National Theatre Live: Best of Enemies (2023) Movie Script

'He said,
"Why go to all this melodrama,
'"when indeed we were not going
to do anything?"
'He liked the melodrama.'
'The reason why, Mr Vidal, is,
'because there is among decent men
'a tradition that dates back
to the Declaration of Independence
'in which the people who founded
this country say that...'
'I... I think we've run out of time,
'and I thank you very much
for the discussion.
'There was a little more heat
and a little less light than usual,
'but it was still, um...
'...very worth hearing.
'We'll be right back.'
Did you see that? Were you watching?
Sheehan, is he...
Jesus, is he allowed to say that?
I mean, we were live,
and he did say it, so...
Ah, shit!
- Was anybody watching?
- I was watching.
The whole world was watching.
I was watching from Bill's trailer,
and frankly, I do wish everybody
would calm down.
I'm calm.
I want to tell you that I am calm.
But I was watching.
Please, can you get this thing off me?
- Please!
- What in Jesus goddamn Christ?
- Boss, we know, we know, look...
- The phone calls I'm getting...
Yeah, OK, some... some of the sponsors
are freaking out a bit, but...
Sponsors? Forget them!
My own mother just called!
The thing we must remember...
Uh! Oh, uh... do we need
to introduce ourselves?
Mr Tariq Ali. Please.
What we must remember
is that such pivotal moments in our history
do not occur in a void.
Anger, discord, violence
do not just erupt from nowhere,
they emerge slowly.
This was a long time coming.
And its consequences linger.
My mum!
Well, we certainly gave them
their money's worth tonight.
I have always said
that art is a kind of confession.
- Mr James Baldwin.
- I don't mean to imply
that what we witnessed here was art
by any means.
Look, I get it.
People are upset.
They want to, and believe
that they live inside a particular reality.
And then the veil is lifted,
and one is suddenly forced to witness
not who we would prefer to be,
but instead, who we really are.
As a country. As people.
That is what we are all here for.
We are here to witness.
It's tempting to overstate
the significance...
It's not an overstatement.
Aretha Franklin!
You don't have to announce me, honey,
they know who I am.
And I was there. That summer of '68,
it was a turning point.
A shift, I saw it.
In our culture. In how we literally talk
to one another...
- Bill?
- That was a disaster.
Did that really happen?
Is this real? Am I dreaming?
- Bill, what on earth...?
- Could people hear that, Elmer?
We're editing it out
when it airs on the West Coast.
Look, this is my station.
When I say...
Yes, yes, but could people hear it
over the crosstalk?
- There was a lot shouting.
- People... People heard it.
Now, where the hell is Vidal?
I think he's already talking to the press.
- Of course he is!
- Bill...
Some of us, I suppose,
are spared such trauma.
The trauma of discovering that the world
is not so full of kindness and consensus.
Yes, some of us have known that
for a very long time.
But I understand
why you are shocked to witness it.
Here, tonight,
in full colour, for all to see.
It was a foreshadowing, it was,
of an unhappy future.
The one you're all living in today.
How in God's name did this happen?
- 'This is NBC News. I'm Chet Huntley.'
- 'And I'm David Brinkley.
'This is the Huntley-Brinkley report
'assembled for television
every weekday night
'by the world's largest
broadcast news organisation, NBC.'
'Direct from our newsroom in New York,
'this is the CBS Evening News
with Walter Cronkite. Good evening.'
'Shouldn't I be in the frame?'
My apologies, one second.
'Take your time.'
Twelve seconds to air.
'Not too much time.
'Oh, good, look at that, I exist.
- 'You can hold that call with
my therapist.' - Seven seconds.
'May I ask, was there any news today?
And if so, may I see it, please?
'Thank you.
'What do we have?
War, famine... plague!
'The whole ball of wax, marvellous.
'Well, seeing as we're all here,
we may as well tell people.'
'This is ABC News, welcome.
'I'm Howard K. Smith.'
- Gentlemen, welcome.
- Pleasure.
And thank you so much for agreeing
to come together for this interview.
- Walter.
- Chet.
- David.
- Walter, good to see you.
Ah, Howard! How are you?
Doing just fine, thank you, David.
Just fine.
Gentlemen, if you please?
So... 1968 is an election year.
All three of your networks
will be covering the conventions,
in Miami Beach for the Republicans,
in Chicago for the Democrats.
And just as those presidential candidates
will be vying for delegates,
aren't you also in a kind of competition
with one another? For viewers?
If you want to talk
about competition or strategy,
you need to speak to the network presidents
or the marketing men,
because the business side
is frankly not our business.
We're conduits
through which flow
important news and...
'From Dallas, Texas, the flash,
apparently official,
'President Kennedy died
at 1pm Central Standard Time,
'2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time,
'some 38 minutes ago.'
'Vice President Lyndon Johnson
has left the hospital in Dallas,
'but we do not know
to where he has proceeded.
'Presumably, he will be taking
the oath of office shortly
'and become the 36th President
of the United States.'
But feels like a particular moment
for America.
