Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a potential Republican presidential contender, said that inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without alerting the White House was “clumsy,” but if he were President Barack Obama, he’d have a cup of coffee with the Israeli leader.
“Well, I’d have a meeting with him. We’d have a cup of coffee, why not? This is, they’re making such a big deal,” he said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger set to air this Sunday on “State of the Union.”
“The guy, you know, has been invited to come speak to Congress. Let him speak, and the President can have a meeting with him. They don’t have to have a photo op or anything, but of course you go and you talk to him,” Kasich said.
Netanyahu is expected to use the early-March speech to lobby Congress for tough new sanctions against Iran — putting him at odds with Obama, who has threatened to veto additional sanctions as he tries to hash out a deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The President has said he won’t meet with Netanyahu when he comes to the U.S. because it’s too close to the Israeli elections, and he doesn’t want to give undue advantage to the incumbent, which he says is U.S. protocol for visiting dignitaries.
But the visit has strained already tense relations between the two leaders, in part because House Speaker John Boehner invited him without informing the President.
A CNN/ORC poll out this week showed nearly two-thirds of Americans thought it was a bad move for congressional leadership to extend the invite without giving the White House a heads’ up.
Kasich acknowledged that perhaps inviting Netanyahu without alerting Obama was “clumsy” — but said that the world leaders should move past it.
“Was it handled in maybe a clumsy way? Okay, so it was,” he said. “But look, get beyond that. See, that’s our problem, Gloria, we spend too much time either trying to be politically correct, play to the cameras, play to our base.”
The political squabbling over the invite has him “worried” about America, he said. And while Kasich insisted he hadn’t decided “whether I’ll even try” for president, he struck a presidential tone in outlining his concerns for the nation.
“I worry about America. For the first time in my lifetime, I’m worried about us,” he said. “I’m worried about how our values to some degree have been eroded, of personal responsibility and compassion and teamwork. I worry about it, I worry about the fact that we’re so divided.”
But he said he’s optimistic the issue can be fixed, citing the precedent of two bipartisan presidents in bringing the nation today.
“I have no doubt, because I saw Ronald Reagan do it, and I’ve seen other great leaders throughout history. Harry Truman. Whatever party they are, they can bring us together. It can happen,” he said.