Salon: Quit calling JFK a Conservative!

Salon writer,  Random Lengths News editor and Al Jazeera Columnist,  Paul Rosenberg, wants Conservatives to stop calling President John F. Kennedy a Conservative.  His article was probably a response to the Ira Stoll book, JFK, Conservative and the attention it has received among conservatives.

Rosenberg even quoted a Politisite article on Reagan and Socialized Medicine as part of his attack on conservative values.

Rosenberg starts off his article by stating that conservatives use two methods to attack liberals.  One is to slander and demonize them and  if that doesn’t work just call them a conservatives.

The problem I have with Rosenberg’s argument is that the A/B method he describes didn’t originate with conservatives at all, seems to us that that Saul Alinsky was the author of slander and demonization as evidenced by Barack Obama campaign strategy against Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

The Masters of Alinsky are Liberals!  What would be the reason that Rosenberg would praise Barack Obama’s use of such methods and attack Conservatives for doing much the same?  That’s right, he is a ‘Rules for Radicals’ subscriber himself. People like Rosenberg portray conservatives as uneducated racist rednecks and if that isn’t effective, they equate the right with the Democrats of old: Jim Crow KKK types.  Basically Plan A. Slander and Demonization and Plan B.  Equate The Right with Liberals.

With that in mind, lets take a look at a portion of his article:

JFK_conservativeNow conservatives are trying “Plan B”–pretending that Kennedy was actually a conservative all along, just in time for the 50th anniversary of his assassination.  They’ve tried this repeatedly with Dr. Martin Luther King, but they never get any traction outside of the Fox News crowd—though not for lack of trying.  Now they’re going after Kennedy as well, lead by Ira Stoll and his new book, “JFK, Conservative.”

Stoll’s got his work cut out for him.  Kennedy was nowhere near as ultra-liberal as King was, but he was quite outfront in proclaiming himself a liberal, most notably in a  a speech accepting the presidential nomination of the New York Liberal Party on September 14, 1960, a speech commonly referred to as “Why I am A Liberal. 

“What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label ‘Liberal?’” Kennedy began by asking, and quickly answered: “If by ‘Liberal’ they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of ‘Liberal.’”

Thus, from the very beginning Kennedy brings up—and rejects—the conservative framing of what it means to be a liberal, not just for himself, but for the Liberal Party as a whole.  So much for the conservatives’ Plan A. He then quickly lays out what it does mean, instead:

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.”

Never mind what Kennedy himself said, however. Being a conservative, Ira Stoll is sure he knows better, although Daniel Larison at the American Conservative disagrees—“No, J.F.K. Wasn’t a Conservative,” his response is titled, as if Kennedy himself hadn’t made it clear enough.

So, how does Stoll try to pull off this switcheroo?  Here’s a taste, from a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” as he responded to being asked why JFK is a conservative:

He pioneered supply side tax cuts and built up the military while restraining domestic spending and wanted to reform welfare. He appointed to the Supreme Court the justice who wrote the dissent in the abortion case of Roe v. Wade. He was religious and believed America was locked in the war against the godless Soviet Union and he wanted to win.

Note that there’s not a word about the “New Frontier,” about civil rights, or Medicare, the Peace Corps or putting a man on the moon—none of the things that people at the time might have associated Kennedy with.  And there’s certainly no comparison of Kennedy’s politics with any recognized conservative of that time—Barry Goldwater, or Ronald Reagan, for example. 

In sharp contrast to Kennedy’s actual record, which is filled with specific accomplishments, what stands out from the mish-mash Stoll presented more than anything else is how utterly flimsy his case is.  It’s as if he’s just going through the motions of pretending to show that Kennedy was a conservative, so that those who follow him can pretend to be convinced. What’s going on here is a form of play-acting ritual, in which Stoll claims Kennedy as a member of his tribe, all whom cheer him on… except for spoiled sports like Larison, that is.

Read More – Salon

And a Rebuttal article by American Spectator – JFK Conservative

The Chicago Tribune reported Kennedy’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1952 by describing him as a “fighting conservative.” In a June 1953 Saturday Evening Post article, Kennedy said, “I’d be very happy to tell them I’m not a liberal at all,” adding, speaking of liberals, “I’m not comfortable with those people.” In 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt was asked in a television interview what she would do if she had to choose between a “conservative Democrat like Kennedy and a liberal Republican [like] Rockefeller.” She said she would do all she possibly could to make sure the Democrats did not nominate a candidate like Kennedy.

Read the Full Article Here – JFK Conservative

And Just for Fun – Buzzfeed – 21 ways JFK was actually Conservative

So where do we stand?  We think that JFK was as conservative as Bill Clinton. Probably the reason we didn’t jump on the “JFK is a Conservative” bandwagon.  I have often seen folks point out that Nixon and Reagan had some ‘Liberal’ ideas.  But that doesn’t make the sum total of their political life liberal, just as some of JFK or Clinton’s conservative statements or policies made them a Conservative.

We didn’t like Rosenberg’s approach to refute the movement, we do agree; however, with the conclusion.

About Albert N. Milliron 6991 Articles
Albert Milliron is the founder of Politisite. Milliron has been credentialed by most major news networks for Presidential debates and major Political Parties for political event coverage. Albert maintains relationships with the White House and State Department to provide direct reporting from the Administration’s Press team. Albert is the former Public Relations Chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party in Georgia. He is a former Delegate. Milliron is a veteran of the US Army Medical Department and worked for Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Psychiatry.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. JFK, Liberal | Marmalade