The Kitchen Debate: Nixon & Khrushchev

July 4, 2009

 

In an age of bombastic rhetoric and political theater, then Vice President Nixon’s encounter with Nikita Khrushchev at the American National Exhibition in Moscow stands out. The New York Times heralded the “Kitchen Debate” as “an exchange that emphasized the gulf between east and west but had little bearing on the substantive issue.” TIME Magazine argued that Nixon “managed in a unique way to personify a national character proud of the peaceful accomplishment, sure of its way of life, confident of its power under threat.” Despite its strange setting — in front of a display of American kitchen equipment — this impromptu debate stands as one of the greatest intellectual exchanges on the merits of capitalism versus communism. On this 50th anniversary of the “Kitchen Debate” it would do all Americans well to reflect on this skilled, yet subtle, diplomatic victory during the Cold War.