K Blows Top
Khrushchevs first meal in America was a sumptuous lunch at Blair
House, the official presidential guest residencefillet of beef with truffles,
potatoes, string beans, and a Charlotte Russe praline with raspberry
sauce. He was just finishing when he received his first visitorHenry
Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to the United Nations and the
man Ike had selected to be Khrushchevs tour guide on his odyssey across
Few men on earth had less in common: Khrushchev was a short, pudgy, uneducated Russian peasant whod climbed to power by tenacity and brutality; Lodge was a tall, thin, Harvard-educated Boston Brahmin whod been born into Americas aristocracy, scion of one of the families immortalized in an old New England toast:
Heres to good old Boston,
Home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots
And the Cabots speak only to God.
Lodges ancestors included six U.S. senators, a secretary of state, a Civil War general, and a governor of Massachusetts. His grandfather and namesake, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, was the dour Republican famous for leading the forces that crushed Woodrow Wilsons hopes that the United States would join the newly formed League of Nations after World War I.
Growing up, Lodge picked mulberries in Henry Jamess garden, rode horses with George Patton, and visited Edith Whartons house in France, where he lived with his family for two years, studying French. In the 1920s, he worked as a newsman, writing for the Boston Transcript and the New York Herald-Tribune. In 1936, after a brief stint in the Massachusetts legislature, he was elected to his grandfathers old seat in the U.S. Senate. Witty, friendly, and popular, Lodge was a liberal Republican who supported many of FDRs New Deal programs. During the war, he resigned from the Senate, to serve in the Army in Europe. After the war, he won reelection to the Senate, but he was defeated in 1952 by a rich, handsome young war hero named John F. Kennedy. In 1953, Eisenhower appointed Lodge ambassador to the United Nations, which was, ironically, the successor to the League of Nations that his grandfather had fought so fiercely.
When Ike picked Lodge instead of Nixon to serve as Khrushchevs guide, pundits speculated that the president was indicating his choice of a successor. Actually, Ikes reasoning was far less Machiavellian. He simply figured that the diplomatic Lodge was less likely than Nixon to get into any eye-gouging, ear-biting brawls with Khrushchev.
When Lodge arrived at Blair House, he introduced himself to his future traveling companion and asked if there was anything he could do. Khrushchev looked up at Lodgewho at six feet four inches stood a foot higher than the Russianand smiled. Before coming over here, I read your speeches, Khrushchev said. And after I read them, I thought I would be scared of you, but now that I have been with you, talked with you, and seen what a nice man you are, I dont feel scared any more.
That was baloney, of courseany man whod endured Stalins murderous whims would hardly be frightened by Lodges U.N. oratorybut at least it was good-natured, friendly baloney.
Mr. Lodge, I want you to understand one thing, Khrushchev continued, still smiling playfully. I have not come to the United States to learn anything about America. We know all we need to know about America and we learn it through our Marxist instruction.
Now it was Lodges turn to smile Thank you for telling me, Mr. Chairman, he said. We will do our utmost to comply with your wishes.
Excerpted from K Blows Top, by Peter Carlson, available now from PublicAffairs (www.publicaffairsbooks.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.
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