As Americans become increasingly allergic to party labeling, not feeling particularly Democratic or Republican, Thursday night’s South Carolina Townhall featuring Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Donald Trump likely helped potential voters in their personal decisions for the next President of the United States.
They talked about the Pope, drugs like heroin in America, and national security. All three of these candidates shared personal stories, and if voters listened they likely were helped along by the less rigid debate-style format. Townhalls are not subject to party meddling apparently and ticket allocations that do not favor big party donors helps a lot of people understand the candidates as fellow human beings.
Kasich: ‘Life … it’s so fragile’
Earlier in the conversation, Kasich was asked if it changes him “as a person and as a politician, hearing people’s stories?” He answered that it “definitely” has forced him to slow down and listen. Kasich, it appears, connects emotionally and spiritually. From the CNNpressroom transcript, read some of his words to the crowd.
“You know, the strength of America is not some guy or woman coming in on a white charger here to solve our problems. Anderson, America, the glue of America, is right here in this room. It’s in our communities, in our families. We need to slow down. And then, we’ve got to carry out our God-given destinies and potentials and gifts. … You’ve got to celebrate other people’s wins, and sometimes you’ve got have to sit with them and cry because that’s what we need in this country. Let’s get the economy going. Let’s rebuild it. Let’s get it going. We can deal with wages and fix Social Security and balance the budget and fix the regulations. But I also believe that the country works best when it is strong from the bottom up, not from the top down.”
During the allotted time, the moderator stated he also lost his father when he was young. “[Y]our parents were killed by a drunk driver in a – in a car accident. How did that change the person you…” Kasich jumped right in to answer about his own fears.
His childhood fear, that his parents would not get home safely one night, actually happened when he was in his thirties. “Well, it changed my whole life. And the only thing I will say about this is for those that are watching, Anderson, it was – when I was a little boy, I was afraid my mom and dad wouldn’t come one night, because my dad would pick my mother up late at night on a very bad road. And then at the age of 35, I got a phone call that they wouldn’t be able to get home. And you know where they were, they were at the Burger King because they got the second cup of coffee for free. That’s the way the mailman and Mrs. Kasich lived.
And I went into a black hole with just a little pin prick of light, Anderson. And others who are here tonight have had that experience. But I had people come to me. I don’t care – you know, you don’t have to agree with me or like it or whatever, but it’s really where I found the Lord. And I’ve spent 29 years of my life working on that, and I’m here to tell people that – and look, life is – it’s so rocky, it’s so fragile.”
Earlier he warned people “to slow down” when discussing the young college student who came from Georgia to tell candidate Kasich he would be voting for him, but also that he had been enduring a season of hardships. The student told Kasich he had been “in a really dark place” after the suicide of a close friend, his parent’s divorce and his father’s job loss. Kasich stopped talking and then just gave the young voter, a hug and a few words of encouragement. They didn’t just connect on policies, they connected emotionally and spiritually it would seems, as a later report from Fox8news via CNNwire would reveal.
Bret Smith, the student, recalled Kasich’s private advice to recognize “how the Lord promises he will always be there for me and keep me safe.” Smith believes that Kasich has a bipartisan appeal and the personal touch, giving him a hug as a fellow human being in pain, is why the Ohio Governor might win the race for the presidency.
In the end, Kasich asked for voters to consider voting for him, and he told the crowd about building their lives, their homes on something solid. “We have to build our homes – our lives, our homes on solid granite, not on sand. And I have found that even though the pain still comes, there’s where I have to go. And as a result of my parents’ accident, it’s allowed me to hug that boy, and I whispered some things to him. Or to go places with military families that lose a loved one; I meet with them.”
Bush speaks about his father
Bush seems to do better in these events, coming off as friendlier and positive about family. “You speak about your dad, former President Bush often on the campaign trail or when asked about him on the campaign trail,” said Cooper, according to the transcript from CNNpress. “How has he impacted the way you run, the way you live your life?”
