER: And welcome back to our town hall with Governor John Kasich from Ohio. Let's get back to the audience questions. Governor, I want you to meet Perquita Burgess. She spoke out last week after being sexually and racially harassed by former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. Perquita?

QUESTION: Hi, Governor, how are you? I'm here because of what I suffered from Mr. O'Reilly during my tenure at Fox News. I did not speak out about it at the time for fear of losing my job. From the executive suite to lower level positions, people experience sexual and racial discrimination in the workplace every day. What would you do to stop this from happening and to make sure there's no retaliation from employers when people like me speak out about it?

KASICH: You know, I mean, you know, as far as I'm concerned, with being the father of two daughters and, you know, a wife, this can't be tolerated. And it does start at the top. And there should be laws against this. I mean, you can't go harassing people.

And maybe we're waking up. Maybe what we're seeing here is an ability -- because there's been a number of cases like this, not just at Fox, but we've seen it other places. And maybe it's waking us up. This is not some sort of a -- you know, like, you're not in high school anymore. And this kind of behavior is inappropriate.

I don't have -- I don't know what I would do if somebody was doing that to one of my daughters. I mean, oh, my gosh. So I want to tell you how sorry I am that you've gone through that. And in my state, whether it's any kind of discrimination or any kind of a harassment -- we had a case recently where somebody did some inappropriate things and they were fired. We're just not going to tolerate it. If you know it, if you can see it, you have to act against it.

COOPER: Let me -- you worked at Fox for a number of years, filling in sometimes for O'Reilly. Did you ever see anything in the culture there?

KASICH: You know, I had -- I had -- I did three things. One is I had a show called "Heroes," where I traveled the country and raised people who no one ever heard of who did heroic things. I, secondly, had my own show, which I did from Columbus, called "Heartland."

And I did O'Reilly when he wasn't there. I was a guest host of his. But I never -- I mean, if I had seen stuff like that, I would have gone to the management. But I didn't see it. I never experienced it. And I'm, frankly, I'm just disappointed that it happened.

COOPER: I want you to meet Yint Hmu. He's a student at Fordham University. He grew up in Burma while it was run by a military dictatorship. Welcome.

QUESTION: Hello, Governor. As someone who grew up in a place where the freedom of the press was severely limited, I am disturbed to see the president and his tendencies to delegitimize the press whenever there is a negative article about him or his administration. Governor Kasich, in your opinion, what is the best way to protect the integrity of our free press?


KASICH: Well we -- yeah, I mean, look, I'd get up and move around, but we're flying through the time here. So if I don't stay in this seat, I'm going to run out of time and get the things said I want to.

There's nothing more important than the free press in a free society. And any effort to erode that needs to be stood against. And I have been very outspoken about this. I spoke to the Ohio press, and they gave me a standing ovation, which must have been a weird day for them. But I then got up and said I'd like to give you a standing ovation.

And the work of people like Anderson Cooper and -- well, all the press. Look, public officials are always -- none of us like to get banged around. Nobody here would like that. But it's part of the job. And, you know, one guy once said, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

But to try to erode the press -- now, here's another thing we all need to do. We can't just all absorb that that we agree with or say that if we see something we don't like that it's fake news or that, you know, we're in a post-truth environment. I mean, the truth matters.

So it's not just on somebody else. It's on all of us to reject things that are not fair and reject things in any way we can, speaking out, arguing, whatever it takes to make it clear that we want a press to be independent, and the press has an obligation, too. You know, during the campaign, in an effort to get ratings and make money, they used to put the spotlight on an empty podium. I mean, that was not responsible. They don't like it when I say it, but tough.

But the fact of the matter is, is the press has an obligation, too. And it can't be clicks for cash. I'm going to put a headline on there, I'm going to distort the thing because I can make more money. That's -- see, we're all back to these issues of values. And values really come, in my opinion, kind of two places. If you're a humanist, you're out to change the world. If you're a faithful person, you ought to be believing in being able to be fair, connecting your heart with another, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. That to me is what faith is. And it gives us a sense of personal responsibility.

I think that people, some people in religion have ruined religion, because they tell -- say it's all about the don'ts, when, really, faith is about the do's. It's about our potential. You realize that everybody in this room is made unique and there will never be anybody like you again and you're made for a purpose. And we all need to begin to think about living a life a little bigger than ourselves. I'm not looking for sainthood, but I am looking for people to -- all of us, me included, we're all -- you know, we're all fallen, we all have problems. But let's try to do better tomorrow. But the press, critical in our system.