Vietnam has split the country,
growing racial divisions -
is it your job to make sense
of those tensions or...
The role of the Evening News
in people's homes,
and of the men who steward it,
is to cement opinion, not to disrupt.
We don't stir the pot,
we cool it down.
Right, we simply report,
we don't express opinions.
News must always come
from the centre.
And we invite an audience of different
political stripes to calmly join us there.
Although... yes, the centre.
But that doesn't mean we don't have
a responsibility every so often
to call out something corrupt or immoral
when we are uniquely placed to see it.
I'm a Murrow Boy, what can I say.
We took on Hitler and McCarthy.
But I like these young men.
I do. Smooth, professional,
with all their sponsors and such.
And so, your respective plans
for the 1968 conventions?
At NBC we'll be doing
what we always do -
pointing the camera at the stage
and broadcasting live
from the first gavel to the last.
And at CBS, we'll be broadcasting
in full colour for the first time.
Oh, yes, so will we at NBC.
Democracy in full colour!
Mr Smith,
is that the case also for ABC
with your - if you don't mind my saying -
significantly smaller audience share?
No, I don't mind you saying that.
I mind that it's true.
But I don't mind you, uh... saying it.
Wishing you all the best, gentlemen.
Coming from you, Uncle Walter,
that means an awful lot.
Howard. Remember,
you can always come back.
And be a small fish
in your big pond, Walter?
That's very kind, I'm... I'm good.
You hang in there.
"Hang in there"?
So damn humiliating!
Sheehan, you promised me -
if I came here, you promised me investment,
a marketing push,
that the ratings would change.
Well, to be fair, they have changed,
just... in the wrong direction.
"ABC"! You know what they call us
behind our back?
"The Almost Broadcasting Company."
It isn't funny! Who is this?
George Merlis from marketing.
This is a guy from marketing, and he's
laughing at how much we're tanking.
Third out of three!
If there were four networks,
we'd be fifth.
I overheard a guy in Mortimer's
the other night,
joking that the way
to end the Vietnam War
would be to broadcast it
on our channel -
it would be cancelled within the week!
OK, all right.
We need to turn this ship around,
Elmer, I'm serious.
OK, well, here's the situation.
It's a big year ahead for news.
Haggerty understands that.
But the budget he's allocating
our department is $3 million.
Three million?
That sounds like a lot.
Is it?
How much do Huntley and Brinkley get?
- Thirty-three.
- Goddammit!
Our ad revenues are down.
The main entertainment shows
aren't doing as well as...
What about that crass pile of nonsense
they screen at eight, the one with the nun?
- "The Flying Nun"?
- I've never seen it.
It's exactly what it sounds like.
It's a nun who... who flies around
Puerto Rico, you know, solving crimes.
I thought the purpose of such dross
was to draw in viewers
and therefore advertisers.
what the hell is it for?
Are we not now going full colour, then?
No, no, we are.
Haggerty is insisting.
You know, the show doesn't say
she can actually fly.
The nun, well... It's
just the winds coming in
off the Atlantic that catch her...
her habit.
- The show's about uplift...
- Look!
We're just gonna have to innovate.
Come up with an exciting, new way to cover
the convention that doesn't cost the earth.
Now, up on your feet, all o' ya,
we're going to generate ideas.
Feet? I'm a news anchor, Elmer,
I think best on my ass.
Come on! This is a stand-up meeting.
It gets the blood flowing,
frees the mind.
Merlis, Sheehan, up.
Shake it out.
It's a Californian invention.
It's all the rage on the West Coast.
stand-up meetings were a tradition
of the English Privy Council,
dating back to, uh... ooh, 1708?
Sorry to be that person,
it's just that, well, you know...
the Californians didn't invent everything.
"ABC's Unconventional
Convention Coverage."
I really like it. It's fun.
And it makes it look like
it's a choice, too, you know?
- To be terrible.
- Right.
Right, so, instead of rolling coverage
throughout the day,
we do one evening round-up show,
hosted by Howard,
with his years of broadcast experience,
but, uh... one new thought was
that it might be interesting
to invite real people onto the show.
"Real people"?
You mean like... voters?
Oh, no, I meant like celebrities.
Oh, thank God.
Smart people from the world of film,
Offering up what, exactly?
Well, opinions...
The news deals in facts, Elmer!
Look. I know you think
I'm a cynical executive now,
but I was there with you in Berlin.
Rebuilding the press
for the once oppressed people.
And I'll bet I know and care more
about the true value of news
than any of those chuckleheads
over the road.
But to have value, you gotta be heard.
We need people
that will draw an audience to us.
We have to ask ourselves,
"Why are the races unreconciled?
"Why does poverty persevere?
"Why are the young so disenchanted?
"Why do the birds sing so unhappily?"
It is easier to be carried away.
And yet there is something in the system
that warns us,
warns us that America had better
strike out on a different course
or face asphyxiation by liberal premises.
I'm William F. Buckley in New York.
How about that? First take!
Wasn't that perfect, my love?
Aren't you glad you married someone
so handsome and talented?
Actually, I thought I'd married
a writer and a scholar.
