Notes on 'Best of Enemies.'10:42 AM, Aug 24, 2015 • By DAVID BAHR
The new documentary Best of Enemies commits a mortal sin fatal to the integrity of its interesting subject matter: It treats William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal as intellectual equals, and therewith perfect synecdoches of conservatism and liberalism. But at the cost of too high a compliment to the one, it might be observed that if Buckley were a Burke, Vidal was a very poor Paine.
Of course, my view is suspect. After all, I work at THE WEEKLY STANDARD and think highly of Buckley’s publication, National Review. So how to adjudicate? Well, we might turn to Best of Enemies, a film that promises to describe how a “new era in public discourse was born,” but then we would be disappointed. The documentary, riveting if only because of the vitriol on display, not only fails to present the ideas of the antagonists in any substantive manner, but does not care to trace its more interesting claim that the men birthed a “new era in public discourse.”
(Andrew Ferguson wrote a wonderful piece on this film in this magazine that thankfully frees me from the necessity of providing much in the way of background, but is limiting because he said it all much better than I could hope.) So here are two observations:
First, the selections of the 1968 convention debates (ten total) between Buckley and Vidal were chosen, we must assume, by the filmmakers to entertain, not enlighten. We are treated to all the verbal stilettos-in-the-side—and in this respect, Vidal was Buckley’s equal, albeit with a more vulgar flare—giving the film a rolling effect that does not abate even after the supposed high-water mark of rhetorical flourish occurs. For viewers who may have been interested in what else the men said, there is nothing for you here. Snippets are what we get from each debate, and so a snippet understanding of each man is the best that’s available. At the end of the film, one is left with the impression that there was no more to each man than a handful of well-placed barbs, and consequently, that the two men were perfect analogues to the punditry on display today. Not only is this too bad because it is not true, but the viewer is robbed of hearing, and thus being able to put in context, the political and social problems of the late 1960s.
The second observation flows from the first. Without properly delineating how Buckley and Vidal were understood, and actually served, as voices of the right and left par excellence, it is hard to accept that this debate, over and above subsequent debates, televised or otherwise, were the model from which the future took its mold. A more interesting documentary might have traced our disputatious political culture—Lincoln-Douglas!—using the Buckley-Vidal rounds as one stop on the way to the present day. Instead, Best of Enemies reflects, like the polemical arguments we are used to watching, something superficial that inhabits all our souls: a desire to be entertained, rather than educated.
He’s not like those other conservatives.Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
‘It’s as if he never existed,” a friend of a certain age (same as mine) said to me not long ago. He was referring to William F. Buckley Jr. When he died in 2008, at age 82, Buckley was eulogized as the most consequential American journalist of the second half of the last century: editor for 35 years of National Review, founding father of the conservative movement, bosom pal of Ronald Reagan, author of many bestselling books, and host of Firing Line, the longest-running single-host public affairs show in television history.
Mar 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 25 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week National Review’s Jonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson were left to sort out one of the most inane and idiotic media “fact checker” efforts The Scrapbook has ever seen. And when you consider what has appeared in these pages regarding PolitiFact, that’s saying something (see, among other entries, Mark Hemingway’s “Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact Checking’ ” from our December 19, 2011, issue).
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:18 PM, Jul 9, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with National Review editor Rich Lowry on the joint editorial he and William Kristol wrote on why conservatives should scrap the current immigration reform bill.
3:23 PM, Aug 28, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy blog post taking PolitiFact to task for their shamelessly skewed "fact checks" on the Romney-Ryan health care plans. And as it happens, I woke up today and National Review has an excellent editorial on the same topic. It's worth reading in full, but this part was as amusing as it was discrediting:
1:34 PM, Aug 27, 2012 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
From an undisclosed location in North Tampa
For reasons of both security and propriety, the authorities have advised that it would be imprudent to disclose the location of WEEKLY STANDARD world headquarters in Tampa.
2:55 PM, Apr 20, 2011 • By JOHN P. MCCONNELL
One of my favorite Bill Rusher stories is from the 1984 presidential campaign, when he and Jeane Kirkpatrick faced off against Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank on the question of Reagan vs. Mondale. Poor Senator Dodd had to contend with this impossible query from Bill Rusher: “On the invasion of Grenada, do you agree with Mr. Mondale that it was justified, or with Ms. Ferraro that it wasn’t?”
11:02 AM, Apr 8, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Andy McCarthy writes that President Obama's authorization of the targeted assassination of Anwar al-Qalaki is "obviously the right call."
We are at war against al Qaeda under an authorization from Congress. Anwar al-Awlaki, a purportedly American-born Islamic cleric, who is now operating in Yemen, ministered to the 9/11 hijackers, inspired the Ft. Hood assassin, probably directed the would-be Christmas bomber, and is believed to be orchestrating and recruiting for violent jihad operations against the United States. The president is the commander-in-chief with primacy on questions regarding the conduct of war. Even if we were to accept for argument's sake that at issue is a legal rather than a political judgment, Supreme Court precedent (the World War II era Quirin case and the 2004 Hamdi decision) hold that American citizens who fight for the enemy in wartime may be treated as enemy combatants, just like aliens.
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