Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
As Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev walked through a model home at an American exhibit in Moscow, they engaged in an impromptu argument on the relative merits of capitalism and communism that became known as the "kitchen debate." While their heated discussion involved issues of international importance, the tone at times resembled that of a playground spat. At one point a frustrated Nixon even jabbed his finger at Khrushchev and said, "You don't know everything." An excerpt from The Post of July 25, 1959:
By John Scali
MOSCOW, July 24 (AP)
The American exhibition opened in Moscow tonight against a backdrop of some dramatic face-to-face exchanges between Richard M. Nixon and Nikita S. Khrushchev.
While gaping Russians and Americans looked on, each man accused the other of making threatening statements.
The United States Vice President accused Premier Khrushchev of filibustering and urged him not to try dealing in international ultimatums.
The Soviet leader interjected at one point: "Let us not beat around the bush. The main thing is we want to put an end to bases in foreign lands."
At the windup, both men apologized. Nixon said he had been a poor host at the exhibition by letting Khrushchev's visit turn into a foreign policy debate.
During the discussion, however, the Soviet leader emphasized the Communist world's resentment at the U.S. Government's designation of the third week in July as "Captive Nations Week." He told Nixon:
"If you hadn't taken such a decision (to proclaim the week) ... your trip would be excellent.
"You have churned the water yourselves. Why this was necessary, God only knows. What happened, what black cat crossed your path and confused you to make an unwise decision?"
During the running debate, through an interpreter, Khrushchev declared the Soviet Union has means at its disposal -- meaning rockets and nuclear weapons -- that "are better than yours." Nixon said the United States has good weapons, too.
The unexpected debate erupted as the two toured the grounds of the exhibition a few hours before Nixon formally opened the fair tonight.
At one point Khrushchev said, "We too are giants. If you want to threaten we will answer threat with threat."
Nixon replied, "The moment we place either one of these powerful nations, through the ultimatum, in a position where it has no choice but accept dictation or fight, then you are playing with the most destructive power in the world." ...
When Khrushchev arrived at the exhibition, he was flanked by President Klementi Voroshilov and First Deputy Premiers Anastas I. Mikoyan and Frol R. Kozlov. The three stood at the Premier's side during the two hours of exchanges.
"Americans have lost their ability to trade," he said. "Now you have grown older and you don't trade the way you used to. You need to be invigorated."
"You need to have goods to trade," Nixon replied.
In strolling through the American exhibition, Khrushchev walked by several voting machines with the comment, "I have no interest in them."