Television! Really?
What on earth
am I going to tell our friends?
You tell them, Patricia,
my little buttercup,
you tell them that your husband
is an exciting new breed of high society.
A "public intellectual".
A true intellectual would have the grace
to stay private about it,
not show off to the world.
A "show-off".
Well, yes.
Onto the next set-up.
And... action.
It is our duty to ask ourselves
these very serious questions
in a very serious manner,
in order to protect
our American experiment
from the encroaching immorality
of the new promiscuous society,
and to stay true to the Christian values
our founders built this nation upon.
My new book is about a man
who becomes a woman,
who becomes a man again,
who, when she is a woman,
she sodomises a man using a strap-on dildo.
I... don't think we can say that.
- Which, "sodomy" or "dildo"?
- Uh...
Really? In Time Magazine?
Why have you chosen to write Myra,
Mr Vidal? A transexual.
Is America really ready?
I don't care if America is ready.
I am ready.
And because it occurred to me that
the central drive in human beings is power,
and that has always been my theme.
And it occurred to me
about sexual relations
how indeed much of it is not based
upon any pleasure principle
or even a procreative one,
but of people gaining power
over others.
And, given that it is as natural to be
homosexual as it is to be heterosexual,
the difference between the two
about the difference between someone
who has brown eyes and blue eyes.
Well, I mean, who says so?
I say so.
It's been a completely natural act
since the beginning of time.
Some may have your own narrow views
of what is correct sexual behaviour.
I happen to disagree with it,
and I think many people do.
Is it true, Gore,
Hollywood wants Myra?
Oh, now, Patty, you know
I don't trade in rumour or gossip.
We call Hollywood an industry.
Well, an industry manufactures things
for consumption.
The only thing Hollywood can be said
to manufacture is comforting lies
that pacify us into accepting
the American Dream,
or rather the American Myth,
inoculating us to believe
that the West is in the ascendance
when it is in fact in collapse.
So, why on earth would I send
dear, sweet Myra
all the way to Hollywood?
Having said that, yes, I've sold
them the rights, and it's happening.
- Gore!
- A man's gotta eat!
And speaking of...
And you are...?
Uh, Matt.
I... I came, with a friend.
Did you now.
Well, welcome, Matt,
to our little gathering
of castaways and degenerates.
This from the man on the front cover
of Time Magazine!
Myra is the front cover. She operates
entirely independently from me.
I watch with horrified fascination
like the rest of you.
Not that anybody's
buying books anymore.
Right, James?
Are people buying our books?
Our books, or any books?
Oh, I don't care about
other people's books, James. Ours!
I should like to think so.
Books for me,
though I read them entirely alone,
made me realise that I wasn't.
They were my window into the world.
Yes, well, that window, I'm afraid,
is now television. Quite literally.
Do you know there are people who now
arrange their furniture around them?
Oh, I'm serious.
Where once an armchair might face a view
or a nice painting...
One of your pieces, Andy!
I just want everyone to be happy.
Really, just...
Yes, well,
television has its downsides.
You know,
when I ran for Congress in 1960,
I gave dozens of appearances for that
demonic, infantilising little lens,
and my opponent for the seat
gave absolutely none.
And who do you think won?
And what are your hopes and dreams
for 1968?
For the good times to continue?
Bobby Kennedy in the White House?
What is my golden rule?
Do not mention his name in this house!
Why did you fall out?
Different beliefs?
Yeah, sort of, in that I have some,
and he doesn't.
No, I fear what awaits us this year
is not peace and parties.
Largely because where there was consensus,
there is growing divergence.
Where once there was hope,
now there is anger.
And so, bluntly speaking,
I think there'll be war.
Aren't we already at war?
Not war abroad,
war here, in America.
And perhaps there should be, you know,
perhaps there should be.
And it'll get ugly...
and you're going to have to pick a side.
Mr Baldwin, what do you think?
Is Gore just playing the playwright, yes?
'I am stating very seriously,
'and this is not an overstatement,
'that I picked the cotton.
'And I carried it to market.
'And I built the railroads,
under someone else's whip, for nothing.
'For nothing.'
I don't know.
I can't bear ugliness.
It's so the opposite of...
you know?
More drinks, please.
Let's lubricate our passage
out of this year
and into the dark,
cavernous hole of the next.
- A phone call for you, Mr Vidal.
- Ah!
Oh, uh, don't leave us with Andy
for too long.
I haven't met a buzz he couldn't kill.
Oh? Oh. Yes. The first man I ever met
with an IQ lower than 60
and yet somehow a genius.
One moment.
What did they...?
Yeah, but there must be some...
Look, Eric, I need this.
I need to stay visible, it's...
Oh, well, I can tone down all that.
The whole East Coast intellectual...
I can be perky.
Look, just get me on it.
- Thank you. Go on.
- I'm saying nothing.
Only... you shouldn't feel
you have to exaggerate your opposition
to that which you are secretly drawn to.
No one would judge you.
Judge me what, James? Fame?
I'm not drawn to it.
It's just that's the new currency,
and so what am I meant to do?
