• Educational Guide

Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies Discussion Guide

In the summer of 1968 television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two prominent 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 political commentator. Armed with deep-seated distrust, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they debated over policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into bitter name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted and a new era in public discourse was born.

This discussion guide, for 11th and 12th grade students based on Common Core State Standards, takes you through the film and beyond, exploring how Vidal and Buckley created the televised fireworks that boosted ABC News ratings and transformed political debate into the contentious, shouting, political punditry we know so well today.