During the 2016 presidential campaign, I found Donald Trump and John Kasich the most interesting presidential candidates. But where Trump was interesting in the way that a train wreck is interesting, Kasich came across as someone who defied political norms in a positive way. In fact, he was one of the few leading Republicans who defied pressures to endorse his party’s nominee.
I’m not sure what I expected to get by reading Kasich’s new book, Two Paths: America Divided or United — perhaps a look at what makes Kasich tick. And I think I got that; a lot of it has to do with his religious faith. But, to be honest, in most of the book he comes across as too good to be true, someone with an unbelievable amount of integrity. It’s not that he was bragging his fine qualities, but he seemed so, well, perfect that he didn’t seem totally authentic. I do think he’s in the top quintile of decency, but I still would have liked to read some more about his personal struggles and how he dealt with them.
The book is written in a somewhat folksy, rambling style, chronicling his ill-fated campaign in chronological order but with plenty of flashbacks and flashforwards. He shared enough of the details to keep the book interesting, but not enough to satisfy. In too many cases, he relies on the reader to remember details of some of the debates and other events — he, for example, alludes several times to Trump’s history of abusing women, but he never quotes any of the offensive things that Trump said. I realize that Kasich was trying to keep the book from going into the political gutter, but it still would have been helpful to be told more of the specifics that led to Kasich’s reactions to Trump. He also criticizes many of his opponents from going into the gutter, but he never names which ones did and how.
Overall, I appreciated the message of the book: Act with integrity, and be willing to work with your adversaries for the good of all. But I would have appreciated the message even more if it had come from someone I could relate to more on a personal level.