Over ten nights in August 1968, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr let rip. The clash of the commentators the liberal iconoclast versus the public face of conservatism would quickly become essential viewing. It was a masterstroke from ABC, the minnow of American network television. The urbane, imperious Vidal and the indignant, seething Buckley exchange philosophical salvo and sarcastic insult in a contest replete with dazzling eloquence, acerbic wit and visceral loathing. Its as if, reflects Buckleys former assistant, they were matter and anti-matter, parallel lives. The rivalry cultural, ideological, skin-crawlingly personal encapsulates the unease of a nation becoming mired in an unwinnable war in Vietnam and beset by profound social unrest at home. These mesmerising debates, which spiralled out into a protracted legal battle, climax in an astonishing outburst from Buckley, a moment which he later said had tormented him for years. For his part, Vidal is said to have revelled, four decades on, at news of Buckleys death. Rest in hell, he wrote.
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