WEST PALM BEACH — Ohio Gov. John Kasich weighed in on his former GOP presidential nomination rival Donald Trump at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch on Friday — but he spent more time talking about a pair of encounters he had with former President Richard Nixon.
Kasich, promoting his new book before a sellout crowd of about 700 at the Kravis Center, told the story of how his persistence as an Ohio State University freshman in 1970 led to him getting a meeting with Nixon in the Oval Office.
Promised five minutes with the president, Kasich said the meeting ended up lasting longer.
“The good news is as an 18-year-old I spent 20 minutes in the Oval Office with the president of the United States,” Kasich said. “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 18.”
Kasich called the Nixon anecdote “a good story for young people because it means dream big. For all of us, dream big, keep asking, just keep doing what you want to do until somebody tells you it’s impossible and then don’t believe that.”
Asked about Trump during a question-and-answer session, Kasich noted that he didn’t endorse Trump in 2016 or attend the Republican National Convention, even though it was in Kasich’s home state.
“I didn’t do that because I was mad about something,” Kasich said of his refusal to back his party’s nominee. “It’s just that I’m not going to support people who are putting people down or being negative or not bringing us together. Now that he’s president, of course I root for him as much as I can, just like I rooted for the pilot on the airplane that brought me to Florida. I want them to be successful.”
As the question segment was winding down, Forum Club President Michelle McGovern told Kasich, “We have at least five people who want to know about your conversation with Nixon.”
So Kasich told the audience about a second conversation he had with Nixon in 1987. Kasich was a House member then and both his parents had just been killed by a drunk driver.
When he told Nixon about losing his parents, Kasich said, “His reaction was amazing. It was like he had been shot. It hit him like a ton of bricks.
“I said, ‘My sister is really struggling. Could you send her a note?’ And he wrote her a handwritten two-page letter that will be put in the Nixon Library at some point. It was just so amazing. And that’s a side of him that we don’t hear about.”