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Tim Naftali: Declassified JFK documents reveal a cunning and cagey president

Historians in the News
tags: John F Kennedy



John F Kennedy’s secret talks with Soviet intelligence, surreptitious tape recordings and “girlfriend system” create a new portrait of a cunning and cagey JFK, according to a historian who has researched a treasure trove of recently released recordings and papers of the late president.

Drawing on documents and tape recordings recently declassified, historian Timothy Naftali told a meeting at New York University on Tuesday night that Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline and brother Robert censored and edited the president’s legacy, cultivating the “mystique” of a charismatic leader who continues to baffle and fascinate Americans of all stripes and creeds.

Conservatives, liberals, conspiracy theorists and people who write“what if” histories fight over him. Fans of Bernie Sanders compare their candidate to him. A Fox News pundit wrote a children’s bookabout him. More than 25 years ago, author Don DeLillo addressed JFK mania indirectly and concluded: “Facts are lonely things.”

Naftali has attempted to answer some old questions with a new angle, arguing that the new details of what Kennedy did behind the scenes reveal a secretive yet self-indulgent president whose family was as worried about image as the man himself.

Kennedy was “far more interesting intellectually and far less appealing personally” than his family and friends wanted the world to know, Naftali told the Guardian. “And that’s fine.” ...

Read entire article at The Guardian

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