Kasich Back to Being Kasich


Ten months after launching his failed 2016 “I’m the Sane One” presidential bid, Ohio governor John Kasich is back home. And back to being John Kasich.

Rarely given to the bombastic style of governing favored by more and more GOP state executives, Kasich has signaled no change in his behind-the-scenes “soft” politics wherein he identifies an end, marshals the necessary human and political capital, then watches from the wings as though he had nothing to do with the issue at hand.

This Reganesque facade of a distant but ultimately benign CEO is a luxury made possible by a 23-10 Republican Senate supermajority and 65-34 edge in the House: Why play the enforcer when there are dozens of fellow partisans at the ready?

But Kasich’s above-the-fray approach is only as effective as the Republican legislators and private sector simpaticos tasked with the grunt work; and the more important the issue to the administration, the greater the pressure to deliver the goods.

As of early June the governor’s lieutenants did just that as they racked up yet another legislative victory, this time enacting his plan to gut the agency charged with overseeing Ohio’s bulging prisons.

Classic Kasich in ideology and style, the objective at hand was the ouster of Joanna Saul, embattled executive director of the Correctional Institutional Inspection Committee (CIIC).

After nearly deposing Saul in 2014, Kasich’s Ohio Senate allies led by Senate president and go-to strongman Keith Faber earlier this year redoubled their efforts to make a case against Saul, claiming she had been insubordinate in her dealings with the legislature.

Faber’s dubious efforts were rewarded when on May 25 Saul was issued a text message informing her she and the CIIC would be phased out, and a new entity created and placed under the aegis of the legislative majority.

Adding to the drama and insult was a last-minute demand that Saul capitulate rather than continue the very public acrimony. The Republican-initiated ultimatum: Resign and we’ll consider keeping the CIIC.

Saul responded by submitting her resignation effective July 26. She is on paid leave until that time. And the CIIC is in a holding pattern.

Lost in this shameful GOP coup are the unanswered prison code violations cited by Saul and other CIIC staff – mirror images of those previously raised by the ACLU and a host of independent prison watchdog organizations: prison understaffing; inmate-on-inmate violence and sexual assault; drug smuggling; gang activity.

Add to the list what amounts to a smoking gun pointing back to the governor’s office, namely Saul’s verified claim that the multinational food vendor contracted to feed the state’s prisoners (Aramark Corporation) has been supplying food laced with maggots, and hiring employees suspected of having inappropriate contact with the prison population – the same Aramark that has for years helped bankroll Republican gubernatorial campaigns, including John Kasich’s.

For now, nobody seems to have a clue as to if or when Ohio’s prison inspections will be back on line, and only the naive think Faber will ever be called to account for his part in this sordid tale.

As to Gov. Kasich, his office has yet to issue a statement. Why play the enforcer when there are dozens of fellow partisans at the ready?

Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister and substance abuse counselor living in Jackson, Ohio. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2016


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