JFK would back Obama, says White House

Former President Kennedy would approve of President Obama's decision to roll back trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, the White House argued Wednesday.

"I do think that even President Kennedy would acknowledge that after more than 50 years of a policy of isolation [which] didn't bring about the desired result … change was needed," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

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President Obama announced earlier in the day that the administration would ease travel restrictions to the country, as well as restrictions on exports to Cuba. The government is also allowing U.S. financial and telecommunications firms to establish more of a foothold in Cuba.

They are the most significant changes to U.S.-Cuba policy since 1962, when Kennedy extended a trade embargo in reaction to Fidel Castro's alignment with the Soviet Union. Kennedy extended those restrictions to include a travel ban in 1963, following the Cuban missile crisis.

Earnest said Kennedy was someone who "did believe in the value of openness and engagement and in the value of empowering local populations to take greater control over their economic and political situation."

"So, it does strike me that, while the president is changing a policy that President Kennedy originally put in place, that the philosophy that the president is pursuing and the values that the president is pursuing is entirely consistent with the kinds of values that President Kennedy championed throughout his life," Earnest said.