At a Watertown, New York, town hall on Friday, John Kasich advised a female college student to steer clear of "parties where there's a lot of alcohol" to keep from getting raped, assaulted, or sexually harassed. His comment came after a first-year student from New York's St. Lawrence University asked the GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor, "What are you going to do in office as president to help me feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape?"
In a year in which Republican voters have gravitated towards amateurs, John Kasich offers extensive political experience. The Ohio Republican has run two winning gubernatorial campaigns, which followed nine successful congressional campaigns and some state legislative races in one of the nation's largest states. A rookie he isn't.
April 15, 201601:17
The governor initially responded by talking about confidential reporting mechanisms and access to rape kits, before telling the young woman, "I'd also give you one bit of advice: Don't go to parties where there's a lot of alcohol."
The problem with such a response should be obvious. If a woman goes to a gathering and gets assaulted, it's insane to think it's her fault for having gone to a party where people were drinking. The solution is for men to stop committing sex crimes; encouraging women to make different choices in their social habits badly misses the point.
As news of his comments spread, Kasich turned to Twitter to make clear his belief that "only one person is at fault in a sexual assault, and that's the assailant."
In the broader context, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind.
The first is that incidents like these keep coming up on the campaign trail. Remember the time Kasich asked a woman, unprompted, "Have you ever been on a diet?"
In October, a college student tried to ask Kasich a question about undocumented immigrants, but when the young woman raised her hand at a forum, the governor told her, "I don't have any tickets for, you know, for Taylor Swift or anything."
According to the report from the college newspaper, the Republican presidential candidate told another young woman at the event, "I'm sure you get invited to all of the parties."
A few months later, Kasich told a Virginia audience that, during one of his early statehouse races, women “left their kitchens” to support him.
Remember, this guy has literally spent decades on the campaign trail, honing his communications skills with the public.
The other angle is that Kasich hasn't just made insulting comments about women, the governor has taken a series of policy steps that undermine women's health options as part of a conservative culture war.
I realize that in the GOP's 2016 field, Kasich is seen as the "moderate" Republican with broad appeal, but given the circumstances, I'm afraid that probably says more about the govenror's rivals than his own qualities.