Bush said he gets emotional about his father. “Wow. Now I’m going to get emotional. He’s the greatest man alive. I – look, Columba – my wife and I have been married 42 years and – next week. And about-“(APPLAUSE) I wasn’t pausing for that. Thank you for the round of applause. I was pausing because I was trying to not get emotional here about my dad. About – when I was 25 I think I decided – normally when you’re with – at least I’m a hard charging, striving person. I always want to – people like to strive to be like your parents. It’s kind of a natural thing to do.”
The former governor of Florida said more. “I realized pretty quickly in my life if I could be half the man my dad was that that would be a pretty good goal. If I tried to strive to be as good as him it would be impossible. I’d be on a couch getting therapy all the time. My dad is just – put aside the fact that he was the first – the youngest navy pilot in World War II, has served this country in so many different ways including being president. He’s just a fine man – person of integrity, of honesty, of courage – all the virtues that you would want to have to be inspired by. This guy is the real deal and so half the man of George Bush means you could live a life of purpose and meaning as far as I’m concerned.”
SC Governor endorses rival Rubio
“The governor of this state, Nikki Haley as you know obviously endorsed Senator Rubio. That’s obviously–” said cooper, to which Bush joked, “I’m marking her down as neutral.”
The moderator answered his quip, “[i]s that right? All right. All right. One way to look at it.” There was crowd applause and laughter on that, before moving forward.
“How do you convince voters in this state – supporters – your own supporters because I know you’ve been hearing from them in town halls,” Cooper asked, “[h]ow do you convince them that you have momentum? That you have a path forward?”
Bush said he does have the crowds and support. “Well, I do have momentum if you look at the polls and you look at the crowd sizes of our town hall meetings. And the enthusiasm that exists. I’m proud that Lindsey Graham is supporting me. Look, he could have supported two of his colleagues – Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
He’s worked with them in the United States Senate. He chose me because he believes that I would be ready to serve on day one as commander in chief and leader of the free world. And that’s a pretty ringing endorsement for a guy who’s probably the leading national security expert in the United States Senate.”
Trump discusses Pope, national security
Donald Trump, in response to Cooper’s statement “[s]o, you’ve had quite a day,” understood what the news had been regarding the comments from Pope Francis in Mexico. “Oh, the pope is a wonderful guy,” he replied to crowd laughter, according to the transcript from CNNpressroom.
The conversation began right there. “How surprised were you by what the pope said? For those who don’t know, he said – part of what he said was “a person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be, and not of building bridges is not Christian; this is not the Gospel.”
Trump was clear on it. “Well, I didn’t think it was a good thing for him to say, frankly. And he was talking about the border, and as you know, I’m very strong on border security, and we have to have a border in this country, and we certainly don’t have one right now. And, as you know, we’re talking about building a wall. We’re gonna build a wall, and Mexico’s gonna pay for the wall, and that’s the way it is. They – you know, we have a trade balance, and – and if you look at it – imbalance of about $58 billion with Mexico. And it’s really more than that, because we also subsidize, et cetera, et cetera, so they’re gonna pay for the wall. But somehow, the government of Mexico spoke with the Pope – I mean, they spent a lot of time with the Pope – and by the time he left, he made a statement – I don’t know…”
Cooper had to aske another question then. “Wait, you think that the government of Mexico somehow got the Pope to say this?”
Trump explained. “Absolutely. Well, I don’t think they said that way. But I think they probably talked about isn’t it terrible that Mr. Trump wants to have border security, et cetera, et cetera. And the Pope made the statement, and I think it was probably a little bit nicer statement than it was reported by you folks in the media, because after I read it, it was a little bit softer. But the bottom line is we’ve gotta have a border, we’ve gotta have security. We have tremendous illegal immigration in the country. “
Cooper quoted the Pope to Trump. “I’ll just say, the Pope did go on to say, ‘this is – this is not the gospel. As far as what you have said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I’m not gonna get involved on that. I say only that this man is not Christian, if he has said things like that. We must see if he’s said things in that way, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt.'”
Trump: ‘he’s got an awfully big wall at the Vatican’
Trump responded. “And he also talked about having a wall is not Christian, and he’s got an awfully big wall at the Vatican, I will tell you. So it’s gonna be an interesting – how – how’s he…” But then Cooper protested. “But people do come and go through the Vatican, and it’s open to tour.”
