By: Bill Pilchak – 3/20/14
Perhaps because I was a ten-year-old Catholic kid being educated in a Catholic elementary school when the first and only Catholic President was gunned down in Dallas, I have always been fascinated by the facts and theories surrounding John F. Kennedy’s assassination. One point made clear in numerous books and documentaries is that the Secret Service and Kennedy’s staff were concerned about his safety while travelling in conservative Texas. Governor Walter Connelly’s wife’s widely reported remark, (incidentally cited by Wikipedia as one of the prime examples of irony), “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” was meant to assuage those concerns.
Thus, historically, we see that there was a liberal-conservative dichotomy 50 years ago, which may have eclipsed the current divide. Indeed, though the current view is that there was less open vitriol in those days, responsible people actually believed that a sitting President might not be safe travelling through a conservative state like Texas.
I was prompted to think about Kennedy a few days ago, at the fundraiser for Oakdale Academy, a Hillsdale Academy School. While the featured speaker, Michelle Malkin, captivated the audience – after all she is extremely bright, a polished speaker, and decidedly easy on the eyes- the speaker that caught my attention was a student of the Academy. Three students recited from memory, lengthy passages from scripture, speeches or literature at the event, just as students do every day during the morning announcements at Oakdale. This year, one student recited Kennedy’s remarks to American Heritage magazine on the importance of teaching history. (http://188.8.131.52/content/jfk-our-nation%E2%80%99s-memory) Since many contemporary conservatives are lamenting the fact that history and politics are being dropped from high school curriculums, resulting in a less astute citizenry, Kennedy’s words could easily have been written by Bill O’Reilly.
The evening prompted me to review Kennedy’s writings and speeches to gain further historical perspective. Doing so has illustrated how far to the left of Kennedy the current administration and climate is. I daresay that, today, any conservative would kiss a “liberal” opponent on both cheeks if the opponent espoused Kennedy’s views. I visited the website of the Kennedy Library for some examples, and offer some thoughts of my own on his quotes:
THE WELFARE STATE
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. “Inaugural Address (1),” January 20, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961 At a time when many are concerned that never-ending unemployment benefits, food stamps, welfare, Obama-care, etc., are expanding the percentage of Americans who will never work, pay taxes, and elevate the next generation, Kennedy tells us that we are on the wrong path.
THE ECONOMY AND DAMPENING EFFECT OF TAXATION ON JOBS
“A rising tide lifts all boats.” –“Remarks in Pueblo, Colorado,” August 17, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962. Kennedy’s perspective is literally the motto of conservatives today.
“It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.”
“If the economy of today were operating close to capacity levels with little unemployment, or if a sudden change in our military requirements should cause a scramble for men and resources, then I would oppose tax reductions as irresponsible and inflationary; and I would not hesitate to recommend a tax increase if that were necessary.” –“Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York (549),” December 14, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962. Consider the following from the Kennedy Library website:
“Kennedy had campaigned on the slogan of “getting America moving again” (which the Nixon campaign staff had privately derided as the peristalsis plan). But, recovery from the 1958 recession had been very sluggish and unemployment remained perilously high—6.8% just after he took office. The Council of Economic Advisers urged him to attack unemployment with New Deal style spending but the president was worried that a large deficit ($7 billion) would be politically untenable in 1964. Unemployment did fall modestly, but it remained stagnant at nearly 6% well into 1963.
The president finally decided that only a bold domestic program, including tax cuts, would restore his political momentum. Declaring that the absence of recession is not tantamount to economic growth, the president proposed in 1963 to cut income taxes from a range of 20-91% to 14-65% He also proposed a cut in the corporate tax rate from 52% to 47%. Ironically, economic growth expanded in 1963…
The battle over the tax cut and the deficit continued unabated through 1963. The House Ways and Means Committee voted a tax bill out of committee in August and the grateful president reiterated that lowering taxes was the surest path to full employment and lower deficits. Polls showed that over 60% of Americans favored the tax cuts.”
ATTACK ON THE 1%-ERS
“Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena – whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions – and spends himself in a worthy cause – who at best if he wins knows the thrills of high achievement – and if he fails at least fails while daring greatly – so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.'”
“We have become more and more not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators.”
–“Remarks at National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet (496),” December 5, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961. (References Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizenship in a Republic” given at The Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.) Kennedy came from a family of achievers whose achievements resulted in great wealth. He would be shocked by the notion today that society should pull down those who are achieving and excelling or President Obama’s statement: “you didn’t build that.”
STRONG NATIONAL DEFENSE
“Now let me make it clear that I believe there can only be one defense policy for the United States and that is summed up in the word ‘first.‘ I do not mean first, but. I do not mean first, when. I do not mean first, if. I mean first –period.” — Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, Detroit, Michigan, 26 August 1960, “VFW Convention, Detroit, Michigan, 26 August 1960”
“I think we’re going to have to do better. Mr. Nixon talks about our being the strongest country in the world. I think we are today, but we were far stronger relative to the Communists 5 years ago. And what is of great concern is that the balance of power is in danger of moving with them. They made a breakthrough in missiles and by 1961, ‘2, and ‘3, they will be outnumbering us in missiles.” –Transcript of fourth debate, ABC studios, New York, New York, 21 October 1960, “Television Transcript: Fourth Debate, October 21, 1960” Wow! Kennedy out-hawked Nixon? Consider Kennedy’s strong national defense posture and how it contrasts with the current administration, whose foreign policy appears to depend on whether Vladmir Putin knows the words to Kumbaya.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” “Inaugural Address (1),” January 20, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD TO OUR COUNTRY
“This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.” –“Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union (12),” January 14, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. I have only included this one quote, but despite the dalliances we know about today, Kennedy’s remarks are replete with frequent references to the Almighty. Undoubtedly, he had faith in a forgiving God.
THE SECOND AMENDMENT
“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.” –“Message to Those Participating in Roosevelt Day Commemoration, 29 January 1961. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your freedoms are evaporating day by day. What is Kennedy recommending we do?
No country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained, unless it has an educated citizenry whose qualities of mind and heart permit it to take part in the complicated and increasingly sophisticated decisions that pour not only upon the President and upon the Congress, but upon all the citizens who exercise the ultimate power… Commencement Address at San Diego State College (226),” June 6, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963.
What we seek to advance, what we seek to develop in all of our colleges and universities, are educated men and women who can bear the burdens of responsible citizenship, who can make judgments about life as it is, and as it must be, and encourage the people to make those decisions which can bring not only prosperity and security, but happiness to the people of the United Sates and those who depend upon it.” –“Address at the University of North Dakota (379),” September 25, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963 This is why Conservatives are so passionate about America’s lagging educational system, which is the product of union-driven mediocrity. Look what happens when the electorate is distracted by their devices and popular culture: We twice elect the least competent President in the history of the U.S.