Former President Richard M. Nixon recently paid a private visit to Moscow. Apparently he met with some Soviet officials and discussed U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations.
I recall some years back going into Lenin's mausoleum with Richard Nixon. (Actually, I was a tourist traveling from Tokyo to London, and the UPI Moscow Bureau asked if I would "follow Mr. Nixon around town." I agreed. I remember how amazed he was at the life-like waxy figure of Lenin.)I admire Mr. Nixon. Why? I'm convinced that when Nixon was president he not only steered the country right in world affairs but he also saw to it that the U.S. economy did not run amuck.
You can, if inclined, pelt Mr. Nixon for a number of real or alleged faults. But you should, in my view, give him his due for doing his best to buttress the U.S. economy.
The current U.S. trade deficit, federal deficit, and other economic danger signs simply would not have been tolerated by Mr. Nixon to remain static.
Richard Nixon showed his mettle about 15 years ago.
Aware that the U.S. textile industry was being choked to death from a flood of cheap imports, Mr. Nixon slapped a surcharge on textiles from Tokyo. (Today it is the custom to issue warnings. Next, we often develop a case of amnesia.)
But Mr. Nixon acted boldly and, of course, Tokyo groaned. The ugliness of the then Japanese-U.S. "textile war" caused a U.S. diplomat to remark wryly that "even the big bad Soviets are better trading partners than the Japanese." He explained that Moscow "observed certain rules of the game and was not a competitor in trade." Also, the United States had a trade surplus with the Soviets.
Thinking of Mr. Nixon, I took down from my shelves a battered copy of his book, "Six Crises," and noted a passage I had underlined. In the book Mr. Nixon includes his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination at Miami Beach, Fla., Aug. 8, 1968. I quote a few words:
"When the richest nation in the world can't manage its own economy," Mr. Nixon said, "then it is time for new leadership in America." He said flatly that the United State's leaders had "failed."
Mr. Nixon sorely wanted a smaller trade deficit with Japan.
On my desk is a recent copy of the International Herald Tribune with this business-page headline: "Japan surplus in U.S. trade swells to record." The story says brisk sales of Japanese cars and business machines boosted exports to the United States in October to US$7.5 billion, up 24 percent from the same month last year. It adds that the figures are "likely to disappoint U.S. officials who agreed about two weeks ago to end their pressure for further yen appreciation against the dollar."
The Nixon era "textile war" was ugly all right.
Some Japanese leaders also had it in for the Nixon administration for what might be called its confidential way of conducting affairs, like changing U.S.-Chinese policy without consulting Tokyo. (Mr. Nixon evidently knew that if he consulted with Japan, his "secret diplomacy" would lose its secrecy and, perhaps, his new China policy would be derailed.)
Neither was Henry Kissinger exempt from abuse at that time.
As a Nixon Cabinet member, Mr. Kissinger was the butt of an uncharacteristi c eruption of anti-Semitism in Tokyo. My memory is that
neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post printed the story, but an estimated 10,000 posters suddenly appeared on the streets of Tokyo at that time, saying, "Kissinger the Jew hates the Japanese."
Nutty, but I saw it with my own eyes.
Now for the latest textile news.
U.S. trade officials said (Nov. 14) that Japan's textile and clothing exports to the United States increased 17 percent since last January when the old bilateral agreement ended.
If I was working in the White House I would phone Mr. Nixon and say: ''Sir, the United States badly needs your advice . . . "