In the summer of 1968 television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed, and a new era in public discourse was born
This documentary was what I believe was appropriate during the time of lies and unintelligent behavior within the political climate of today. These two men were dangerous with their knowledge, their verbal arsenal as well as their hatred of each other. Especially their parties affiliation. These two intellectuals were powerful and very far to the right and left with their ideology that each were given a platform to express it. This documentary showed each protaganist hatred for each other and their willingness to to provide great theater for the public during the political conventions that year. It also provided the American broadcasting channel (ABC) a boast in their TV coverage during the time when ABC was falling behind NBC and CBS in the ratings. As you watched the Republican and Democratic convention during 1968, the racial hypocrisy was so intense that you wondered if it was 1968 or 2016. But what I will say about Buckley, he possess the charm and intellect that you have to listen to him whether he was right or wrong. His wit and sass, kept liberals and conservatives on their toes ready to defend or combat. But the overwhelming intelligence of Gore Vidal bit into the essence of the conservative arguments about the poor and race and made his distractors work harder to prove him wrong. His sheer presence makes him still iconic today as he stands up to more than any democrat can do today. Maybe Bill Maher or John Stewart would give him a run but not with the elitist attitude.
This documentary goes into the history of these two gentleman and what they accomplished throughout their years in literary form or on Television. With their two contrasting views, we finally see the two of them engage in intelligent debates that we long for at this time. Not the unintelligent disrespectful childish behavior we just saw during our last presidential debates. Its the biting factual, strong opinionated display of men prepared and ready to protect and defend their views. We see a lot hasn't changed but we do see the debate being relevant on both sides. During that election year, we see the effects of the Vietnam war on the people who oppose the war and those in favor. The passion from these two started a point to counter point coverage going forward on network television and extended onto SNL. But what made history wasn't the vitriol debate shared by the two participants. It was the climatic explosion when Vidal lashed out during one of the debates and called Buckley a Nazi. Buckley's face distorted and you can see his disgust and anger displayed clearly in his facial expression and his aggressive body language. Buckley lashed out quickly and called Vidal a queer and threaten to punch him in the face right their on the air. At that point, Vidal got what he wanted and showed the world that Buckley was unhinged and could not stand pressure when pressed to defend his opinions.
From that point on these two men used publications and lawsuits to attack each other and their ideologies. The amazing strategy used by both men was to use a TV medium and press to push their ideas and opinions, An extrodinary commentary on what the political atmosphere was and actually still is today. This is one of the documentaries that should get you to read history and see where we were as opposed to where we are now. A very dangerous and sad place.