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letters | JFK a paragon of the right?

Recast of president as a conservative confuses rather than informs

A new book, “JFK, Conservative,” reassesses the political policies of President John F. Kennedy.

Associated Press/file

A new book, “JFK, Conservative,” reassesses the political policies of President John F. Kennedy.

I enjoyed reading Jeff Jacoby’s Oct. 20 op-ed “Would Democrats embrace JFK now?” It was a marvelous example of turning history inside out, standing it on its head, and reading it backward.

What Jacoby calls “conservative” is in reality moderation. Rather than proving that President John F. Kennedy today would be a Republican, the examples Jacoby cites simply disprove the stereotypes of tax-and-spend Democrats who are soft on national security as compared with tax-cutting and austerity-minded Republicans who are strong on defense.

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True, Kennedy cut taxes, asked the Fed to cut the prime rate to stimulate recovery, and drew a line in the sand against Soviet missiles in Cuba, but he also gave NASA a blank check, initiated the proposed legislation that became Medicare and Medicaid, and signed the first arms control agreement with the Soviet Union, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

By contrast, Ronald Reagan raised taxes, increased deficit spending, cut and ran from Lebanon when more than 250 Marines were killed in a terrorist attack, and negotiated the START treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev. So, does that make Reagan a “liberal” hero? Of course not, as his trickle-down policies became the scripture of conservative supply-side economics.

What all this really means is that politics evolves over time, while weather-beaten ideological and partisan stereotypes and assumptions confuse rather than inform. Jacoby’s picture of a conservative JFK is an inaccurate assessment simply used to justify partisan positions in the present day.

Dennis N. Ricci


The writer is an assistant professor of politics and history at Curry College.

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