There are very few American Presidents who are viewed with as much reverence as John F. Kennedy. He is an icon of the Democratic Party, but even many non Democrats would list Kennedy among the great Presidents.
This reverence of John Kennedy is based, at least in the Democratic Party, mainly on Kennedy’s style, his handsome appearance, his eloquence, and, of course, the tragedy of his assassination. Democrats running for high office endeavor to compare themselves and even fashion themselves on the model of John Kennedy. The latest example is Barak Obama, a young, vigorous man with a beautiful wife, beautiful children, and fine elocution.
And yet if John Kennedy were to come back to life in the early twenty first century, believing the things he believed and advocating them, he would be shunned as a pariah in the modern Democratic Party. Kennedy would, in fact, quickly find that his true political home is in the modern Republican Party.
Far-fetched? Outrageous? We can examine some of John Kennedy’s speeches to find out where his true modern political home would be.
John Kennedy proclaimed, in his inaugural address, a principle of foreign policy that would rouse modern Democrats to anger.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Kennedy was, of course, referring to the “long twilight struggle” that was the Cold War. But the words could as easily apply to the War on Terror, including the War in Iraq. One wonders how a resurrected John Kennedy would feel at the spectacle of his fellow Democrats falling over each other to proclaim their desire to withdraw all American forces from Iraq and leave that sad country to its fate.
One wonders how those Democrats would feel if John Kennedy added, also from his inaugural address:
“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage-and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
Considering what the Democrats did to Senator Joe Lieberman, for believing much the same things when it applied to Iraq and the War on Terror, one would think that the Democrats would start throwing things.
There is another issue, one that is not very often touched upon, but is yet extremely important to the long term survival of the American Republic that John Kennedy differs with modern Democrats. From a very famous speech made before a joint session of Congress, on May 25th, 1961:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”
It should be noted that the current President, George W. Bush, has made a similar initiative which is now ongoing. It should also be noted that two major Democrats running from President, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, have suggested slowing down or even stopping President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration.
How reproachful to modern Democrats like Clinton and Obama would the following be, from the Rice University speech:
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
“It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.”
It was on economic and fiscal policy, however, that John Kennedy most differed from modern Democrats. He advocated a tax cut in an address to the Economic Club of New York. He advocated cutting corporate taxes:
“Corporate tax rates must also be cut to increase incentives and the availability of investment capital. The government has already taken major steps this year to reduce business tax liability and to stimulate the modernization, replacement, and expansion of our productive plant and equipment. We have done this through the 1962 investment tax credit and through the liberalization of depreciation allowances – two essential parts of our first step in tax revision – which amounted to a ten percent reduction in corporate income taxes worth 2.5 billion dollars. Now we need to increase consumer demand to make these measures fully effective – demand which will make more use of existing capacity and thus increase both profits and the incentive to invest. In fact, profits after taxes would be at least 15 percent higher today if we were operating at full employment.”
He also advocated cutting personal income taxes:
“For all these reasons, next year’s tax bill should reduce personal as well as corporate income taxes: for those in the lower brackets, who are certain to spend their additional take-home pay, and for those in the middle and upper brackets, who can thereby be encouraged to undertake additional efforts and enabled to invest more capital.”
The reader will notice that there is no tiresome rhetoric about “tax cuts for the rich.” Everyone was going to get the tax cut. Kennedy went even further. He was interested, if not in a flat tax, at least in a “flatter” tax.
“…the new tax bill should improve both the equity and the simplicity of our present tax system. This means the enactment of long-needed tax reforms, a broadening of the tax base, and the elimination or modification of many special tax privileges. These steps are not only needed to recover lost revenue and thus make possible a larger cut in present rates, they are also tied directly to our goal of greater growth. For the present patchwork of special provisions and preferences lightens the tax loads of some only at the cost of placing a heavier burden on others. It distorts economic judgments and channels undue amounts of energy into efforts to avoid tax liability. It makes certain types of less productive activity more profitable than other more valuable undertakings. All this inhibits our growth and efficiency, as well as considerably complicating the work of both the taxpayer and the Internal Revenue Service.”
Goodness. Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush could have said the same things. But if John Kennedy were to come back from the dead and dare say those things as a Democrat, modern Democrats would be at him with pitch forks and torches. And one thinks that John Kennedy’s brother, Teddy Kennedy, would be leading the charge.
It’s clear for all to see, therefore. If John Kennedy, former President of the United States, were to come back among us today, he would have no political future in the Democratic Party, of which he was once a proud member. John Kennedy would have to become (horror of horrors) a Republican. And one would think he would be welcome with open arms.
(What about the philandering? How would the religious right view that?) Heavens, for the purpose of this thought experiment, Kennedy would be a widower. A single man can do what he will with the ladies, within the bounds of good taste and discretion. However the reaction of John Kennedy, playboy, to modern, feminist women would be-well-choice.
Sources: Inaugural Address, President John Kennedy, January 20th, 1961
Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25th, 1961
Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort, September 12th, 1962
Address to the Economic Club of New York, December 14th, 1962