112. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Henry Cabot Lodge
  • Mr. Khrushchev
  • Mr. Sukhodrev


  • Beltsville Car Trip

Driving out to Beltsville we passed the Jefferson Memorial which I pointed out to Mr. Khrushchev. I said that Jefferson had said that he preferred a press without a government to a government without a press.

Khrushchev nodded and said that was a very good phrase.

Then I said that Jefferson had said that the people had a right to revolution when they felt like it.

Khrushchev said—then why do you complain about our revolution.

I said that I hadn’t complained about their revolution but that Jefferson thought you ought to have frequent revolutions—that the people ought to have a right to throw everybody out of office at frequent intervals. We throw ours out at frequent intervals.

Khrushchev said—oh, that wouldn’t do.

[Page 411]

On the way back from Beltsville I said that I had read with great interest the English text of the speech which Mr. Khrushchev had given at Veshenskaya just before leaving to come to the United States1 and that I had noticed that he had spoken of the desirability of a freer life” for the Soviet people and wanted to ask if that was a correct translation. After he had said that it was, I said I would be interested to know what he meant by that phrase.

He had obviously been thinking about our conversation two hours earlier. He said: Going back to Jefferson’s phrase about a free press—that may have been all right in Jefferson’s time when the world was coming out of feudalism and going into capitalism, but doesn’t apply today because you haven’t got a free press in this country. He said a poor negro sweeping the roads had nothing to say about the press. The press may be free in the sense that you can buy a printing press, but he couldn’t afford to buy a printing press. The press, of course, is free for the rich people like Hearst who own newspapers—not anybody else.

I said that I didn’t know how much freedom a road sweeper in the Soviet Union had to get his views printed in Pravda or Izvestia but I said that I can speak with some authority, being a professional newspaper man, that he has been completely misinformed about the United States. We have a commercial press. It is a business. They make their money by selling advertising. The only way they can sell advertising is to have a large amount of readers. If the reader doesn’t like the paper the paper doesn’t sell advertising and all the Hearsts in the world can’t make somebody buy something he doesn’t want to read—so the reader is the boss in every real sense as far as journalism is concerned, just as the consumer is the boss in retailing, just as the voter is boss in politics.

Khrushchev said journalism ought to be educational, not a business.

I said the fact that the press is commercial doesn’t exclude their publishing things of quality and they publish many things of quality, but we think that no one is wise enough to tell the newspapers what they shall print and to tell the people what they shall read. We believe that wisdom resides in the people and that people must have a free choice between a very free and active opposition and those who are in power.

I pointed out that the New York Times is our leading paper on foreign affairs and they almost always are in opposition to US policy in the United Nations and almost always say so.

Khrushchev then said Rockefeller could be elected President.

I said he could if the people wanted him.

[Page 412]

He said: When Rockefeller stopped being President he would have enough to live on. In my country I haven’t got money and when I leave I will be taken care of by the country.

I said that Eisenhower was a poor boy.

Khrushchev said he has a farm.

I said that I understand that in Russia a man has a right to own his own home.

Then he shifted and said there wasn’t much chance for a man in a poor class.

I said we don’t think in terms of classes. Our whole system is geared to the individual and there are so many hundreds of thousands of cases of poor boys starting at the bottom and going to the top that every poor boy feels he has a good chance to get to the top and he is right.

Oh well, Khrushchev said, of course if you want to put it that way all of us started as savages way back.

I said I don’t think the boy who gets to the top is a savage. I have even heard that there are poor boys who get to the top in the Soviet Union.

He laughed at that and said he hadn’t meant it that way.

The tone of the whole thing had been earnest but not acid. When we were out on the sidewalk at the Blair House I said I had found this conversation very stimulating, that he was a very stimulating man to talk with and thanked him for the opportunity to exchange views. He indicated that he would be glad to do it again.

(He gives you the impression, which Ambassador Thompson has spoken of, of a man who has an open mind on some things. He hasn’t got a completely open mind at all, but certainly gives the impression of being a good listener. He not only gives the impression—he is a good listener. He will pick up details in what you have said.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1472. Confidential. Drafted by Lodge and initialed by William W. Scranton, Secretary Herter’s Special Assistant. A handwritten notation on the source text reads: CAH saw.”
  2. Not further identified.