Wednesday, February 21, 2007

February 21, 1972:

Nixon Goes to China

The day before Washington’s actual birthday, New Style, offers many presidential and near-presidential anniversaries. On February 21, 1856, for instance, the American Party – better known as the Know Nothings – approved their nativist, anti-Catholic platform (“Americans must rule America…” it said, among other things). Millard Fillmore, who didn’t want to leave the White House in 1853, was that now-notorious party’s standard-bearer.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson gave Secretary of War Edwin Stanton his walking papers, precipitating a showdown with Congress that the president very nearly lost.

In 1885, in the waning days of Chester A. Arthur’s presidency, the Washington Monument, so long delayed, was at last dedicated.

In 1972, Nixon arrived in China. “International diplomacy can sometimes come down to the most mundane details,” wrote Alexander Burns in American Heritage magazine on the trip. ”On February 21, 1972, President Richard Nixon prepared to get off his plane in Beijing and he was faced with a crucial decision. Should he take off his overcoat or leave it on? When his staff informed him that Chou En-lai, the Chinese premier, was waiting on the tarmac with his coat securely on, Nixon decided not to remove his own. He hardly wanted to be showing off American superiority in braving the cold. And so Nixon descended from Air Force One to begin a diplomatic visit that would reshape the state of international affairs.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the old Vulcan proverb, quoted in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: "Only Nixon could go to China."