President Richard Nixon’s visit to China 40 years ago this week is rightly remembered as a historic breakthrough. Decades later, however, few political myths are as persistent as the notion that “only Nixon could go to China.”
The mythology runs like this: Only a red-baiting, Commie-hating Republican could do something that would have been out of reach for a soft, left-liberal Democrat. Only a bellicose and unscrupulous anti-Communist, whose credibility with fellow conservatives would shield him from any domestic attack, could sup with the devil and become a peacemaker.
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