JFK, Conservative


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In an era of partisanship and shifting political labels, a fascinating look at just how “liberal” President John F. Kennedy actually was—or wasn’t.

“America, meet the real John F. Kennedy.” —Washington Times

John F. Kennedy is lionized by liberals. He inspired Lyndon Johnson to push Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act. His New Frontier promised increased spending on education and medical care for the elderly. He inspired Bill Clinton to go into politics. His champions insist he would have done great liberal things had he not been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

But what if we've been looking at him all wrong? Indeed, JFK had more in common with Ronald Reagan than with LBJ. After all, JFK's two great causes were anticommunism and tax cuts. His tax cuts, domestic spending restraint, military buildup, pro-growth economic policy, emphasis on free trade and a strong dollar, and foreign policy driven by the idea that America had a God-given mission to defend freedom—all make him, by the standards of both his time and our own, a conservative. This widely debated book is must reading for conservatives and liberals alike.

“Provocative and compelling . . . Ira Stoll has succeeded in changing our very perception of Kennedy as one of liberalism's heroes."—Weekly Standard
“An informative analysis of the ways in which JFK did indeed evince his conservative side—he was very religious, open to a free market unencumbered by governmental interference, and staunchly anti-Communist.” —Publishers Weekly



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Date de parution 15 octobre 2013
Nombre de visites sur la page 2
EAN13 9780547586007
Langue English

