Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz Channels John F. Kennedy

The conservative senator takes a page from Kennedy's pro-growth economic playbook.


One of the most important players in the upcoming 2016 Republican presidential primary contest may be turn out to be a Democrat who died more than 50 years ago.

Campaigning in Andover, Mass., recently, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas invoked John F. Kennedy.

"One of the most powerful, eloquent defenders of tax cuts was John F. Kennedy," Cruz said, breaking into an impersonation of JFK, complete with a Boston accent. "As JFK said, 'Some men see things as they ahh and ask why. I see things that never wahh and ask, why not?'"

"JFK would be a Republican today," Cruz said. "There is no room for John F. Kennedys in the modern Democratic Party."

Cruz returned to the JFK theme later in the same speech. This time his subject wasn't taxes, but religious freedom. "I gave a speech on the Senate floor in defense of religious liberty. Next to me was a giant poster of JFK…JFK said I will not stand with someone who will not stand with religious liberty."

Cruz's JFK remarks triggered press coverage in the Boston Globe, at Buzzfeed, and at The Washington Post.

MSNBC even devoted an entire blog post to trying, lamely, to rebut Cruz's argument about JFK, describing it as "ridiculous."

As the author of JFK, Conservative, I know more than a little bit about this, and I confess it is satisfying to see the argument in the book I wrote surfacing on the presidential campaign trail.

Previous successful Republican presidential candidates, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, have positioned themselves in campaign speeches as heirs to Kennedy, so Cruz's comments have a precedent. Back then, too, it drove the left nuts. Said Reagan, campaigning in Warren, Michigan, on October 10, 1984, "Whenever I talk about Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Harry Truman or John F. Kennedy, my opponents start tearing their hair out. They just can't stand it. Well, of course they can't because it highlights how far they, the leadership today of the Democratic Party, have strayed from the strength of the democratic political tradition."

Since it's become a point of contention, it's worth remembering some of the details. MSNBC notes that the 65 percent top income tax bracket Kennedy proposed "is still far higher than today's 39.6%." That is true. But it's also true that Kennedy proposed to lower the top long-term capital gains tax rate to 19.5 percent, which is lower than the 23.8 top rate that now obtains. And it's also true that Kennedy's Treasury secretary, Douglas Dillon, a Republican, predicted further tax cuts in the future, especially after the Cold War ended.

MSNBC claims the Kennedy tax cut was "rooted in Keynesian economics." But many Keynesians at the time, from John Kenneth Galbraith to Albert Gore Sr. to Arthur Goldberg, opposed tax cuts, preferring increased government spending to stimulate the economy. If there was to be a tax cut, the Keynesians favored a "quickie," temporary one that would phase out as soon as the economy improved. President Kennedy instead favored a tax cut along classic supply-side lines, one that would permanently improve "incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking."

With his Andover speech, Cruz staked an initial claim to being the Republican best able to carry on JFK's optimistic, pro-growth policy agenda and underlying vision. He talked about taxes and religious liberty, but there are plenty of other areas where JFK's legacy is relevant, from the dollar to free trade to welfare reform to foreign policy.

The question as the campaign proceeds will be which other candidates will look to President Kennedy as a source of ideas and inspiration, and whether any of the others will be as vocal about it as Senator Cruz has been. More of this, and by next November even Hillary Clinton may trying to style herself as a John F. Kennedy Democrat.

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  1. I was disappointed to find out that it was not a predilection for painkillers and womanizing.

    1. No, Brett, that would be me.

      1. You kill pain and make people womanize?

        I did not know this. Verily, you are a great….being.

        1. No, no, Al. The opposite.

          1. You kill women and make people painanize?

            1. No, no. Do I have to spell everything out for you people? Obviously I womanize killers and make pain people. How are you not getting that from what I said?

              1. Duh! Totally!

              2. make pain people

                So the personification of pain? I’m assuming that’s where Warty’s from.

                1. Gillespie says don’t discuss this: http://popehat.com/2015/06/08/…..eason-com/

    2. I was really hoping to see “…by banging emotionally damaged Hollywood starlets” as the sub-header.

  2. I hate that x would be y today type of thing. You don’t know that. You can’t know that. While you might get an individual with the exact same genotype as JFK today, that individual would not have had Kennedy’s time-specific experiences growing up, etc, etc.

    1. JFK favored tax cuts yes, but that was during a time when tax rates were significantly higher than they are today. It’s very misleading to say that JFK “favored tax cuts”. He was also extremely supportive of aggressive regulation of public and private institutions mandating various civil rights provisions and he also opposed the death penalty. I can’t imagine Ted Cruz ever supporting any of these policies.

    2. I agree. I’m pretty convinced JFK would sound a lot like Hillary Clinton if he were still around.

      1. ^^ THIS

        Especially the toppling of “dictators” and droning of brown people.

      2. Shrill? Sporting a fake southern accent that only comes out when she campaigns in the South?

        He sounds nothing like Hillary.

        1. It’s more of a twang than an accent don’t you think? Also “shrill” is uncalled for.

    3. +1 The Boys from Brazil

  3. Ok, has his stance on my liberty to put substances I choose into my own body changed?

    1. No, and if you’re a woman, this is true of any abortifacients you might choose to put into your body shortly after you conceive a child. Ted Cruz does not believe in liberty.

      1. I believe that money will get you through times of illegal drugs and illegal abortions better than drugs and abortions will get you through times of no money.

      2. So he believes that your right to do whatever you want with your own body doesn’t encompass aggressing on another’s body?

  4. He’s nothing like JFK. JFK was a natural born Citizen.

    1. Oh. SNAP!!!!

  5. Cruz is quoting RFK, not JFK. Just sayin’.

  6. JFK was a piece of fucking shit statist from a goddamned fucked up family of creeper assholes who didn’t do SHIT as president (thankfully, for the most part).

    Fuck his necrotic memory.

    Yeah, Cruz may be a lot like him. I don’t know. If so, that will make me not vote for him even more.

    1. Tell me how you really feel.

      1. I feel like a nut.

        Sometimes I don’t.

        1. Almond Joy’s got nuts.

          1. But does it have electrolytes?

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  8. “Whenever I talk about Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Harry Truman or John F. Kennedy, my opponents start tearing their hair out. They just can’t stand it. Well, of course they can’t because it highlights how far they, the leadership today of the Democratic Party, have strayed from the strength of the democratic political tradition.”

    Ugh. And this is the best the nation has mustered in 3+ generations. As though we needed more encouragement to abandon hope for political solutions to social and economic problems. Reagan: slightly lesser horse’s ass than the people who preceded and succeeded him.

    Cruz is a great extemporaneous speaker, but he could stand to drop about 20 pounds in the next couple of months before silly season really kicks off.

  9. “The question as the campaign proceeds will be which other candidates will look to President Kennedy as a source of ideas and inspiration”

    If I accept your premise that Kennedy, the man responsible for the Bay of Pigs and who almost blundered into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was a conservative, why should that fact make me– as a libertarian– any more likely to vote for him?

    I just find him one of the least successful presidents of the 20th century.

    1. least successful presidents

      That’s a very scary phrase, almost as bad as the phrase “it’s necessary”.

      Stalin was successful and so was Mao. I don’t like “successful” unless they “succeed” in NAP.

  10. I had an aunt who was obsessed with JFK. Pictures of him everywhere. And aquamarine pictures of Jesus.

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