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Not My Job: Gov. John Kasich Get Quizzed On K-Tel


Ohio Governor John Kasich distinguished himself in the 2016 Republican primary debates with his candor, his fearlessness and for being located so far to the side of the stage you could barely see him on TV.

BILL KURTIS: But Governor Kasich took center stage when he joined us in Ohio in April, along with Peter Grosz, Roxanne Roberts and Roy Blount Jr.


JOHN KASICH: Thank you.


SAGAL: So you started - we are told you started quite early. You were very interested in politics as a young man, right?

KASICH: Well, I went to Ohio State, and I lived in a dormitory, had 15 roommates...


KASICH: ...I had 15 roommates. And some things upset me. So I asked for a meeting with the president of the university, And finally, they let me in, so I went in to see him. And he said, what's on your mind? I told him. And then I looked at him - I said, sir, I've been in school a couple weeks, and I'm undecided. But looking around at your nice carpeting, your furniture and everything, maybe this is the job for me. What exactly do you do?


KASICH: And so he told me about his fundraising responsibilities, his academic responsibilities. And he said the next day he was going to fly down and have a meeting with President Nixon.

SAGAL: Right.

KASICH: This is 1970. And I said, well, sir, there's a number of things that I would like to talk to him about, also. Could I go with you?


KASICH: And he said, no. And I said, if I write a letter, would you give it to the president? And he said sure. So I wrote this letter and, you know, told him how I thought he was doing. And I signed it John Kasich. P.S., if you want to discuss this further, let me know.


KASICH: I've got time. So I got a letter back from the Office of the White House, the president. I opened it up. I went upstairs to my dorm room, called home. My mother answered the phone. I said, Mom, I'm going to need a airline ticket. The president of the United States would like to have a meeting with me in the Oval Office. And my mother started shouting, honey, pick up the phone. Something's wrong with Johnny (ph).


KASICH: True story. So I flew down...

SAGAL: Yeah.

KASICH: ...Get outside the Oval Office...

SAGAL: Yeah.

KASICH: And a guy walks up to me. He says, young man, you're going to have five minutes alone with the president of the United States. And I'm 18 years old, first-quarter freshman. Sound pretty cool, folks? It does.


KASICH: Let me tell you what I'm thinking. New jacket, new shirt, new tie, new pants - I didn't come for five lousy minutes.



KASICH: So they opened up the door, and I went in. I saw the president, shook hands. The good news is I spent 20 minutes in the Oval Office as a first-quarter freshman with the president of the United States. The bad news is I spent 18 years in Congress. And if you add up all the time I spent in the Oval Office, I peaked out at the age of 18...


SAGAL: What did you - I mean...


KASICH: It's really true...

SAGAL: So far, I - what did you talk to President Richard Nixon about? An 18-year-old college freshman...

KASICH: Well, I had a number of things, you know?

SAGAL: Such as?

KASICH: Well, I mean, foreign policy, you know, simple things, you know?


SAGAL: Yeah. You realize, if we wanted to, we could look up the tape and find out.


KASICH: Yes. You know that button they ought to have on Facebook, which is delete all my information, I've already done that at the Nixon Library.

SAGAL: I bet you have.


SAGAL: When you were in Congress, of course, you made your mark as a budget guy, and you played a significant role in the balanced budgets of the Clinton years...

KASICH: Very significant.


SAGAL: I have to ask about this because I know - because you told me - that one of the things that you zeroed out back in your budget-cutting days was money for public broadcasting.

KASICH: Yeah. Well, I did because...


KASICH: Wait a minute. Hold on.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

KASICH: Thanks, Peter. I'm glad I talked...

SAGAL: You're welcome...

KASICH: ...To you earlier today.


KASICH: First of all, the arts and public broadcasting and all that was critical. At that time, I thought I'm for it. In fact, I contributed to it. But should the public money go into it? Now, since...


KASICH: I know. I know.

SAGAL: He knows.

KASICH: Well, if I'm elected president, we'll double the budget.

SAGAL: There you go.

KURTIS: (Laughter).


SAGAL: All right. Following up in your joke...

KASICH: Which joke?

SAGAL: The joke about when you're president.


SAGAL: So this is interesting...


SAGAL: So the one - I got - one last thing. We've got to do this because ostensibly we work for a news organization. The New York Times just wrote a story about all the time you're spending in New Hampshire, and they pointed...

KASICH: I like the fish.

SAGAL: Well, of course...