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Title Page Contents Copyright Dedication Prelude Introduction PT 109 Congressman Senator Kennedy Presidential Campaign Transition and Inauguration The New Frontier: Domestic Policy Tax Cutter The Cold War and the Freedom Doctrine The Death of a President Passing the Torch Acknowledgments Notes Bibliography Index About the Author Connect with HMH
First Mariner Books edition 2014 Copyright © 2013 by Ira Stoll All rights reserved For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.comor to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016. www.hmhco.com The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Stoll, Ira, date. JFK, conservative / Ira Stoll. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-547-58598-7 ISBN 978-0-544-33454-0 (pbk.) 1. Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917–1963—Political and social views. 2. United States—Politics and government—1961–1963. 3. Conservatism—United States—History— 20th century. I. Title. E842.S825 2013 973.922092—dc23 2013001595 Cover design by Brian Moore Cover photograph © Underwood & Underwood/Corbis eISBN 978-0-547-58600-7 v4.1017
For Aliza
“Our Deep Religious Sense” 1946
Wherever freedom has been in danger, Americans with a deep sense of patriotism have ever been willing to stand at Armageddon and strike a blow for liberty and the Lord. —JOHN F. KENNEDY, 1946 Boston ULY 4, 1946, WAS the first peacetime Fourth of July since America h ad entered Jempty, summer feel about it. The holiday fell on a Thursday, so many Bostonians World War II four and a half years before, and the city on this morning had an had decided to take Friday off, too, and had left for long weekends in Maine or on Cape Cod. Arthur Fiedler had conducted the big opening-n ight concert of the Boston Pops on the Esplanade along the Charles River on July 2; so me members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra were already in the Berkshires a t Tanglewood. The Boston Red Sox were in first place atop the American League, s ix and a half games ahead of the Yankees, but even the Red Sox were out of town, awa y from Fenway Park. Later on July 4, Ted Williams, back with the team after nearly four years as a Marine and Navy aviator, would hit his twenty-first and twenty-seco nd home runs of the season, one in each game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphi a A’s. Among those remaining in the city for the holiday w as the mayor, James Michael Curley. At 10 a.m., downtown, in front of City Hall, he hoisted the American flag, and a parade of about five hundred stepped off down Schoo l Street. The detachments from the Army, Marines, Navy, Sons of the American Revolution, and Girl Scouts approached the Granary Burying Ground, where Curley ’s son, Lieutenant George Curley, placed wreaths on the graves of three men who, 170 years earlier, had signed the Declaration of Independence—Robert Treat Paine, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. Then the parade marched down Tremont Street to the Old State House, where, at 10:45, a student from the Boston Latin School stood on the balcony in colonial dress and read the Declaration aloud to the crowd gathere d below. Finally they arrived at Faneuil Hall, the red-brick building where Samuel A dams and the Boston Town Meeting had gathered long ago to protest the taxes on tea. This day’s featured speech was to be delivered by a slim, twenty-nine-year-old lieute nant in the Navy Reserve, a veteran of the war in the Pacific named John Fitzgerald Ken nedy. Kennedy began by talking about how religion had sha ped Americans and their history, beginning with the original colonists. “Ou r deep religious sense is the first element of the American character which I would dis cuss this morning,” he said. “The informing spirit of the American character has alwa ys been a deep religious sense. Throughout the years, down to the present, a devotion to fundamental religious principles has characterized American thought and a ction.”
He went on to discuss the Declaration of Independen ce itself: “Our government was founded on the essential religious idea of integrity of the individual. It was this religious sense which inspired the authors of the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.’” Then he moved to the First Amendment of the Constitution: “Our earliest legislation was inspired by this deep religious sense: ‘Congres s shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.’” He quoted President Washington: “Of all of the disp ositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are ind ispensable supports.” He quoted President Lincoln: “that this nation, under God, sh all have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and fo r the people shall not perish from the earth.” And he quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had died the year before: “We shall win this war, and in victory we shall see k not vengeance, but the establishment of an international order in which th e spirit of Christ shall rule the hearts of men and nations.” He quoted Alexis de Tocqueville, the French visitor to America more than one hundred years earlier: “You may talk of the people and their majesty, but where there is no respect for God can there be much for man? You m ay talk of the supremacy of the ballot, respect for order, denounce riot, secession —unless religion is the first link, all is vain.” Kennedy spoke of how the United States had triumphe d against assaults on its “essential religious ideas.” “The doctrine of slave ry which challenged these ideas within our own country was destroyed” in the Civil War, he said. In World War II, “the philosophy of racism, which threatened to overwhelm them by attacks from abroad, was also met and destroyed,” he said. Moving on from religion, Kennedy spoke of America’s idealism, and of its individualism: The American character has been not only religious, idealistic, and patriotic, but because of these it has been essentially indivi dual. The right of the individual against the State has e ver been one of our most cherished political principles. The American Constitution has set down for all men to see the essentially Christian and American principle that there are certain rights held by every man which no government and no majority, however po werful, can deny. Conceived in Grecian thought, strengthened by Chris tian morality, and stamped indelibly into American political philosoph y, the right of the individual against the State is the keystone of our Constitution. Each man is free. He is free in thought. He is free in expression. He is free in worship. While the newspapers were describing this day as th e first peacetime Fourth of July, Kennedy’s speech made clear that America’s ideals a nd freedoms were again under attack. “Today these basic religious ideas are chal lenged by atheism and materialism: at home in the cynical philosophy of many of our in tellectuals, abroad in the doctrine of collectivism, which sets up the twin pillars of ath eism and materialism as the official philosophical establishment of the State,” he said.