COOPER: I want to introduce you to Jim Obergefell, he's a realtor, consultant from Cincinnati, Ohio. He was obviously the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The case started off, as I'm sure you know, in Ohio, as Obergefell v. Kasich.

KASICH: This was the -- this was the big decision, yes, sir. It's nice to see you.


QUESTION: Good evening, Governor.

KASICH: I'm sorry you lost your partner.

QUESTION: Thank you, I appreciate that. My husband.

You fought to deny me the right to have my marriage recognized on my late husband's Ohio death certificate. You fought to erase the most important relationship of my life from his last official record as a person.

The Supreme Court said that you were on the wrong side of history. Do you regret your opposition to marriage equality? And do you believe that LGBTQ Americans are worthy of the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as other Americans?

KASICH: Yeah, of course. Let me -- let me just tell you that...


... number one, you know -- and this was a famous question asked to me during the campaign. Number one, the people of Ohio had voted through a constitutional amendment that said marriage was between a man and a woman. I happen to believe in traditional marriage. But, you know, the court has ruled, and the court has ruled on gay marriage, and I -- I'm fine. That's the way it is. And I didn't want to appeal or do anything else.

In fact, maybe you know, maybe you don't know, you know, I attended my first gay wedding. I have a great friend that got married, and my wife and I went, and we were glad to go.

So I don't want to have anybody feeling oppressed, you know? And so the decision that was made by the court has been made, and as far as I'm concerned, we move on. And I don't want anybody to be discriminated against, OK? So that's kind of where I come from on this. But thank you for coming. And -- and God bless you.

COOPER: Jim, thank you very much.

I want you to meet Joy Lane. She's the ex-girlfriend of the man who last week in Cleveland murdered Robert Godwin, Sr., broadcast it on Facebook. Joy?

QUESTION: Yes. My question is, how do we increase awareness and resources for families affected by addiction? I know we've discussed a lot about drug addiction, but also regarding gambling addiction, as well, and mental illness. And how do we get these resources to the communities to help avoid these types of tragedies?

KASICH: Well, you know, one of the biggest reasons why I expanded Medicaid -- again, we're back to that, because it was so many additional resources -- was to be into the -- so that the local communities could treat more people on the issue of addictions.

And, you know, it was interesting. I was just talking to somebody, a sports guy, a sports announcer about a great athlete from Ohio who has had a gambling addiction. And, you know, any of these addictions, any of these things that affect the brain, you know, are critically important. That's why I don't want to see a reduced funding to NIH. That's why I want to make sure that the research we have at our universities is going to be productive, because I think the more we learn about the brain, the more we're going to learn about what we can do to help solve some of these problems.

I think we've made progress. The Cleveland Clinic has spent a lot of time on brain research. But I think we're still in sort of the -- maybe we're out of the Stone Age, but not that far along. But the more we work on the brain, the more we're going to discover is going to be a world that can change so many things for the better in our society. And I'm very sorry about what's happened to you. Very sorry.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: Joy, I know you met with the Godwins, the kids of Mr. Godwin. And I spoke to some of those kids, as well. And they're truly extraordinary. They actually -- Governor, I spoke to them the day after their father had been murdered. And they talked about forgiving the man who killed them, who killed their father. In your book, you talk about faith a lot. You talked about how your parents were taken from you by a drunk driver. And if this isn't too personal a question, have you for -- I mean, as a -- have you given -- have you forgiven the person who did that?

KASICH: Yeah. You know what's interesting? Well, you know...

COOPER: Because I'm not sure I could.

KASICH: When he would come up for consideration to be released, my sister would write a letter, saying, you know, there were two people killed, our parents. And at one point, I called my sister, and I said, Donna, we need to stop -- we need to stop writing those letters. If that man could turn back the clock, he would. He didn't want to kill anybody. But this is -- there are different situations. Think about -- I just read a sermon the other day, part of a sermon that my friend, Kevin Maney, sent to me. And it was about how these -- a Coptic Christian family is forgiving the people that participated in the suicide bombing that killed their husband and a father.

Or we think about South Carolina, where the people in that congregation said, I'm going to forgive the killer. Can you believe that? That's the power of faith. That's the power of the sense that justice will someday come. And that's why sometimes we've got to leave justice -- if you believe the way I do, you got to leave justice to the big guy. He'll figure all this out for us.

