In the war on history being waged by the GOP and right wing wackos, alike I see recurring themes. There seems to be a rhetorical desire to defame historical figures by cherry picking a quote, policy or action and casting liberal icons as actually being conservatives. When I see these pitiful attempts I have a true Scooby-Doo moment.
Jack Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy. Martin Luther King. All three have been cast as conservatives. Wrongly. You have the right claiming the mantle of Dr. King on Civil Rights. They say the Democrats were the party of Jim Crow. And in the Twentieth Century until the last half a strong case is possible for that .
Southern Democrats were the champions of Jim Crow. They also broke away as the Dixiecrats in '48, uniting behind Strom Thurmond to oppose mainline Democratic moves on Civil Rights, such as President Truman desegregating the US military. These politicians from the Old Confederacy were Democrats only because Reconstruction was led by the 19th Century Republican Party. Thus, they shunned and rejected the party they saw as occupiers following the Civil War.
These Republican revisionists ignore their party's progressive stances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ideas that are anathema to modern conservatives were established by progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt. They went after monopolies. They established the FDA to protect Americans from unbridled capitalism that threatened their health and safety. The National Parks, American jewels, were established to protect them for future generations.
In this conservative fantasy land, Jack Kennedy was a conservative. It doesn't matter that JFK repeatedly called himself a Liberal.
JFK proposed Medicare, stumping hard for it. He was opposed in this by conservatives. Their paid spokesman, Ronald Reagan warned of socialized medicine and creeping statism. A plot to make America socialist, if not communist.
Conservatives note Kennedy's proposed tax cuts as proof of his conservatism. Kennedy proposed to cut the top rate of 91%(under Ike)to 65%. This, under conservative hallucinations was supply side. Interesting since that theory didn't exist till the 70's. Jack's economic advisers were Keynesian. The tax cuts were designed to spur spending and grow demand to boost the economy. There was no trickle down.
Kennedy nationalized the Steel Industry to stop what was seen as excessive price hikes which would devastate the economy. Yep, that is so conservative.
These right wing hacks claim JFK's stances on communism and defense were conservative values. They also do so with the usual dismissal of historical context. 1960 was the height of the Cold War. One could not hold positions which would make you "soft on commies" and get elected to anything. At the time Kennedy was attacked for not being strong enough on stopping the Soviet Union.
There was the Bay of Pigs.
This was an invasion of Cuba devised, planned and pushed hard by the CIA under the Eisenhower Administration. Jack walked into the Oval office and right into that buzz-saw. Jack, Bobby and Teddy had to carry their Father's actions as Ambassador to Great Britain prior to WWII as luggage. Joe Kennedy was vilified as an appeaser. By the conservatives who opposed America becoming involved in a European conflict. For simple political survival the Kennedy's were staunchly anti-communist as were everyone else in public life.
Jack was pushed into the Bay of Pigs fiasco by CIA Director Allen Dulles. This was a poorly planned CIA devised mission that relied on faulty intelligence and overestimation of the chances of a popular Cuban uprising. The CIA also withheld critical information from Kennedy. Once JFK saw how badly the invasion went he refused to commit the US military in a doomed plot. Needless to say the Joint Chiefs were angered. As was the CIA. Kennedy, in spite of the fact most of the planning took place during the previous Administration, and he was not briefed as a candidate, took responsibility.
The Bay of Pigs solidified Castro's hold on Cuba, drove them deeper into the arms of the Soviet Union and set up the eventual installation of nuclear missiles precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Conservatives claim Kennedy reformed welfare. Well, he did. He expanded it. Aid to Dependent Children was expanded to become Aid To Families with Dependent Children. The Food Stamp program was started. The School Lunch program was expanded. Social Security Benefits were increased. Kennedy pushed hard for the creation of Medicare which languished in Congress until after his Assassination. He fought to get the minimum wage increased. He got a 13 week temporary extension of unemployment benefits. There was investment in urban renewal and home building.
Conservative? I think not.
Some have cited the fact John Kennedy was a religious man. He was, nominally. Jack was Catholic and attended Mass. There was a massive distrust of Catholicism that was in the open prior to Jack's election. Many felt an American Catholic President would be a tool of the Vatican. Kennedy addressed these beliefs in a speech to protestant leaders in Houston Texas. He confirmed his belief in the Separation of Church and State as a bedrock principle of American Government.
Kennedy's Catholicism is touted as making him an ally in the anti-abortion fight. I doubt it though I can't find any comments from JFK. Abortion was not a political issue in the early Sixties.With Kennedy's stances on rights and Teddy's views I don't see JFK as some kind of Catholic conservative opposing pro-choice.
Now actual Catholic conservatives like the head of the Torquemada wing of the Tea Party, Rick Santorum blame Kennedy for running religion out of public life. Santorum said the Houston speech made him nauseous.I think that reasoned, nuanced political views do that. OK conservatives, you can't have it both ways.
A true conservative would have went with Curtis Le May, the Joint Chiefs and CIA during the Cuban Missile crisis. We would have nuked them, plunging us into a nuclear apocalypse. We would be living in a Mad Max world .
Kennedy brought us out of that without a shot fired by us. Curtis Le May called it our greatest defeat. Trust me, Curtis Le May was a conservative.
Kennedy, according to Bobby, had no plans to expand our presence in Vietnam and was thinking of a pull out. He had no desire to wage a war on China's doorstep. Hawks had to wait for LBJ to plunge us into that tragedy.
Jack moved on Civil Rights introducing the Civil Rights Bill to Congress. With the CONSERVATIVE opposition it took Lyndon to push it through to become law.
If you compare John Kennedy's positions, statements and actions to the conservatives of the era, no rational person can say JFK was conservative. William F. Buckley railed against the Kennedy's. Barry Goldwater led conservative opposition in the senate to JFK's progressive policies.
John F. Kennedy as a conservative is nothing more than taking a beloved American and twisting his views into something he would have been appalled over. They have done this with FDR, Truman, King and the Founders.
So, listen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy WAS not a conservative. He was a pragmatic progressive and a product of his times. Got it? So, shut up.