The fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was allowed into the United States, and was given an audience at a prestigious university, continues to shock the conscience of many of our conservative friends.
Rick Perlstein reminds us of how the American character shined in 1959 when Nikita Khrushchev — considered at the time the most evil and dangerous man on the planet — visited the United States.
Khrushchev disembarked from his plane at Andrews Air Force Base to a 21-gun salute and a receiving line of 63 officials and bureaucrats, ending with President Eisenhower. He rode 13 miles with Ike in an open limousine to his guest quarters across from the White House. Then he met for two hours with Ike and his foreign policy team. Then came a white-tie state dinner. (The Soviets then put one on at the embassy for Ike.) [...]
Had America suddenly succumbed to a fever of weak-kneed appeasement? Had the general running the country — the man who had faced down Hitler! — proven himself what the John Birch Society claimed he was: a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy?
No. Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great.
In the post Cold War-era, it’s easy to forget the context, but the USSR was the most dangerous rival the United States had ever seen. And we welcomed Khrushchev with open arms, anxious to show him and the world our greatness.
Now, not so much.