In the summer of 1968, ABC News hired two great intellectuals to meet for televised debates during the presidential conventions. William F. Buckley was a leading light of the nascent neo-conservative movement – he’d founded the National Review in 1955. Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist and a Democrat by heritage, a cousin to Jackie Onasis. Vidal and Buckley each thought the other’s political ideologies were dangerous, even catastrophic for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they slugged out policy, personal insult, and revisionist histories staking out the opposing political positions that still resonate with the major parties today. As the talks devolved to heated and shocking name-calling, the debates defined the new era of public discourse in the media. These discussions beg the question still facing us today, “What has television done to the way we talk about politics?”
Best of Enemies is a Cinereach grantee.
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