I almost believe you.
Well, it's hard to make a living
telling Americans
something they don't want to hear.
You really don't have
to explain that to me.
Which show is this
that you're trying to get on?
Some game show on CBS.
I don't know.
All I know from now on is
a man should never turn down two things -
sex and appearing on television.
- It's Bobby, isn't it?
- Oh...
I get it.
You thought it would be you
after Jack.
It's all right, Gore, a lot of us did.
Flamboyant playwrights
don't lead nations.
Well, what could they lead?
- The conversation... perhaps?
- Perhaps.
Nice party, Gore.
No Tennessee, no Truman tonight?
Well, knowing Tennessee, he's probably
off somewhere, falling in love.
And knowing Truman,
no doubt the opposite.
Are you all right?
Try to stay happy, Gore.
Be good, and be happy.
Now, isn't this a more pleasant way
to see in the New Year
than any of those ghastly parties
we were invited to?
Conversation around the dinner table.
And a celebration of another year
of our National Review!
Standing alone but proud,
introducing conservative ideas to America.
Uh, thank you.
Bill, come on,
champagne for the toast!
You like traditions.
Yes, but I loathe champagne.
See how much quiet dignity
my whisky has just sitting there,
and then look at champagne,
the attention-seeker of drinks.
Well, speaking of attention-seeking...
Oh, now, Frank, enough!
You've made your point.
I'm just saying. This is more
than a magazine. It's a movement.
And we don't want to jeopardise that
by cheapening it on television.
It's just a meeting with the producers,
and, you see, the problem, Frank, is,
there's nothing cheap
about running a political magazine
for a currently very niche readership.
You're telling me.
It's exhausting, fundraising,
as a conservative in New York.
- Mm.
- The problem is, I'm too damn good at it.
Well, that's because the liberal orthodoxy
has infected every corner
of our political and media class.
What have we had now?
Four of the last five presidents,
Dominance of left-wing ideas
for over thirty years,
and they'll likely dominate for thirty more
if the swivel-eyed cranks in the
Republican Party can't be marginalised.
Some of those swivel-eyed cranks
are our subscribers.
and a lot of them are racist.
What, I've met them, I'm right.
She is right, Frank.
What we need is a respectable,
dignified conservatism,
as, if you'll allow me the presumption,
represented by yours truly.
And you can be respectable and dignified
on network television?
You just watch me.
Five, four, three, two, one,
Happy New Year!
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
For the days of auld lang...
So, let me see if I have this right.
We simply pit a well-known
Republican supporter
against a well-known Democrat
and listen to them exchange views
live on television
during the week
of each national convention.
It's only what you do already, William,
on your own television programme,
- The... George?
- Firing Line.
...Firing Line. People with different
opinions politely talking it out.
Our sincere desire is to elevate
the public discourse, not cheapen it.
And what's the real reason?
That's the reason.
Yes, well, although you're saying
a Republican versus a Democrat,
the questions facing our society
now go way beyond party lines.
These are philosophical questions
we're wrestling with.
And indeed I should need to be free
to criticise the Republican plank
as well as the Democratic one,
especially if the Republicans once again
nominate a candidate from the Old Right.
So, what you're really saying is...
is that you want a conservative
versus a liberal.
This will be the new dividing line in
America and should be represented thus.
See? I already feel smarter.
Don't you both already feel...?
And who precisely will be my adversary?
We wanted to come to you first.
We'll build the thing around you.
Who would you like?
Who would you not like?
Well, I would refuse to appear on air
with an actual communist.
Communist, got it.
And then the only other person
I could think of would be Gore Vidal.
Oh, OK. Why's that?
Ha! Lots of reasons, really.
We disagreed on The David Susskind
Talk Show, a couple of years back.
Frankly, I find his politics extreme.
He's a performer more than he is a serious
dissector of our political landscape.
But I suppose the main reason is,
I just don't trust him.
- Oh.
- Yah.
- Trust him, with regards...?
- To play by the rules.
Well, that's good to know.
You speak about trust, William -
just to reassure you,
in recent years, in every poll,
the institution which most Americans
now place the most trust is... television.
We don't see this little experiment
changing that.
And it is an experiment,
a shot in the dark.
It might work, it might not.
We'll learn things along the way.
"Unconventional Convention Coverage."
That's right! Only on ABC!
Yah, well, count me in.
Well, I have to say I'm not entirely
uninterested by the prospect
if the format is right,
which I should like some input into.
Well, you're not expecting -
how can I put this -
me to dumb it down for your audience?
Well, we would like them to be able
to follow along, Gore,
but you can bring
all your own references, sure.
Pericles, Shakespeare,
all that shit.
All that shit, got it.
And Mr Buckley,
do you think he'll be on board
and ABC viewers will be able
to handle his peculiar tics?
Well, sure,
he's got the way he talks,
but you've got the way you talk.
We haven't exactly revelled
in each other's company on prior occasion.
Oh, really? He didn't say.
Yes, I may have once have referred
to the Buckley family
as being the sort of sick Kennedys,
which for some reason
I think he took personally.
