John Kasich would be a great presidential candidate — if he weren't completely insufferable

Kasich's holier-than-thou shtick is not exactly endearing

John Kasich
(Image credit: SHAWN THEW/epa/Corbis)

John Kasich of Ohio has the resume. He's a successful governor of a swing state that Republicans need to win. His background at Fox News gave him ample time to learn how to work the camera. He gained a sterling conservative reputation as a budget-cutter when he was in Congress. He restricted abortion and passed voter I.D. laws in his home state. His governorship saw Ohio rebound from the depths. And he's not a typical Republican, boasting some moderate positions that can attract independent voters.

But there's a problem.

The New York Times described him as "a blunt-spoken and unorthodox Republican." A profile of him in National Journal called him "arrogant" and "prickly." John McCain once said of Kasich: "He has a hair-trigger temper."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

He's a jerk, in other words. An insufferably pious one.

Kasich's announcement speech was peppered with the most petty little brags. "Yeah, I actually knew the guy," Kaisch said, to prove he has the right to drag Reagan's corpse across a campaign stage. "I know what needs to be done," he also declaimed, "I've done it at all levels."

Discussing a veteran's deeds in his section on "teamwork," Kasich drew attention to himself: "I call it the 'great arc of life.'" While describing his own ability to empathize, he invoked the following scene: "I was coming downtown and there was a lady and she was older, and she had a cane and she was barely walking. She was putting one foot in front of another. I wanted to stop and just hug her, encourage her."

Okay, John, and I know people who want to adopt all the animals they see in those weepy commercials. But they don't get on stage and take applause merely for wanting to do it.

Kasich often says that conservatives must do a better job of helping the poor, and has even accused the GOP of waging "war on the poor." He told an interviewer that the conservative movement has never read Matthew 25, where Jesus exhorts his followers to care for the poor. He talked about going to soup kitchens in his announcement speech. "It's our job as human beings, as children of God, to help them," he said to the applause of men.

He's made similar statements in the past. When asked about his decision to accept federal funds for the Medicaid expansion in his state, Kasich said, "I don't know about you, lady, but when I get to the Pearly Gates, I'm going to have an answer for what I've done for the poor." In 2013, he told the press, "When you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer."

Unfortunately, talking to the national press and to campaign supporters about giving to the poor doesn't really jive with the actual text of Matthew 6, in which the Lord commands, "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." Maybe the contradiction can be explained by the fact that he doesn't give all that much to be silent about. Sean Davis of The Federalist looked at his tax returns and found that Kasich doesn't exactly tithe his income:

In 2008, Kasich reported nearly $1.4 million in overall income. Based on the biblical principle of tithing — contributing at least 10 percent of one's income to faith-based causes — Kasich should have donated $140,000 or more to charitable or faith-based causes. However, his tax returns show that his reported charitable contributions totaled $27,326, less than 2 percent of his total income that year, and far less than the 10 percent tithe that is generally expected of believers. [The Federalist]

In other words, Kasich's generosity is practiced before men with the public's money. His lack of generosity is directed at other parts of the religious right, whose giving to a single charity like World Vision alone rivals the foreign aid of G-20 nations.

The thought of spending four years getting lectured by Kasich about which great men he shared a room with, and what great deeds he thought he might do, and which heaps of the public's treasury he intends to drag before St. Peter, is a torture in itself. To be relieved of it soon, let us pray.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Michael Brendan Dougherty

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative.