Little more than a week has elapsed since the head of the Soviet government arrived in the U.S., and any unprejudiced person can see how much the atmosphere in this country has changed . . . A peculiar contest has developed between American cities and small towns as to who can extend a warmer and more cordial welcome to the emissary of the great Soviet people.
The image of the emissary of the great Soviet people as he rocketed about the U.S. last week indeed pictured a change. The cymbal clashings of threat and arrogance that Nikita Khrushchev produced earlier in Washington, New York and Los Angeles had only evoked the hostility that the U.S. felt was due the top Communist boss anyway. But after Los Angeles (TIME, Sept. 28) things changed. San Francisco was friendly and Conductor Khrushchev brought up his muted strings. While the theme never changed, the U.S. relaxed, sat back to listen and watcheven to drum a little counterpoint. Result: a grand show, spiced with pathos, comedy, touches of heavy drama, acrobaticseverything, in short, except Eliza and a cake of ice.
In Des Moines, Khrushchev ate his first hot dog with the excitement and exuberance of a kid at his first ball game. ("Well, capitalist," he boomed to Official Escort Henry Cabot Lodge, whom he needled throughout his trip, "have you finished your sausage?") He patted the cheek of a Lithuanian woman who came to plead for the freedom of her two children behind the Iron Curtain, promised to arrange a reunion. He played a cheerful role in a Marx Brothers farce in an Iowa cornfield. He joshed Democrat Adlai Stevenson for talking to him: "Do you think you will be investigated by the Bureau of Un-American Affairs?" In a burst of generosity he handed his wristwatch to a Pittsburgh steelworker who offered him a stogie. He bowed his head respectfully for the luncheon invocation in Pittsburgh (where his aides had told him religion was important), and he paid his respects to Pittsburgh's Roman Catholic Bishop John J. Wright, who had counseled courteous treatment.
Tovarish. Mobs crowded Nob Hill in San Francisco to cheer Khrushchev as he arrived at his hotel. Happily he waved back, reappeared at his hotel window to bask in the spontaneous welcome. "You have charmed me," he glowed at a civic dinnerand added, without the customary clangor, "but you have charmed my heart, not my mind. I still think that our system is a good system."