Election 2016

Why the GOP Should Emulate John F. Kennedy in the 2016 White House Race

It's time for the Republican Party to nominate a JFK-style conservative for president.

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The most influential figure in the Republican presidential contest just may be a Democrat who died more than 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy.

When Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer recently predicted Marco Rubio as the eventual 2016 winner, Krauthammer praised the senator from Florida with a label encapsulating political vigor, pro-growth ideas, and a robust foreign policy of peace through strength: "Kennedyesque."

The former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, another Republican with eyes on the White House, is, as Kennedy was, a Catholic from a wealthy and politically active family with bases in both New England and Florida. Jeb Bush even wrote a book, Profiles in Character, with a title that is a conscious imitation of JFK's Profiles in Courage. Bush and Kennedy also both wrote books extolling immigration; Bush's was A Nation of Immigrants.

And don't forget Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas. Cruz's Senate Web site hosts a video featuring Fox News's Neil Cavuto and a historic clip from Kennedy under the headline "The Success of President John F. Kennedy's Tax Cut." On the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, Cruz published a remarkable piece in National Review Online crediting Kennedy with laying the foundation for Ronald Reagan's tax cuts and Cold War victory.

At a forum last month with Jonathan Karl of ABC News that was sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Senator Cruz placed Kennedy with Reagan and Calvin Coolidge in the pantheon of conservative tax-cutters: "Every single time in our history that we have simplified taxes, reduced the burden, reduced the compliance cost, simplified regulation …. We've seen an economic boom, we've seen people climb out of poverty into prosperity. That was true in the 1920s, it was true in the 1960s, it was true in the 1980s."

When another Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, spoke to me about his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he would have responded instead to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with "a Kennedy-esque moment," launching a "national project" to become petroleum independent. 

Call it the John F. Kennedy Republican presidential primary. It's almost to the point where you'd expect the GOP to announce that one of the party-approved debates will be at the JFK Library in Boston, in addition to the usual standby of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

My own interest in all of this, as the author of the book JFK, Conservative, goes beyond the merely commercial. I find it an encouraging sign on two levels. First of all, as a political matter, if any of these Republicans hopes to win in a general election, they'll need to carry some Reagan Democrats and independent voters. So they are smart to talk about JFK, just as winning Republican candidates like Reagan and George W. Bush talked positively during their own general election campaigns about Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.

Second of all, on a substantive, ideological level, the embrace of President Kennedy is progress for a party that once had significant elements that were sharply critical of JFK and his record. They mocked his obsession with economic growth. They, along with some Democrats, opposed his tax cuts for fear that, if not paired with spending cuts, they would explode the deficit. They blamed him for dividing Berlin and starting the Vietnam War, and they saw his space program as classic big government. (On the space program, contemporary Republicans who, unlike Rubio, Cruz, and Bush, don't hail from the space states of Florida and Texas may yet be unconvinced on this particular point.)

The death of Ted Kennedy, a longtime bogeyman for Republicans despite his contributions to deregulation of energy and airlines, has made it easier for today's GOP to embrace JFK. So, too, did the evolution of the Republican party's tax and deficit views in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a change that is a long story with a lot of heroes, among them the editor Robert L. Bartley of The Wall Street Journal and another JFK, Congressman Jack F. Kemp of New York.

Sure, even if Bush, Cruz, Carson, or Rubio emerge as the Republican nominee, expect remaining members of the Kennedy family to endorse the Democrat. But how can they not also take some satisfaction from the Republican scramble to claim JFK's legacy? It shows the 35th president, who served less than three years in office, as a monumental figure whose greatness is shaping our politics to this day.

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  1. A JFK-style candidate? So like someone with a family history of Nazi sympathizers like old Joe Kennedy or Prescott Bush?

    -jcr

    1. A JFK-style candidate? So like someone with a family history of Nazi sympathizers like old Joe Kennedy or Prescott Bush?

      Don’t be ridiculous.

      They mean a candidate who is a compulsive womanizer with a huge drug problem.

      1. So then, Hillary?

        1. First I’ve heard of Hillary having a drug problem. Or were you referring to her lust for power?

          -jcr

          1. There are rumors of a drinking issue.

  2. Mayor Quimby for President.

    1. He will need to conduct a, uh, fact-finding committee.

      1. it’s chow-DAH, chow-DAH!!

        1. I’ll kill you! I’ll kill all of you! Especially those of you in the jury!

        2. ‘Say it Frenchy! Say it!’

  3. If Obama can be the second coming of Reagan, then Ted Cruz can be a Kennedy.

    “Ask not what you can do for your constituents, ask what your constituents can do for you.”