Though, of course,
the political is now the personal.
It's how we identify
and who we identify with.
That sort of goes to the very heart
of the New Left.
The New Left?
Now, where does that come from?
Led by a younger generation,
an exciting generation,
and it concerns itself less with the old
Marxist preoccupations of social class,
and more with social justice -
gay rights, abortion,
black rights, women's rights.
- And, Mr Vidal, you wouldn't mind...
- And you are?
George. Marketing.
You wouldn't mind doing some press?
Well, hello, George Marketing.
And no, I don't mind.
Great. We'd love
to get people talking about this.
You want to get Buckley and I talking, and
then you want people talking about that?
And then, who knows,
maybe those people will talk to each other.
After all, isn't that
what America needs right now?
Let's find out, shall we?
'Quite incredible scenes in Paris...
' tens of thousands of discontented
young people and students
'began rioting in the streets,
'calling on workers to join them
in occupying major institutions
'as part of a general strike that could
bring the republic to its knees.'
'In scenes not seen before, now televised,
'thousands of anti-Vietnam protestors
'marched upon the United States Embassy
in London's Grosvenor Square.'
We express our solidarity
with our Vietnamese friends,
suffering under the oppression
of the West,
for committing the cardinal sin
of wanting to live
under a different political idea!
Welcome to Firing Line.
Here we aspire to carry forward
the torch of the enlightenment,
whose flame in the modern world
may, yes, be fading,
but still flickering... just.
Where we conduct civil discussions
in the old-fashioned belief
that tolerance towards conflicting
points of view
is our only hope of arriving
at a more successful society.
My guest on tonight's show
is Mr Enoch Powell,
who was kicked out of the British
shadow cabinet in punishment for a speech
in which Mr Powell advocated an end
to coloured immigration into England.
Mr Powell, your essential position
seems to be...
'In this country, in 15 or 20 years,
'the black man will have the whip hand
over the white man.
'Like the Roman, I seem to see
the River Tiber foaming with much blood.'
...that the separation
of culturally dissimilar people
is sometimes necessary.
I would say there is a limit
to the number of -
and I'm going to use this word
in an entirely neutral sense -
who can be brought into a nation
without breaking the bonds
of that society
and setting up intolerable frictions
and stresses,
as damaging to one side as the other.
But doesn't one suppose
that as this population increases,
you're simply dealing with Englishmen
with a brown skin?
Rather than with Pakistanis?
Well, actually, as the numbers increase,
the tendency is for separation to increase.
You do, in fact, get a pulling apart.
Well, I'll be pushing you to consider
that point further when we return.
Very good.
Elmer Lower at ABC.
Elmer, listen, if you wanted
my participation in your mad scheme,
you shouldn't have invited the one person
I insisted I wouldn't appear opposite.
'William, we scoured and we searched,
but... he tests great.
'He's a genuine, you know,
'He's got the way he talks,
and you've got the way you talk.'
Look where we are, Elmer.
The political and social discord that is
spreading and growing across the globe.
Do you really feel the framing
of this new and very serious mood
is best served
by someone as unserious as Vidal?
Don't you watch my show?
I can't conduct such calm, productive,
in-good-faith exchanges
with someone like him. He's...
- I mean, he's...
- 'I hear your concerns, William,
'and in recognition
of your great display of magnanimity,
'I'd be willing
to increase your fee to...
- '$10,000.'
- Mm.
'Or we could find someone else on the Right
to put in the limelight.'
Very well.
'Miami welcomes the GOP.
'Greetings, delegates. Speeches begin
tomorrow in the convention hall.'
I'm waiting for my man
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
'Something is happening in our world.
'The masses of people are rising up.
'And wherever they are assembled today,
'whether they are in Johannesburg,
South Africa,
'Nairobi, Kenya,
'Accra, Ghana,
'New York City,
'Atlanta, Georgia,
'Jackson, Mississippi,
'or Memphis, Tennessee...
'the cry is always the same:
' "We want to be free."'
Amazing grace
- How sweet the sound...
- What is happening this year,
what is happening in America,
the assassination of Reverend King...
It's utterly senseless.
But it is beholden on us
to try to make sense of it.
That is one of the motivating factors
behind this year's
"Unconventional Convention Coverage".
To talk to one another.
'What I think is quite clear is
'that we can work together,
in the last analysis,
'and that what has been going on
in the United States
'over the period of the last three years,
'the divisions, the violence,
the disenchantment with our society,
'the divisions
whether it's between blacks and whites,
'between the poor and more affluent,
'or between age groups
or on the war in Vietnam,
'is that we can start to work together,
'we are a great country,
and a selfish country,
'and a compassionate country.
'And I intend to make
that my basis for running
over the period of the
next few months...'
'Senator Robert Kennedy there,
'claiming victory
in the California Democratic primary.
'The next major event
on the political scene -
'the Republican National Convention
in Miami.
'We'll be there.'
'This is Howard K. Smith.'
'Ladies and gentlemen,
we've kept the air on,
'because we've heard an alarming report
'that Robert Kennedy was shot
'leaving that ballroom
at the Ambassador Hotel.
