In 1953, America dispatched Vice-President Richard Nixon to the island nation of Ceylon (still nearly two decades away from being rechristened Sri Lanka). The Eisenhower Administration was mighty worried about reports that Ceylon was shipping strategic materials to newly Communist China, a sign that the former colony might be contemplating an even more dramatic leftward shift. So Nixon alighted in Colombo, intent on letting the Ceylonese know that the United States was the Cold War side to choose.
Today brings an exhaustive rundown of this obscure episode in Cold War foreign affairs. The tale is most notable, perhaps, not for what it tells us about 1950s geopolitics, but rather Nixon’s strange control-freak tendencies. The vice-president took the time to write a series of memos detailing his wants and needs. Among the gems:
Whenever you are with me look for opportunities for me to break away from the protocol people and greet ordinary people who may be standing along the side. For example, children, cripples, old people, etc.
Secret Service men and anyone else who is with us at receptions should assume the responsibility of being sure that no photographers are snapping shots when I have a drink in my hand.
Three years later, Ceylon moved to the left.