Since resigning in disgrace from the Presidency in 1974, Richard Nixon has symbolized the evil in politics and the rancid Republican Party. The Current Occupant of the White House and the recent joint press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin calls to mind Nixon’s early time in the spotlight.
Back in the good old Cold War days, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka Russia, took a small step in an attempt to warm diplomatic relations a bit. For a “cultural exchange,” the U.S. and U.S.S.R. each set up a national exhibition in the other’s country. Vice-President Richard Nixon traveled to Moscow for the opening of the US display in July 1959. As part of the ceremony, Richard Nixon took Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a tour.
Nixon proudly showed off American lifestyle features like color television and automatic laundry equipment. Khrushchev sneered at the American technology and boasted Russia would soon have those gadgets. Nixon retorted that the U.S.S.R. should not be afraid of ideas, “After all, you don’t know everything.” The arguing escalated as they moved to a U.S. model home presentation. Nixon complained about Khrushchev’s constant interruptions. With rising voices and finger pointing, the two accused each other of making threats that could lead to war. Leonid Brezhnev, who succeeded Khrushchev a few years later, watched over Nixon’s shoulder.
The “Kitchen Debate” was broadcast on all three U.S. television networks. (Only edited and abridged parts of the argument reached Soviet citizens.) The confrontation raised Nixon’s profile and helped him gain the Republican nomination for president the following year. Unlike the current Russian president, Khrushchev claimed to have done everything he could to bring about Nixon’s defeat in 1960.
Richard Nixon is remembered and reviled for the Watergate scandal and general corruption in politics. He is also responsible for cognitive dissonance in liberal heads with the other part of his legacy: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).