Matt Towery

Liberals and Democrats go nuts whenever any columnist dares to suggest that John F. Kennedy had more in common with Ronald Reagan than he did with, say, Kennedy's brother Bobby during the latter's bid for the presidency in 1968; or with another brother, Ted Kennedy, during most of his career in the U.S. Senate.

Partisans of the political left will argue that John Kennedy was a liberals' liberal. They will say he subscribed to an entirely different political philosophy than Reagan and that the various points of comparison between the two ex-presidents are taken out of context.

These views are so much revisionist hokum.

Over the last month or so, America has commemorated the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy's inauguration. Recall that JFK on that day delivered one of the most historically significant inaugural addresses in our history. Also in recent weeks, the nation has recognized the 100th birthday of the Republicans' patron saint, Ronald Reagan.

Let's first consider what the primary aims were of Kennedy and Reagan when each of these men first became president. Both inherited economic slumps. Especially Reagan.

Kennedy had campaigned "vigorously" -- one of his favorite terms -- on the unacceptable economic sluggishness of the latter years of the Dwight Eisenhower administration. And Reagan on the campaign stump had blasted President Jimmy Carter for making worse an inherited economic malaise by appearing to be not aggressive enough in reacting to a series of unfortunate circumstances.

Both men, too, were all but obsessed with the threat of communism. In Kennedy's time, it was growing in far-away places, particularly Southeast Asia, and nearby in Cuba. Kennedy and Reagan were both determined to challenge communism head-on.

Kennedy was bullied into checking off on an ill-conceived invasion of Cuba -- a plan that had been hatched under Eisenhower. The expedition's failure created in Kennedy a passionate mistrust of the so-called "military-industrial complex."

He then turned to the pressing economic issues of his day. At first, he seemed to subscribe to the approach of today's Obama administration: fighting with big business, increasing federal spending, upping the minimum wage and flooding the economy with dollars.

But by 1963, JFK had reached an interesting conclusion. Let me quote directly from Wikipedia, which, tellingly, often gives short shrift to the achievements of conservatives. This is from Kennedy's speech to the Economics Club of New York: "... the paradoxical truth is that tax rates are too high and revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise revenue in the long run is to lower rates now."


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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