That doesn't mean we don't seek justice here. But sometimes, you know, the -- letting it go -- Anderson, the death of my parents was so horrific, I used to worry they would be killed when my father went to pick my mother up late at night from a job. And then I got a call one night that they were -- that my father was dead and my mother was going to die. And that started my faith journey.

I didn't know if I believed in God. I didn't know if I thought he cared about me, if he -- you know what? It's 30 years ago. I still work at it, but I believe. And my faith gives me perspective. I'm not trying to push anything on anybody. I'm really not. I mean, if you don't think the way I do, that's OK. But to me, it's a gift that I can give to somebody to say that when the tough times come, where do you go when the water rises? That is in this book.

You see, this book is about my love for my country, and this book is about my love for my family. And this is about what I see going wrong and what we can do to get it right. That's why I feel so strongly and so passionately about traveling all over America. You know, I had some reporters in Ohio say, well, why aren't you back in Ohio? I said, well, you know, I have some other things to say, not just in Ohio, but around the country, and I'm going to try to say them. So that's the end of that. OK?

COOPER: All right, we're going to take another break. We'll have more from the governor in just a moment. We'll be right back.


COOPER: All right, welcome back. Let's get right back to the audience. This next question is from someone who's maybe not quite ready to accept one of your earlier answers, Governor. I want you to meet Tom Tillotson. He wasn't -- he's from Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, a town you're familiar with. He's organized that town's midnight voting tradition for decades. Tom?

QUESTION: Governor Kasich, on behalf of the voters of Dixville Notch, where you made that snowy journey to hold the town hall event similar to this, it's nice to see you again. As we start to anticipate the 2020 election cycle, and with a new ballot room and a renovated Balsams Grand Resort Hotel...

(LAUGHTER) KASICH: The place was looking good when I was there, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: I was wondering, sir, if I could respectfully ask you whether we might have the chance to welcome back presidential candidate John Kasich?

KASICH: Well, here's the thing. If we could hold an entire presidential election in Dixville Notch, I'll consider it, because I won Dixville Notch.

QUESTION: You did.

KASICH: So, you know, let's see if we can change the rules. You look great, and it's great -- I'm going to be in New Hampshire for part of this book tour. I'll be -- and the reason I'm going there is because a large part -- here's what's crazy, folks. I was a congressman for 18 years. I was the budget chairman, pretty high profile. I work at Fox, you know, for almost 10 years. I go to New Hampshire, you know what my name ID was? Like 2 percent. Nobody knew me in the country. And I didn't realize that.

And that made it an uphill struggle. But the places that I went -- I did 106 town hall meetings in New Hampshire, and the biggest one was very big and the smallest one was three people, and my staff said, boy, what a great turnout we have today. And as people got to know me -- I finished second. And I wish I'd have gotten more of a bump. But I got to tell you, from the presidential thing, it was fantastic. I have no regrets. I'm a happy guy.

And I can't commit to anything in 2020. Let's see what happens tomorrow, how's that?

COOPER: Tom, thanks very much.

KASICH: Thank you, Tom.

COOPER: We probably have about a minute left. What do you say to folks right now who just are worried about where the country's going? Whether they're supporters of President Trump or not, the divisions in this country, the polarization?

KASICH: Speak out, but don't be hateful about it. Don't be out there trying to spill acid on people. And, secondly, pick something you can do where you live. And work with somebody who may not think exactly like you. And before you know it, you're going to be laughing about a lot of the national political stuff. I don't mean saying it's not important, but you get your sense of humor back.

Look, we will drive the best in America from where we live up and give orders to people, whether they're CEOs, whether they're politicians, whether they're -- hey, United Airlines people, people that fly all across the world told United Airlines we're not putting up with this, never, and they're changing the way the airlines work. Why? Bottom up.

When we dig in and we do things like that, believe in yourself. Believe you make a difference. We have a Holocaust Memorial on the grounds of our statehouse with a line. You know what it says? If you save one life, you perhaps have changed the world. Why don't we just do that, one life at a time? How about that, Anderson? OK?

COOPER: Governor Kasich, thank you very much for being with us.

KASICH: Thank you. Thank you all for coming.

COOPER: To the audience, thank you for your time and questions tonight. That does it for our town hall event. Again, the book is called "Two Paths: America Divided or United." Have a great night. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.