    1. Better than some others. “Ask not what your constituents can do for you, but what you can do to your constituents.”

      1. I thought the current meme was “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

        1. I think it is now “Don’t ask, take.”

  4. I thought Romney and his Very Presidential Hair ran last time.

    1. That wasn’t presidential hair. That was Jim Jones style nut-cult leader hair.

      -jcr

  5. Does this means Dan Qualye is running again?

  6. Didn’t Kennedy NOT DO anything, really? I’m all for that type of president.

    1. Well he banged Marilyn Monroe.

    2. JFK signed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

      Assassinated Diem and Lummumba, got us into Vietnam, lost Cuba, unionized federal employees…

      What’s not to love?

      1. Telegraphed weakness and unreadiness to Khrushchev, thereby motivating him into attempting a showdown with Kennedy over Missles in Cuba.

    3. He *DIDN’T* get us out of Vietnam!

      1. Did he close the Bomber Gap and the Missile Gap? I’ve forgotten.

  7. Are you fucking kidding me? You mean, like nominate a guy who can get us stuck in another Vietnam like quagmire and waste hundreds of billions and countless lives? Or a guy that can just barely manage not to have WWIII? Or like the one who thought it a good idea to let the CIA go play in Cuba?

    1. wasn’t it Johnson who really got us fucked in vietnam?

      1. Yeah but Kennedy started it, and he’s basically been mythologized to the point where people think he never would have escalated in Vietnam, when a lot of evidence suggests that’s exactly what he would have done.

        1. It’s like the people that think that Al Gore would never have invaded Iraq. If you listen to what he was saying during the 2000 campaign, he certainly would have.

        2. when a lot of evidence suggests that’s exactly what he would have done.

          http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americ…..trademart/

          That’s one of the speeches he was supposed to deliver in Dallas. He was shot before delivering it.

    2. Leave Glenn Quagmire out of this!

  8. Wasn’t Kennedy sort of behind the Bay of Pigs and our involvement in Vietnam?

    I think Kennedy style president would be good for America. But he’s not libertarian, is he?

  9. Almanian’s odds of the Stupid Party nominating anyone remotely resembling some of the [few] good traits ole Jack possessed: less than 10%.

    Not. Gone. Happen.

  10. Oh, yeah…let’s have Kennedy-like mopes.

    Pardon me while I puke.

  11. We already sent GWB to the white house.

  12. Well, that last line made me throw up in my mouth a little.

  13. “JFK-style conservative”

    Hi Ira,

    I have to say Ira that I see it the way the commenters above see it. You mean Republicans should nominate someone like Kennedy, who famously asked what can you do for your country? I would have responded, when it came to his escalation of the war in Vietnam and his brinkmanship in maintaining nuclear weapons in turkey, and his invasion of Cuba that the answer was as little as possible.

    I thought this was a website dedicated to libertarianism– not a website dedicated to “great” (your words, Ira, not mine) Presidents who like to bomb people in third world countries. I thought the greatest moment for the Democratic Party occurred 12 years after Kennedy became President when the nominee, George McGovern, offered to negotiate with Hanoi “on his knees”. Apropos I would say after Johnson, Nixon, and Kennedy– in that order of responsibility– killed millions of people in indochina.

    1. I thought this was a website dedicated to libertarianism– not a website dedicated to “great” (your words, Ira, not mine) Presidents

      Drink? I need a ruling on this one.

      1. /goes to film

        Hmmm.. look like about 1/2 a derp short.

        1. “Hmmm.. look like about 1/2 a derp short.”

          Dipshit’s about a half a brain short, too.

    2. How much responsibility do you assign to the Chinese, Russians, and North Vietnamese?

      You know, because when we pulled out, the North’s liberation included mass murders of those unlucky enough to stay, reeducation camps, and corrupt government for the next generation.

      Vietnam was not worth fighting for the United States. But the way the left completely glosses over the atrocities going on there before and after the United States ended its involvement are moral midgets.

      1. You mean how much responsibility do I assign Russia and China for the decision to place half-a-million u.s. troops in Vietnam. Zero.

        I wasn’t for fighting the Cold War because I didn’t see the soviets or the Cubans or the Nicaraguans as a threat. I never took that Red Dawn shit seriously unlike all those suckers who signed up to go fight the Vietcong.

        I have to say I’m a little disappointed in the commentary here. I thought this was a website dedicated to limited government– not one looking to make excuses (I.e. atrocities in a civil war) for Robert macnamara. Want me to show you the laundry list of atrocities committed by anti-communists in the Vietnam War?

        1. I never took that Red Dawn shit seriously unlike all those suckers who signed up to go fight the Vietcong.

          They were drafted. Was it the syphilis that ate out that part of your brain?

          1. Only 1/3 of the people who went to Vietnam were drafted.

            I would say this… If it were 1967 and my number had come up I would have joined the SDS *and* moved to Canada.

            There’s a lot of people who say that when you join the armed forces you don’t have a choice in what wars you fight. To which my response would be… You don’t?

