By: Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News—
As part of a broad national security plan to defeat ISIS, Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich proposed creating a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world.
The new agency, which he hasn’t yet named, would promote a Jewish- and Christian-based belief system to four regions of the world: China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.
“We need to beam messages around the world” about the freedoms Americans enjoy, Kasich said in an interview with NBC News Tuesday. “It means freedom, it means opportunity, it means respect for women, it means freedom to gather, it means so many things.”
He defended creating a new government agency at a time when fellow Republican presidential candidates discuss eliminating government agencies to making the government smaller.
“There’s nobody who’s spent more time shrinking government and cutting budgets than I have,” Kasich, the former head of the House Budget Committee said, adding that not all government programs are equal.
The United States already has a government-funded broadcast system in Voice of America, which broadcasts American news and programming abroad. The radio, television and digital audience reaches up to 188 million people per week.
The focus on foreign policy has sharpened on the campaign trail since the deadly terror attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people.
Another issue that has sparked controversy is what to do about Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war there. The United States has said it will accept 10,000 refugees but more than half of the country’s governors, mostly Republicans, have expressed concern about refugees coming into their states.
Kasich, who said just two months earlier that the U.S. should accept refugees from Syria, sent a letter to President Barack Obama Monday urging the federal government to not send any more Syrian refugees.
Tuesday he acknowledged that as governor he does not have the ability to prevent refugees from moving to his state.
“We don’t have the authority … we can only express our concerns,” Kasich said at a speech focusing on foreign policy at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
“I’m criticized for having a big heart but I also have a big brain,” he said.
He urged the federal government to “pause,” and put in place stringent background checks before allowing Syrians to enter the U.S.
He said refugees should be relocated to “safe zones” located on the borders of Turkey and Jordan and are protected by no fly zones.
One of the Paris attackers was a Belgium citizen but Kasich refused to say if Belgiums – or all Muslims – should also be excluded from coming to the United States.
“Look, I think we’re talking about the refugee issue as it relates to Syrians,” he told NBC News.
As for his policy to defeat ISIS, he proposed leading a coalition that includes soldiers fighting on the ground in both Syria and Iraq. He would not indicate a number and said the coalition should not be involved in Syria’s civil war.
“Civil wars do not work out well for the U.S.,” he said. “Nation building. Count me out.”