First, Kennedy took aim at the progressive historia ns at home: “In recent years, the existence of this element in the American character has been challenged by those who seek to give an economic interpretation to American history. They seek to destroy our faith in our past so that they may guide our future . These cynics are wrong, for, while there may be some truth in their interpretation, it does remain a fact, and a most important one, that the motivating force of the Ame rican people has been their belief that they have always stood at the barricades by th e side of God.” America in 1946 was weary of war. More than 400,000 Americans had died in World War II. Those soldiers and sailors who had survived had recently been reunited with wives, parents, or children from whom they had been separated for months or years. Kennedy himself, like many soldiers, had been injured. His back pain may have been one reason the long bony fingers of his hands were gripping the corners of the wooden podium for support as he leaned toward the newspape r reporters gathered in the front row. Just as Americans were adjusting to peace, though, Kennedy warned of a new confrontation to come from abroad. He observed that “there are large sections of the world today” where rights that Americans consider u niversal “are denied as a matter of philosophy and as a matter of government. “It is now in the postwar world that this idealism— this devotion to principle—this belief in the natural law—this deep religious convi ction that this is truly God’s country and we are truly God’s people—will meet its greates t trial,” he said. “Wherever freedom has been in danger, Americans with a deep sense of patriotism have ever been willing to stand at Armageddon and strike a blow for liberty and the Lord.” He concluded: We cannot assume that the struggle is ended. It is never-ending. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It was the price yesterday. It is the price today, and it will ever be the price. The characteristics of the American people have eve r been a deep sense of religion, a deep sense of idealism, a deep sense of patriotism, and a deep sense of individualism. Let us not blink [from] the fact that the days whic h lie ahead of us are bitter ones. May God grant that, at some distant date, on this d ay, and on this platform, the orator may be able to say that these are still the great qualities of the 1 American character and that they have prevailed.
“Not a Liberal”
I’d be very haBBy to tell them I’m not a liberal at all. —JOHN F. KENNEDY, 1953 HE PHOTOGRAPHS OF KENNEDY after the July 4, 1946, sBeech caution of the Tmother, Rose Kennedy, in Bearls and a floral Brint dress, clings to his left arm. hazards of drawing too much by way of conclusions from a single talk. His His grandmother, Mary Fitzgerald, clings to his rig ht arm. His sBeech is rolled uB in his hand like a baton. His grandfather, John Francis “H oney Fitz” Fitzgerald, a former congressman and mayor of oston who had been the BrinciBal sBeaker on the same Blatform exactly fifty years earlier, looks daBBer in a bow tie. As for Kennedy himself, the broad white smile is unmistakable, but the skin ny young man in a jacket and tie, holding a sBeech and surrounded by Broud and doting elderly relatives, looks less like a fully formed Brofessional Bolitician than like a high school valedictorian on graduation day. So if, to contemBorary ears, the language of “Chris tian morality” and “the right of the individual against the State” and the attack on the “cynical BhilosoBhy of many of our intellectuals” seems off-key for a Bresident who ha s become an icon of liberalism, there is no shortage of Bossible exBlanations. PerhaBs it was the immature sBeech of a young man w ho changed his views as he got older. PerhaBs the young Bolitician was being led astray b y a sBeechwriter or staffer with strong views of his own. This, though, is unlikely. Kennedy’s White House sBokesman, Pierre Salinger, recalled, “Actually, sBeeches were not writtenforthe Bresident butwith him. He knew what he wanted to say and how he wante d to say it. The role of the sBeech writer was to organize JFK’s thoughts into a rough draft, on which he himself 1 would But the final touches. His revisions would often change it dramatically.” Kennedy’s secretary in the Senate and in the White House, Evelyn Lincoln, 2 remembered, “He usually dictated a rough draft of h is sBeeches.” Though Salinger and Lincoln joined Kennedy’s staff some years after 1946, editing marks on drafts of his sBeeches from this earlier Beriod show a Kenned y who was more than caBable of editing either sBeechwriters’ or his own drafts. Kennedy’s secretary from 1947 to 1952, Mary Davis, in an oral history interview that at times is quite negative about Kennedy (“a sBoile d young man”), recalls: When he wanted to write a sBeech he did it, most of it. I would say 99% of that was done by JFK himself. I can remember first time he ever called me in—I even forget what the sBeech was going to be on, but it was going to be a major sBeech, one of his first major sBeeches. And I thou ght, “Oh, oh, this young, green congressman. What’s he going to do?” No BreBa ration. He called me in
and he says, “I think we’d better get to work on th e sBeech.” And I said “Okay, fine.” And I thought he was going to stumble around , and he’ller, ah, um. I was never so startled in my life. He sat back in his chair, and it just flowed 3 right out. Salinger and Lincoln and other Kennedy aides from the Bresidential years may have had an interest in inflating the late Bresident’s reButation so as to enhance, by association, their own, but here their testimony se ems to match that of Davis, who quit working for Kennedy in a disBute over her salary. PerhaBs Kennedy’s July 4, 1946, sBeech was a case o f Bolitical Bandering aimed at the electorate. This, though, is also unlikely. Les s than a month before, Kennedy had won the Democratic Brimary for the Eleventh Congres sional District in Massachusetts. It was a reliably Democratic district, and if the c andidate was trying to aBBeal to indeBendent or ReBublican crossover voters, a sBeec h on a holiday weekend, months 4 before the November election, would have been an od d vehicle. PerhaBs Kennedy’s words were just rhetoric from a h yBocritical Bolitician who, once in office, would, in his Bublic actions and Brivate behavior, disregard his own sBeech. Maybe the stress on religion was a convenient Cold War shorthand for anticommunism, a way of drawing a contrast between the United States and the atheistic Soviet Union, or a way for an ambitious Catholic to reassure and win the trust of Protestant voters. Or BerhaBs, just BerhaBs—and here is the most drama tic and intriguing Bossibility of them all—Kennedy actually, deeBly,believedwhat he said, and would go on to serve as a congressman and senator and Bresident of the U nited States according to those BrinciBles. He would take a hard line against commu nism in China, the Soviet Union, Eastern EuroBe, Cuba, Vietnam, and even in America’s own labor unions, weathering Brotests and criticisms from academia, EuroBean intellectuals, and left-wing journalists. He would be suBBorted Bersonally in this struggle b y his own strong religious faith, and he would often refer Bublicly to God and to America ’s religious history in his most Bowerful and imBortant sBeeches. On the home front, he cut taxes. He restrained government sBending. His Bresidency was markedly di fferent from that of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Another aide to Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., re Borts that one night Kennedy remarked to him, “Liberalism and conservatism are c ategories of the thirties, and they 5 don’t aBBly any more.” ut of course they did, and they still do. The lib eralism and conservatism of our two chief Bolitical Barties hav e shifted over time, and it is hard for us to remember liberal ReBublicans or truly conserv ative Democrats. Yet Kennedy’s tax cuts, his domestic sBending restraint, his military builduB, his Bro-growth economic Bolicy, his emBhasis on free trade and a strong dol lar, and his foreign Bolicy driven by the idea that America had a God-given mission to de fend freedom all make him, by the standards of both his time and our own, a conservative. This book attemBts to recover a basic truth about J ohn Kennedy that in the years since he died has been forgotten—Bartly because of the work of liberal historians, Bartly as a result of shifts in American Bartisansh iB. Yet John Kennedy’s conservatism was hardly a secret during his lifetime. “A Kennedy Runs for Congress: The oston-bred scion of a former ambassador is a fighting-Iri sh conservative,”Lookheadlined an article in its June 11, 1946, issue. “When young, w ealthy and conservative John Fitzgerald Kennedy announced for Congress, many Beo Ble wondered why,” the story began. “Hardly a liberal even by his own standards, Kennedy is mainly concerned by what aBBears to him as the coming struggle between collectivism and caBitalism. In