KASICH: It's good. You ever been there?

SAGAL: It is a coastal state. And it's - they described you as the man who is - and I quote The New York Times - "the man who is not not running for president."



SAGAL: So I'm going to ask you in front of our audience here and abroad, are you not not not running for president, or are you not not running for president?

KASICH: Well, it'll depend on what they think. I don't know what they think. No, it...


KASICH: Now, you know what? Peter, this will sound maybe a little crazy. But I don't know what I'm going to be doing. I have about nine months. This is the most important thing for me, to finish strong...

SAGAL: Sure.

KASICH: ...Because people remember you how you finish, not how you started.

SAGAL: Right. There you go. That'll work...

KASICH: I don't know what it's going to mean.


SAGAL: I know why you're doing it. I just realized - it just came to me in my political analysis because you want to go up against Donald Trump again because, last time, you didn't get a nickname.


SAGAL: Right? Because I'm sure you felt a little bad. There was, like...

KASICH: No, not for a second.


SAGAL: Well, Governor Kasich, it is a real and genuine delight to talk to you. But that's not why we asked you here. We asked you to play a game...


SAGAL: ...We're calling...

KURTIS: But Wait. There's More.

SAGAL: You are Governor Kasich, so we naturally thought we'd ask you about K-TEL, which...


SAGAL: ...Is the company that invented the infomercial and also those compilation albums you used to see advertised on TV, you know, "25 Polka Hits." Do you remember this?

KASICH: Oh, yeah. Sure...

SAGAL: Yeah, we're of an age. So answer two questions correctly about K-TEL, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they may like from our show on their voicemail. Bill, who is the governor of Ohio playing for?

KURTIS: Gabe Meeker of Columbus, Ohio.

SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: OK. Here is your first question. K-TEL was founded by a Canadian salesman named Phil Kives, who learned his trade hawking wares on a boardwalk. But before that, he had another job. What was it? A, a Royal Mountie; B, trapping weasels; or C, poutine cook.


SAGAL: And he was Canadian, remember.

KASICH: Well...


KASICH: ...He wasn't in politics, so he wasn't trapping weasels.


KASICH: Did you say it was a - wasn't it A? Isn't that where I want to head...

SAGAL: So he was a Canadian guy. He was a salesman. But before that, was he a Royal Mountie, a weasel trapper...

KASICH: Yeah, he was a Royal Mountie.

SAGAL: No, actually, he trapped weasels. That was the thing he did.


KASICH: He did not...

SAGAL: Sold their pelts. He did. He trapped...

KASICH: Oh, that's terrible.

SAGAL: He also trapped gophers. He trapped gophers, but weasels are funnier. Next question - which of these was a real K-TEL compilation album? Was it A, "24 Dumb Ditties;" B, "38 Tuba Explosions (ph);" or C, "76 Tromboners" (ph)?



KASICH: You think A?


KASICH: You think A?


KASICH: A? OK. I'll go A.

SAGAL: Yes, it was A...

KASICH: All right...

SAGAL: ..."24 Dumb Ditties"...


PETER GROSZ: Listen to the people.

SAGAL: Listen to the people.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

KASICH: That is exactly how I run my Cabinet meetings.


GROSZ: You won't everybody sit around and praise you - that's not how you run your Cabinet?


SAGAL: All right. Last question. For all the kitchiness, K-TEL albums contributed to the history of American pop music in at least one significant way. What was it? A, the desk at which Michael Jackson sat down to write "Beat It" had a leg balanced on six stacked K-TEL records...


KASICH: Very interesting.

SAGAL: ...B, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters...

KASICH: I met him.

SAGAL: You met him. He says it was a K-TEL record that inspired his musical career; or C, the CD and, thus, digital music was invented by a computer scientist who was upset that his vinyl copies of K-TEL "Summer Cruisin'" record kept wearing out?

KASICH: I'm sort of thinking it's Dave Grohl. Come on. Help me.



SAGAL: B. Of course, it was B, Dave Grohl.


SAGAL: He says...


SAGAL: Grohl says that he heard an Edgar Winter Song on a K-TEL compilation in the '70s, and it sort of changed his life, to use his words. So, Bill, how did Governor Kasich do on our show?

KURTIS: The president got 2 out 3.


KURTIS: And that's a win.


SAGAL: John Kasich is the author of the book "Two Paths." He is the governor of the great state of Ohio. Governor Kasich, thank you so much...

KASICH: Thank you.

SAGAL: ...For being on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.