Not a lot of people had heard of Nancy Pelosi when she first went to China. It was 1991; she was a 51-year-old congresswoman in her second full term in the House, a backbencher from a liberal San Francisco district who had yet to make much of a mark in Washington.

On the last day of their congressional delegation to Beijing, Pelosi and two other members of Congress told the Chinese authorities they were too tired for the trip they were supposed to take to the Great Wall. Then they sneaked out the back of their hotel and took a taxi to Tiananmen Square. One of the other members, Ben Jones, had played Cooter on The Dukes of Hazzard before being elected as a Democratic congressman from Georgia, and he tipped off a CNN cameraman he knew about where they were going.