            1. To which my response would be… You don’t?

              Nope.

    3. american socialist:

      I thought the greatest moment for the Democratic Party occurred 12 years after Kennedy became President when the nominee, George McGovern, offered to negotiate with Hanoi “on his knees”.

      That says a lot about the democratic party, then. And your priorities.

      1. You mean staying out of bullshit wars? Yeah, I’m pretty big on that. Brian, you are disappointing… You talk about limited government but then get all bitchy about antiwar politicians. Does your miniarchism include periodic commitments of hundreds of thousands of u.s. Soldiers to fight commies? That’s limited government? I’m singularly unimpressed.

  14. Screw Kennedy.

    I say, I want a guy who can live up to Coolidge’s legacy!

    1. This. Please. What were Coolidge’s SoTU addresses like?

      “My fellow Americans. Things are okay. Good night.”

  15. And if you really must lionize a Democrat, let’s try to meet Cleveland’s legacy!

    1. +1 Most vetoes ever.

  16. “single time in our history that we have simplified taxes, reduced the burden, reduced the compliance cost, simplified regulation ?. We’ve seen an economic boom”

    You mean like in 1929 and 2008? I didn’t know these were boom times. You mean like Boom [there went my job and savings] Time?

    1. do you think simplified taxes and reduced tax burdens and compliance costs existed in 2008?

      1. Or they had anything to do with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 for that matter?

      2. Taxes are higher now than they were in 2008, no? When is the depression coming again? Yawn. Let me know when the US dollar becomes worthless. Go bitcoin!

        1. “Taxes are higher now than they were in 2008, no?”

          Inversions and overseas expansion have grown steadily since then, no?

          Don’t all your friends say wages are stagnant, income inequality is widening, and neighborhoods are gentrifying?

          Most of the job gains are from low paying industries. Obama hiked taxes on the wealthy but the government offers them lot of sweetheart deals involving tax payer money. They have a ton of nontaxable assets tucked somewhere abroad. Corporations are ran by progressives, but they spend a ton of money to frame policies they oppose as “big government” measures.

          Obama is a crony capitalist. Whoever runs France are real socialists, and their “75% super tax” blew up in their faces.

          And of course, CBO is projecting that the deficit will increase as recently as 2018 and more healthcare spending is on the way. Obama caught a break thanks to strong holiday spending and low gas prices resulting from weak global demands, dude. That’s all this is.

          1. Aren’t all the arguments you make above actually in support of raising taxes on rich people? If deficits are really a problem I know a pretty good way to get rid of them

            1. Cut spending?

            2. Well, when we had 91% tax rates on the rich, after WWII, we had five back-to-back recessions in a mere 16 years, 1945-1961, until Kennedy began repealing them.

              In his first SOTU, he describes our economic growth as among the worst. But we emerged from WWII with the only industial base still standing. So we collapsed from the very top to near the bottom.

              Even funnier, if possible, the massive Interstate Highway Program was launched just before the very worst of the five recesions.

  17. So we’re going to invade Vietnam and assassinate Fidel Castro, is that where you’re coming from, Ira?

    1. I mean, it’s not like killing Castro will be all that hard nowadays. Really you just need a rubber bullet or a sudden surprise.

    2. just get someone in the room with him that has a stiff cold. that should do it these days.

      1. Can’t be, Spencer. Everyone informs me Cuban medical care is the envy of the world.

  18. wow. I guess all this trolling does get the page views though. But then why come here when we could go to Huff Post?

  19. I guess the GOP contenders need to leave out a few things about JFK –

    Liberalism:

    “But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

    Separation of Church and State:

    “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

    1. Liberalism:

      “But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

      That’s not a description of liberalism (classical), but a description of populism. Liberal has to do with liberty, not concern trolling. Liberty is not concerned with most every aspect of a citizen’s life, but is concerned with letting the citizen get on with his/her life unabated by government. Kennedy was a collectivist–according to his inaugural address. Were Kennedy a real liberal he would’ve said something like: “ask not what your country can do for, ask what you can do for yourself and those who depend upon you”. Personal responsibility is anathema to modern liberals like the Kennedys.

      1. So is truth and justice. But then, progs are soulless unclean things.

    2. Modern liberals care about caring. It’s not effective, but they don’t care about that.

  20. The problem is Cruz and Rubio are not natural born Citizens. Of course that didn’t stop Obama.

    1. Are you trying to create an opning for a Terminator Presidency?

  21. Praising as a hero, Robert Bartley, long-time EDITORIAL Page editor at the Wall Street Journal is historical revisionism. Bartley’s lies about Reagan tax policy still cripple market conservatives.

    Reagan was no supply-sider (Bartley was) just as Kennedy was no demand-sider. Neither President took sides. Reagan’s cuts were a direct copy of JFK’s description, “across the board, top to bottom, personal and corporate.”

