Excerpt of K Blows Top by Peter Carlson
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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
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.