'A very loud noise like a clap of thunder.
'We await more.'
'Robert Kennedy, of course, who lost
his brother to an assassin's bullet.
'One of our assistant directors
was one of those who was shot.
'An ABC assistant director,
working on this programme...
'...shot in the hand.'
Are you all right?
It's OK to feel complicated
and contradictory things
about things that are complicated
and contradictory.
Thank you for that permission.
What went so wrong between you?
Oh, many things.
We were both in love
with his brother, of course,
but in different ways.
And Jackie and I, we shared a step-father,
we were very close.
Which I think threatened Robert.
His place in the circle...
Must have been quite something, though,
being a part of that, you know, Camelot...
- Even for a time...
- We are where we are.
And it's where I foretold
we would be.
The tree of liberty, it appears,
must occasionally be watered with blood.
What is happening?
Andy shot. Martin and Bobby gone.
The world feels on fire.
I hadn't expected this backdrop,
when I agreed to take to the stage.
Well... maybe some things need
to be burnt to the ground.
Can you feel it?
People my age, out on the streets,
fighting for more radical change?
You know, you could become
an entire generation's pin-up, Gore,
with these appearances.
A pin-up? Ha!
Well, anyway, Matthew,
I am glad that you came to Miami.
I could do with your help.
- You're asking for my help?
- Mm-hmm...
Gore! I'd love to!
What, you mean,
uh... work up some arguments and ideas?
I'll role-play some verbal thrusts
and parries and blocks!
Excuse me, post-graduate,
I already have
the arguments and ideas,
they form the core of my very being.
I meant research!
I know Buckley won't prepare.
He thinks himself
too much of a genius for that.
Well, I want to expose him
and his movement
for the bigoted, small-minded,
dangerous nonsense that it is.
I need quotes, gaffes.
Things he's said in the past
that have proven wrong,
so I can humiliate him in the present.
Only I refuse to read his insult
of a magazine,
so if you wouldn't mind,
perhaps you could.
You'll need copies
going back at least eight years.
My publisher can help.
So, I'm a dogsbody?
But what a body!
Oh, I despise labels,
they're too reductive.
I like things that grow
under scrutiny, not shrink.
No, no, no! Back to work!
I want to know, what are we to expect
from the other side?
My, my!
Could we be any higher?
- Look at this view of the sea.
- Yeah.
ABC are investing more
than I imagined.
You better not screw this up, Bill.
You do realise
this isn't my first rodeo, Ducky?
And I've dispatched
far tougher foes than this.
But this is television, Bill.
And I'll bet it doesn't have the order
of, say, your debate
with Baldwin at Cambridge.
Ah, yes, I must channel Cambridge.
The oldest debating society in the world,
the greatest minds
locking intellectual horns...
He is going to try and trap you.
Vidal is perhaps
America's greatest talker.
Thankfully, you are
one of America's greatest thinkers.
I'll confess,
he does make me laugh.
Don't get me wrong,
I think he's the Devil,
but doesn't the Devil often have
the best tunes?
I'm not worried about Vidal.
He'll have over-prepared, whereas we
have just been sailing for a week,
resting on the open water.
In a debate, the best approach
is to trust you have the right instincts
to react in the moment.
Buckley won't have any facts
at his fingertips at all,
only prejudices
which he'll work through in order,
his sexism, racism,
leftism, homophobia,
where I shall be able to summon
statements and facts from my clipboard...
- Where is my clipboard?
- Your sword, sire!
Giving time and place
and statements and statistics.
Not to mention your painstakingly
crafted 'ad-libs'.
Ah, yes!
We need more of those.
Waspish spontaneity
rehearsed in advance.
I'm not worried about Vidal's philosophy,
it's hollow and wrong.
I'm more worried
about his sense of humour.
- He's going to quip.
- Quip?
"He is almost always on the Right
and always in the wrong."
Yes! Nice.
He thinks he's the American
Oscar Wilde.
- Both fags.
- Now wait there!
- I happen to adore the gays.
- Only because they adore you.
- She has a whole list of them.
- It's true, I do.
Fabulously sophisticated bachelors
who attend opening nights with me,
while my hard-working husband
is away.
Is he... I mean,
has he actually ever said...?
I must get under his skin,
make him uncomfortable.
He sweats, he's a sweater,
which looks dishonest on screen.
Remember Nixon?
The last time he ran,
Jack Kennedy beat him,
because Dickie Nixon perspired
under the studio lights,
and the public no longer trusted him.
Fundamentally, if we were to lay it all out
for a popular television audience,
what do the Left believe,
and how do we differ?
Well, you're the former communist,
And thank God I saw the light.
We believe in increasing the freedoms
and powers of the individual.
They fantasise about expanding the role
and responsibilities of the state.
They wouldn't if they lived
in East Berlin or Moscow, believe me!
Naturally, he believes
that if big businesses
and private enterprises
get richer,
they'll be able to perform
the social functions of the state.
But instead they will, of course,
put profit before people,
and our social divides and inequalities
will get infinitely worse.
