Video of the Day: Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley in 1968

Next time someone complains about the lack of civility in today's politics, play this clip of the two late authors nearly coming to blows.

Gore Vidal, who died Tuesday at 86, is being eulogized almost entirely as a "man of letters." But the author was also a man of politics. An outspoken liberal, he ran against Jerry Brown for Senate in California in 1982 and also for the House in New York. His grandfather, Thomas Gore, was a Democratic senator from Oklahoma; he was distantly related to Jimmy Carter. Michele Bachmann famously claimed that reading a Vidal book turned her into a Republican.

The witty, acerbic, gay Gore found a powerful foil in the witty, acerbic, very-not-gay William F. Buckley, the conservative movement founder. In 1968, the two men were asked by ABC News to serve as analysts for the Republican and Democratic conventions. In a year in which conventions were contentious, Vidal and Buckley created fireworks of their own, most famously in the clip above (which is probably NSFW without headphones). During a discussion of the Vietnam War, Buckley -- in his aristocratic drawl -- compares opponents of the war (including Vidal) to Nazi appeasers. Vidal, in his own aristocratic drawl, fires back.

Vidal: The only pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself...

Buckley: Now listen you queer, quit calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.

After the conventions, the men began a longrunning feud, starting with rival essays in the pages of Esquire and eventually advancing to court. The next time someone tries to tell you that civility used to be a hallmark of American politics but sadly has been lost, show them this clip.

Presented by

David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers political and global news. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Politics

Just In