By Robert Mann
DES MOINES, Iowa — Last Monday morning at Inspired Grounds Café in West Des Moines, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio insulted 20 LSU students. Our group was among the audience of locals stuffed into the coffee shop’s back room to witness a rare visit to Iowa by the GOP presidential candidate.
Following the event, and after coming to Iowa for the last three caucuses, I’ve surrendered. I’m sold on the value of this quadrennial political circus. I finally understand why Iowa and its voters are so useful to the presidential election process.
That’s because you might never appreciate Kasich’s boorish personality by attending a large rally or by watching one of his TV commercials. To fully apprehend the prickly, inept nature of his campaign, one must see him in close quarters.
In this instance, early in his remarks, Kasich directly addressed my students. Did he applaud them for relinquishing their winter break to trek to frigid Iowa to watch democracy in action? Did he look upon them as the promising, hopeful future they represent?
No, he did not. Instead, Kasich met these earnest young people — most of them women — and viewed them only as potential drug addicts. “Don’t do drugs,” he said inexplicably, as he launched into a stern, bizarre, 90-second diatribe about the evils of drug use. What does it say about a potential president who regards college students as people on the cusp of heroin addiction?
Just when I thought Kasich could not slight these young people anymore, he berated them for failing to understand the Islamic State threat — merely because they did not offer the answer he wanted to what they regarded as a rhetorical question.
“Do you understand what they [Islamic State] think about you going to college?” Kasich asked. When the “right” answer was not immediately forthcoming, Kasich pounced. “I’m astounded that these young people here did not understand what the ISIS threat meant. I’m shocked. I mean, are you kidding me?”
In the end, no one was permanently scarred by Kasich’s mansplaining, although I doubt he won a single supporter among our group.
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