COLUMBUS — On Dec. 2, 1970 future Ohio governor and presidential candidate John Kasich penned an earnest three-page letter to President Richard Nixon, praising the president and requesting a face-to-face meeting at the White House.
The Dayton Daily News is the first news outlet to obtain the full letter from the then 18-year-old Ohio State University freshman to Nixon, according to Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. Kasich.
“I would immediately pass up a Rose Bowl trip to see you. My parents would permit me to fly down and see you anytime and I know my grades wouldn’t suffer,” Kasich wrote in neat cursive on personalized stationary. “I know how busy you are and this is probably a ridiculous request but to me it would be a dream come true.”
The very next day, Nixon wrote back to Kasich: “I would be happy to have the opportunity to welcome you to the White House at some time in the not too distant future, and I have asked that someone on my staff get in touch with you to make the various arrangements necessary.”
Less than three weeks later, Kasich stood face to face with President Nixon in the Oval Office.
While the Kasich-meets-Nixon story is part of Kasich’s political lore, the three page letter has not been previously published. At the request of the Dayton Daily News, the Kasich administration released the letter, Nixon’s response and the president’s daily schedule for Dec. 22, 1970.
Kasich is now on the verge of deciding whether to make a second run for the White House — something that he has described as a childhood dream. If Kasich runs, the letter to and photos with Nixon could be circulated as widely as the photo of a teen-age Bill Clinton shaking hands with John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Kasich met with Nixon from 12:31 p.m. to 12:51 p.m., according to Nixon’s daily diary report. Also on the president’s agenda that day: phone calls with U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater and Secretary of State William Rogers, signed a bill and held meetings with key staff.
Kasich showed up in a double-breasted jacket, clutching a letter of introduction. Kasich writes in his book “Stand for Something” that he stretched his five minutes with Nixon into 20 minutes and did most of the talking. “They were going to have to yank me out of this place, because I wasn’t leaving after five minutes,” he wrote in the book.
Also in the 20-minute meeting was White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield, who in July 1973 revealed the existence of Nixon’s secret recording system to Watergate investigators. (The system wasn’t installed until 1971 — after Kasich’s Oval Office meeting.)
As Kasich spilled over his allotted time, Henry Kissinger may have been cooling his heels — his meeting with Nixon started a minute after Kasich left, according to the daily diary.
Back then Kasich was a fresh-faced kid with a mop of hair and a lanky build who hailed from a blue collar town outside of Pittsburgh. But even as a college freshman, Kasich had the same chutzpah and gumption that he has today as Ohio governor.
When Kasich arrived at Ohio State University, he didn’t like a university policy that prohibited students from opening windows in his dormitory. Kasich pestered OSU President Novice Fawcett’s secretary for a meeting with the university president. She relented and put Kasich on Fawcett’s schedule. During the meeting, Fawcett mentioned that he was scheduled to visit Nixon the next day.
Kasich asked if he could tag along. Fawcett said no. Kasich asked if Fawcett would hand-carry a letter to Nixon. Fawcett said yes.
Kasich set pen to paper and poured on the praise to the president.
“I think that you, as far as I can judge, are not only a great President but an even greater person. I say an even greater person because you sacrifice your political future for the good of the country,” he wrote. And he closed with this prediction: “Finally, I can see a big ‘Nixon Victory’ in 72. There may be just one problem in your way but I’m sure you’ll clear it. I know you are looking ahead but not wanting to. But, again I say, ‘Nixon in 72.’”
Kasich was right, Nixon won a landslide election in 1972 against George McGovern, winning 60 percent of the vote and carrying 49 states.
Kasich said in his book that if he added up all the time he spent in the Oval Office during his 18 years as a congressman it wouldn’t come close to those 20 minutes with Nixon.
That would change if Kasich were to run — and win — in 2016.