We are for lower taxes,
surely a popular position.
They for high.
Exactly! They want to take
your money from your pocket,
because they believe they know
how to spend it better than you.
They dislike America,
whereas we, like most Americans,
are grateful to have been born here.
He'll do that classic conservative thing
of equating any criticism of this country
as being in some way unpatriotic.
It's always a slam dunk for the Right.
Oh, he's going to bring up
my apartment in Rome, isn't he?
Yes, of course.
He needs the audience to disregard you
as the out-of-touch, liberal elite.
Yes, but he is for sending
innocent, young Americans
to be slaughtered in Vietnam!
- Vietnam is unpopular.
- I don't care.
We just have to make
their pacifism look weak,
whereas our patriotism
is noble and strong.
- As long as you stay calm, Ducky.
- Have you met me, Ducky?
- Will he attack Myra, do you think?
- Maybe best to sidestep Myra.
Why? Her very existence
will have utterly scandalised him.
You need to stop thinking of him
as your target.
You're trying to win over the viewing
public. It's about how you convert them.
You're never going to convert
William F. Buckley.
Well, I might not convert him,
but I can annoy him.
Oh, I know!
Oh, God, he's going to call me "Bill",
isn't he?
Yes, do it!
Bill! Bill! Bill!
Bill, you can be annoying, too.
- Utterly infuriating.
- Yes, thank you, dear.
Well, I shall address him as Mr Vidal.
In fact, perhaps I shouldn't
address him at all?
In the British House of Commons,
to maintain decorum
and avoid ad hominem attacks,
all points have to go through
the Speaker of the House.
One never speaks
to one's opponent directly.
Well, Howard K. Smith, the anchor,
he could be your equivalent.
Well, I'm quite looking forward to it now.
Er, yes well, try not to enjoy it
too much, Bill.
It's not just our reputations at stake,
though that, too.
Oh, really? What else?
Ducky, look what's going on out there.
We have pulled up to a fork in the road.
Which way, this or that?
It's a... a battle, Bill.
For the soul of America.
Let's keep a little perspective,
shall we?
This is a late-night talk show,
on the lowest-ranked network.
But if I can shine a light
on just how harmful, truly harmful,
Vidal and his radical leftism is,
I'd say that was a pretty good use
of our time.
It's collapsed?
Our entire studio?
Yeah, it... it just came down overnight!
Any others? NBC? CBS?
Just ours.
Of course, just ours!
It's Day One,
and everybody's laughing at us!
They were laughing before,
but son of a bitch and Jesus Christ...
We're gonna throw something together,
no one'll know.
No, fuck it. Let 'em know.
Better yet, we'll tell 'em ourselves.
We own our own stories on ABC!
Three, two, one.
'Mr Lower, you're News President of ABC.
'You promised the world
unconventional convention coverage,
'but this is ridiculous.'
Well, we're sure going to be
unpredictable, Howard.
Indeed we've no idea
what's gonna happen next,
which, for the viewing public,
I hope is exciting.
Now, take tonight, two of the world's
foremost brains are gonna battle it out.
No script, completely live.
William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal.
- And we think the fur is sure gonna fly.
- Got it.
Political broadcast
as light entertainment, Howard?
Wishing NBC a great convention, David.
- Any touch up?
- Oh, yes, I think some...
...some light foundation
around here, if you would.
I'm feeling blotchy today.
All that late-night cramming
of dates and numbers, you know.
- Darling. Hello.
- Oh, good evening.
And some spray for my hair as well.
Anything for you, Mr Buckley?
No, thank you. My wife will just put
a brush through my hair. Thank you.
- Is your wife here, Mr Vidal?
- No!
No wife.
Good luck.
Gentleman, William Sheehan, producer.
We met before.
So, just to take you through it,
we'll do a quick pre-record
of one statement each,
- which Howard will set you up for.
- Mm-hmm.
That'll play in the ad break,
and then it'll just be a couple of
minutes' wait before we go live on air.
Also, I know it goes without saying,
but this is network television,
so, no use of... of... well, any bad
language, profanities, or curse words.
Not that I expect you gentlemen would.
Any questions?
- No.
- Nope.
Very well, then. Follow me.
I hear the entire studio fell over
or something...
Is that so?
Adds to the jeopardy, I suppose.
- Mr Buckley.
- Pleasure.
- Mr Vidal. Howard.
- Hello, Howard.
All right, pre-recorded statements,
We'll start with Mr Buckley.
- All set?
- Um, sure.
'William F. Buckley, Jr...'
My own notion, having just got here
a little while ago,
is what the Miami Convention
already proves
is that the overwhelming amount
of power happens to lie
in the hands
of Conservative Republicans.
'And Gore Vidal?'
To me, the principal question is:
can a political party based
almost entirely upon human greed
nominate anyone for President
for whom a majority
of the American people would vote?
Great! Thank you, everyone.
Last speeches wrapping up
in the convention hall.
- Standby to go live.
- All right. Ah-uh.
All right.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit...!
Sir! Sir! Sir! Please!