“And they’re gonna come and go through the wall,” Trump answered him. “I mean – you know, but they’re gonna come and go legally. They’re gonna do it legally. And that’s what I want, and that’s what a lot of people want, obviously, because they agree with me.”
“But you – you’ve been in fights with a lot of people,” Cooper said then. “But in – with the Pope – I mean, does it give you pause?” And the crowd gave in to some laughter at the question.
Trump said he didn’t believe this was a fight with the Pope and then also brought up the heroin problem in this nation. “I don’t like fighting with the Pope. “Actually, I don’t think this is a fight. I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media. I think that he heard one side of the story, which is probably by the Mexican government. He didn’t see the tremendous strain that – you know, the border’s causing us with respect to illegal immigration, with the drugs pouring across the border. I mean, I – I just won the New Hampshire primary, and I will tell you these are amazing people. The biggest single problem that I had, no matter where I went in New Hampshire, was heroin, and it’s pouring in. And it is just pouring into the area.”
Drugs ‘pouring through the southern border’
Trump mentioned New Hampshire, where he recently beat out rivals for a major victory. “They have a massive drug problem, as you know. And it’s always the first subject, no matter what I do – it’s the first subject they want to talk about, and we’ve got to stop it. And it’s pouring in through the southern border, and we are going to stop it.”
Moderator Cooper made another inquiry. “I just want to ask you one more question on the Pope, and then we’ll move on, because there’s a lot of other items in the news before we get to – to our voters, many of whom are undecided, as many people are in this state.”
“But you – you know, early on, you talked about forgiveness,” Cooper began. “And you were asked, in terms of your faith, whether you ask for forgiveness. At one point, I remember you said to me you tried not to do things wrong so that you don’t have to ask for forgiveness.”
Trump answered that this was true. Cooper then asked if there was a moment “… when you first heard the Pope had said something about you that you thought, ‘maybe I’m gonna have to ask for forgiveness?'”
Trump answered no. Then he added this. “… I have a lot of respect for the Pope. I think he’s got a lot of personality. He’s very different. He’s a very different kind of a guy, and I think he’s doing a very good job. He’s – a lot of energy. But I would say that I think he was very much misinterpreted, and I also think he was given false information. If he would have heard our side – the side from people that live in the United States.”
Asked if he would like to meet the Pope and discuss things, Trump replied “I’ll do it any time he wants. I mean, I think it would be very interesting. No, I like him. I mean, I like him as a personality, I like what he represents and I certainly have great respect for the position.”
Brother Fred: ‘don’t you ever smoke, don’t you ever drink’
Trump spoke about his family, and he mentioned his brother Fred, an airline pilot. “I had so much experience with alcohol because I have a brother, who is a phenomenal guy, the best looking guy you’ve ever seen, but he became – he started drinking and I saw from a young age, he was quite a bit older than me–“
“He was an airline pilot,” Cooper said, and Trump added “… a very talented flyer of planes, it was – I mean, great pilots would go to him to study. I mean, it was a real ability he had. But the alcohol was – I mean, it taught me a tremendous lesson, and he taught me a tremendous – he was really very -“
“And that’s why you don’t drink,” Cooper said. Trump told of his older brother’s warning to him about smoking and drinking then:
“He said no – don’t you ever smoke. He … said don’t you ever smoke, don’t you ever drink. And I’ve never had a drink. You know, I’ve never had a drink and I’ve never had a cigarette. Those are the good things, I don’t want to tell you the bad things. There are plenty of bad things. But I never had a drink, I never had….”
Besides “not liking the taste,” Trump said he had friends at school who drank. “I’ve had friends – when I want to the Wharton School of Finance, I’ve had friends that didn’t like scotch, they hated the taste. And one in particular, became pretty successful, but ultimately alcohol destroyed him. He would be with me – we’re like 18 or 19 years old, and he was trying to develop a taste for scotch, he ultimately became an alcoholic. He became quite successful, lost the success because of alcohol.”
According to a recent PEWresearch report, “…more Americans are choosing to eschew party labels.” This year, as people consider who will lead the nation after Barack Obama leaves office, voters who considered themselves to be independents and very turned off by “the cage match of modern politics” may put their own brand of candidate into office this election cycle.