JFK: A liberal or conservative hero?

Writing in the New Republic, he scoffs at all this. “I would submit that Kennedy’s hold on us stems also from the way he used the presidency, his commitment to exercising his power to address social needs, his belief that government could harness expert knowledge to solve problems — in short, from his liberalism,” Greenberg says.

He adds that during the 1960 presidential campaign, when Republicans tried to make the term “liberal” a pejorative, Kennedy embraced it.

“But the warm feelings Americans have toward Kennedy may be something more than nostalgia for a glamorous presidency cut short,” he writes. “They reflect a wistfulness for the sense of common purpose and faith in a collective project that a proudly liberal president helped the nation achieve.”

In other words, the answer to whether John F. Kennedy was a liberal or a conservative is … yes.

“It is possible to be a classical liberal and an American conservative at the same time. I would argue they are one in the same,” says Craig Shirley, a conservative writer and Reagan biographer. “At some point, both philosophies embrace the expansion of freedom as the most worthy and important goal of government.”