    It was Bartley promoting the lie that “tax revenues skyrocketed after the Reagan tax cuts,” which was debunked by Al Hunt, then WSJ News. It was FICA revenues which skyrocketed under Reagan, after six tax increases. I published details in the early 90s. “Tax Quacks” was expanded from my op-ed.

    http://libertyissues.com/quacks.htm

    Income tax revenues increased less than $45 billion in constant dollars during the 80s, pocket change. Is it enough that large tax cuts broke even (as it’s measured) despite the REAL worst recession in 80 years? Kennedy’s and Reagan’s tax cuts were followed by the only two postwar booms.

    Reagan’s fantasy “explosion” in income tax revenues now ranks with the even crazier claim that a postwar boom was fueled (or not dampened) by massive postwar spending cuts. Even Nick Gillespie peddles the phony postwar boom, ironically supporting New Dealer Paul Krugman!

    Which is why Tribal Histories leave BOTH sides clueless on taxes and economic growth.

    1. Hi,

      I thought tax revenue went down when Reagan cut taxes and then up when Reagan raised taxes (http:://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki /Tax_Equity_and_Fiscal_Responsibility_Act_of_1982) This conflicts, however, with what I know about Laffer Curves so I’ve probably got something wrong.

      I read your article on the shell game that conservatives are playing with flat taxes. I argued– for hours– with one gentlemen online who told me that *no one* would pay higher taxes because it would be cheaper to collect taxes. That’s the level of argument these days. Another argument I had was with someone who told me that when I paid 15% of my income that was a 15% tax! but when I paid a 31% VAT that was actually only a 23% tax because it was “tax inclusive.” Hahahaha… These Steve Forbes’ supporters are hilarious.

      Like you, I spend a lot of time looking at numbers on spreadsheets. I’ve yet to see any correlation between economic growth and tax rates on the wealthy. I was expecting to see some effect, but actually came up with a negative correlation. Honest question… Do you have some data that actually supports the idea that raising taxes on rich people impedes economic activity?

      1. I thought tax revenue went down when Reagan cut taxes and then up when Reagan raised taxes

        The rate/revenue increases were in non-income taxes, mostly FICA. I documented the income tax revenue.

        This conflicts, however, with what I know about Laffer Curves so I’ve probably got something wrong.

        Combine both rates, income tax down and FICA up, and the overall marginal rate did go down.

        Good for you on EFFECTIVE tax rates, where Obama is a psycho liar. NOBODY knows their effective rate only their top rate. So even libertarians are too fucking stupid to know Obama’s $50,000 secretary pays only 8.3%, vs 22% for millionaires.

        For tax rates on the rich, check the business cycle for the “postwar boom at 91% tax rates” — which was really five back-to-back recessions in only 16 years, until Kennedy began repealing the New Deal. (See “Peaks”)

        http://www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html

        Tax rates on the rich is a bullshit argument, both left and right. Kennedy and Reagan launched the only two postwar booms with identical across-the-board tax cuts. A growing economy requires confidence from all three ? consumers, employers and investors. Obama’s stimulus failed because consumers paid down debt instead of buying more ? afraid for their jobs.

        (Nick Gillespie believes we had a postwar boom!! And Reagan should have allowed Social Security to go bankrupt!!!)

  22. Gore Vidal got JFK right: he never did a damn thing other than give some great speeches. Sounds like the perfect strategy for the GOP.

    1. DirkT, great speeches works well for Obama, the worst economic President since FDR. But also worked well for Reagan, the best since Coolidge.

      Policy does matter, but it may take a brain to grasp it.

  23. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.jobs700.com

  24. would it be more plausible to run as eisenhower which he refrain more spending than JFK did in his administration? He opposed plenty of warhawks during his time and cutted military spending by the end of WW2. Eisenhoer was conservative on spending but moderate in social views which attracted more voters to him. Eisenhower was a better conservative than reagan was.

    1. EISENHOWER????

      Did you foget the Interstate Highway Program??? The largest public works project since the pyramids… Larger that anything from FDR … CONSERVATIVE???”

      Like the New Deal it was an economic catastrophe, followed immediately by the worst of five postwar recessions. Find Kennedy’s 1961 SOTU as he describes the disaster left by Eisenhowr. Record high bankruptices and insured unemployment. “Among the worst in economic growth” … a mere 16 years after we emerged from WWII with the ONLY industrial base on earth!!

      THAT Eisenhower?

      Social issues? Like Reagan defending gay teachers in public schools? THAT Reagan? Now Google “Briggs Initiative.”

      Oh yeah, Ike was the ONLY President to suffer TWO recessions in an 8-year term of office.

      You need better sources.

      Goldwater and Reagan were libertarians — according to Milton Friedman .. especially today, when compared with extreme social conservatives like Ron and Rand Paul.

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