The famous Nik and Dick debate.
I first read about this kitchen debate during my early research. Don’t remember in Nixon’s bio or elsewhere. I’ve read about William Safire’s column On Language from time to time.
Here, he re-captured the scene of the day in Moscow exactly 50 years ago when he was young press agent for an American company – he later would became president Nixon’s speechwriter. I was not sure if this kitchen debate was indeed one of the great confrontational moments of the cold war seized the world’s attention since I wasn’t born yet. But this Op-Ed piece was really fun to read. It involved many then and then-future leaders of the world, and how in early days the press operated, how Safire become who he is today, and mostly showed Vice President Richard Nixon out smart, out wit and out word Nikita Khrushchev.
Nixon: “I want to show you this kitchen. It’s like those of houses in California. See that built-in washing machine?”
Khrushchev: “We have such things.”
Nixon: “What we want to do is make more easy the life of our housewives.”
Khrushchev: “We do not have the capitalist attitude toward women.”
Nixon noted that this house cost $14,000, and a government-guaranteed veterans mortgage made it possible for a steelworker earning $3 an hour to buy it for $100 a month.
Khrushchev was sarcastic: “We have peasants who also can afford to spend $14,000 for a house.”
Nixon .. .. “Would it not be better to compete in the relative merit of washing machines than in the strength of rockets?”
“Yes, but your generals say we must compete in rockets,” responded the Soviet leader. “We are strong and we can beat you.”
Nixon, aware that the Soviets then led the United States in rocket thrust, finessed that: “In this day and age to argue who is stronger completely misses the point. With modern weapons it just does not make sense. If war comes we both lose.”
In the presence of JF Kennedy Nixon looked like a wood but he sure the articulated one in Moscow, making Khrushchev looked like a grumpy old man and childish.