Republicans Invoke Kennedy's Memory on Assassination Anniversary

Republicans remember Kennedy's hawkish foreign policy.

A woman places flowers at the JFK Tribute on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, in Fort Worth, Texas. The former president stayed in Fort Worth the night before the assassination and spoke to a crowd of thousands there the day he died.

A woman places flowers at the JFK Tribute on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas.

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On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, Republicans are finding their own ways to remember the slain president, invoke Kennedy's legacy and catch a bit of the Camelot fairy dust.

Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reflected on Kennedy's hawkish foreign policy, his pursuit of equality and promise to send a man to the moon.

"The nostalgia so many of us feel for that time, when our nation was united in the defense of liberty and promise of America, should be celebrated," Cruz wrote in an op-ed for the National Review Online.

[SPECIAL REPORT: JFK, 50 Years Later]

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also took an opportunity Friday to remember Kennedy.

As an eighth grader in Cincinnati, Boehner recalls the "anxiety" at his school when it was announced Kennedy had been shot.

"We all put our heads down on our desks and prayed," Boehner wrote in an essay for Life magazine.

A host of other Republicans issued statements Friday in remembrance of Kennedy, a nod that some presidents can break through the partisan barriers in Washington.

"Ours was a family of Kennedy Democrats," Boehner wrote remembering how Kennedy's death had hit home. "Not politically – we were conservative – but personally. People liked Kennedy. World War II guy, young family, optimistic. Had gotten us through the Cuban Missile Crisis. So that's how people took the loss: personally, like a death in the family."

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., tweeted Kennedy's most famous call to action, in memoriam: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Scott Farris, the author of "Kennedy and Reagan: Why Their Legacies Endure," says Kennedy is one of those rare American figures who appeals to Republicans and Democrats alike.

"It is clear that John Kennedy still has a very strong hold on the American imagination," Farris says, adding that Cruz, Boehner and other Republicans over the last 50 years have often attempted to "tap into that mythology" to promote their own policies.

"They want to identify with that presidency because they believe it was popular," Farris says. "If they can show Kennedy was a conservative, they can promote their own conservative agenda."

[PHOTOS: JFK's Legacy and Presidency]

Kennedy's popularity was well documented. In February 1963, nine months before his death, 70 percent of Americans supported the job he was doing. According to the Pew Research Center, however, that strong approval rating plummeted as Kennedy began to tackle civil rights reforms.

After his death, his popularity again skyrocketed. A Gallup poll from Nov. 15 found 74 percent of Americans remembered Kennedy as an exceptional president.

 

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