Richard Nixon: Speeches, Writings, Documents

By Richard Nixon; Rick Perlstein | Go to book overview

9.
The “Kitchen Debate” (July 24, 1959)

The encounter between Vice President Nixon and So-
viet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at a Moscow trade fair
was a surreal Cold War moment. The intense interest
it inspired was partly a function of its novelty. Nixon's
visit to the Soviet Union—followed two months later
by a visit by Khrushchev to the United States, in which
the premier tried and failed to visit Disneyland—
marked a rare lull in U.S.-Soviet tensions. Khrushchev
was all but mythic as a bogeyman. And here he was, in
the flesh, walking and talking, as what was supposed
to be an opportunity to show off a new American tech-
nology—videotape—broke out into a spirited ex-
change with Nixon, who handled him with poise and
aplomb.

No copy of the original tape exists—which in itself
was apparently a brief record of a multiday dialogue—
and the existing transcripts are discontinuous and
contradictory. But what remains is, among other
things, a fascinating record of American consumerist
ideology (note Nixon's assertion of color TV as a vic-
tory in the Cold War); and a testament to Nixon's evo-
lution away from a public identity as a simplistic hard-
line Red hunter.

-88-

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