In a wide-ranging interview with Blaze Books in connection with his newest title, JFK, Conservative, Ira Stoll provided his insights on JFK’s political ideology, religiosity, foreign policy views and a whole host of other topics. Below is Part II of our interview, conducted via email. You can find Part I here. The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
One of the big focuses of your book is on JFK’s religiosity: How do we reconcile his devout Catholicism with his personal failings? How did JFK’s religiosity influence his politics?
Stoll: One possibility is that Kennedy was so diligent about Mass and confession and daily prayers and meatless Fridays because he knew he was sinning and felt a need to compensate for it or confess. I do argue in the book that Kennedy saw the Cold War as, as he put it in a speech in the 1960 campaign, “a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies; freedom under God versus ruthless, Godless tyranny.” In a 1955 speech, he spoke of the Cold War as “the battle for the preservation of Christian civilization.” There’s a lot of evidence given in the book that this was really what Kennedy thought — it wasn’t just rhetoric.
Speak a bit to JFK’s relationship with Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Stoll: In 1953 Kennedy voted with McCarthy and Barry Goldwater to cut U.S. aid to countries that traded with Communist China. Liberals like Albert Gore Sr. and Hubert Humphrey opposed the measure. Kennedy attended McCarthy’s wedding, and Kennedy was absent when the Senate voted to condemn McCarthy. Robert Kennedy had worked on McCarthy’s Senate staff.