Réexaminer la présidence de JFK

CAMBRIDGE – Le 22 novembre prochain marquera le 50ème anniversaire de l’assassinat du président américain John F. Kennedy. Pour ses contemporains, sa mort a constitué l’un de ces événements tellement choquants que l’on se souvient toute sa vie de ce que l’on faisait au moment de l’apprendre. Pour ma part, je descendais d’un train à Nairobi quand j’ai vu les titres des journaux.

Kennedy n’avait que 46 ans lorsqu’il a été abattu à Dallas par Lee Harvey Oswald, un ancien soldat aigri des Marines qui avait fait défection en URSS. Bien qu’il ait toute sa vie été confronté à des problèmes de santé, Kennedy projetait une image de vigueur et de jeunesse qui accentua le côté dramatique et poignant de son décès.

Son destin tragique a incité de nombreux Américains à lui accorder une place égale à celle de présidents illustres, comme George Washington et Abraham Lincoln ; mais les historiens se montrent plus réservés dans leur évaluation de son mandat. Ses détracteurs soulignent son comportement sexuel parfois inconsidéré, son piètre bilan législatif et son incapacité à traduire ses paroles en actes. Si Kennedy a défendu les droits civils, la réduction des impôts et de la pauvreté, c‘est son successeur, Lyndon Johnson, qui s’est servi de ses propres compétences politiques bien supérieures et de l’aura du président assassiné pour faire adopter des lois sur ces questions.

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