No inflammatory language!
- This is the news division.
- He's the head of the...
I'm the fricking head
of the fucking news division!
Fifteen seconds!
Deep breath, everybody.
And five... four...
'For ABC News Convention Coverage
for this presidential election,
'two of our nation's most decided
commentators have joined us this year.
'They are Gore Vidal,
former Democratic candidate for Congress,
'but better known as an author
'of, among other things,
a play about a political convention,
'and William F. Buckley Jr.,
'former conservative candidate
for Mayor of New York,
'but better known
as a columnist, commentator,
'and editor of the National Review.
'Mr Buckley, who of the prospective
candidates do you think is,
'if I may steal a title from Mr Vidal,
the best man?'
Oh, I'm not prepared to say.
I think that several of them are
highly qualified to be a good President.
I think what you really mean to ask me,
but are too shy, is who do I like most.
To which my answer is that,
as a conservative,
I'm very much fetched by the programmes
of Mr Reagan and also Mr Nixon.
'Can Mr Vidal
assess those candidates for us?
- 'What do you think of...?'
- I would come, I think,
to a very different point of view.
I think we're living in revolutionary times
in which new programmes are needed,
and that you're going to need
somebody who can rally
the young people of the country,
the Negroes, the ghetto.
The poor are angry, restless.
This is a terrible time.
And here you have a man,
Richard Nixon,
who, when he was in Congress,
voted against public housing,
against slum clearance,
against rent control,
against extending the minimum wage.
So, if he wins, you'll have nothing
in the ghetto probably,
but the rising expectation
of what is now revolution.
- OK, well, so far so good, right?
- May I comment, Mr Smith?
- It's interesting, isn't it?
- Please do.
- Yeah...
- I mean, is it?
Um... it seems to me
the earlier focus of, um...
...Mr Vidal here on human greed,
you may remember?
He said he found himself wondering
whether a party that was devoted
to the concept of human greed
could ever hope to get a majority
of the American people to vote for it.
Well, now, the author
of Myra Breckinridge
should be well acquainted
with the imperative of human greed.
- I would like to say, Bill...
- So, er...
If I may say...
Bill, before you go any further,
I would like to say that if there were
a contest for Mr Myra Breckinridge,
you would unquestionably win it.
I based her entire style
polemically upon you.
Passionate and irrelevant.
That's, er... that's too involuted
for me to follow.
- One day, perhaps you'll explain it...
- You follow it.
My point is...
My point is, for Mr Vidal to give us
the pleasure of his infrequent company
by coming back from Europe,
where he lives,
in order to disdain
the American democratic process
and to condemn a particular party
as engaged in the pursuit of human greed
requires us to understand
his rather eccentric definitions.
Well, by and large, it is a party
which is based upon business interests.
They get, through big business, they get
far more subsidies than the poor do.
As a matter of fact, we have
a situation in the United States
where they believe they should have
socialism for the rich
- and free enterprise for the poor.
- Well, of course, the thing...
The nice thing about the Republican Party
is that every four years,
after denigrating the poor
amongst themselves,
and I have many quotes here from Ronald
Reagan and Richard Nixon on the subject,
referring to them as freeloaders
and making fun of the minority groups
with lovely little remarks,
then, every four years, you get these
sort of crocodile tears for the poor people
because they need their vote!
Well, I don't think they're going to vote
for any of your candidates,
unless, by some terrible accident,
the Democrats get split at Chicago,
in which case, Richard Nixon
might very well be the next president,
and I shall make my occasional trips
to Europe longer.
Yes, I think a lot of people
hope you will.
Now, it is quite true that Reagan
is capable of talking about freeloaders,
so am I,
because there are freeloaders.
I say the Republican Party
is here to do a responsible job.
To suggest they are
simply here as an
instrument of the
exploitation of the people
is to engage in a diseased
kind of analysis which
increasingly Mr Vidal
finds to his liking.
this is not a national concern.
Perhaps the Republican Party should have
a platform on how to deal with Gore Vidal.
If absolutely necessary, I will write
it for them, but, um... meanwhile...
But meanwhile you have written lately of
your intimacy with Reagan and with Nixon,
and that you've discussed
the Vietnam War with them,
and that you are satisfied
with their positions.
Since you are in favour
of nuclear bombing North Vietnam,
I'd be very worried
about your kind of odd neurosis,
being a friend of anybody
who might be a president.
Well, I would be very worried, too,
if you had such a Grand Guignol view,
but I've never advocated
for the nuclear bombing of North Vietnam.
You have. I'll give you time and place,
if it amuses you.
- Well, you won't.
- I will...
No, I advocated for the liberation of Cuba,
at the same time...
No, no, Bill!
Don't step away from the record.
You suggested the atom bombing
of the North of Vietnam
in your little magazine,
which I do not read but am told about,
on February 23rd, 1968.
Now, Mr Vidal, who boasts of not reading
something he is prepared to misquote
in the presence of the person
who edits it...
Now, Billy Buckley,
the quotation is exact.
- Which we all know...
- The quotation is exact!
We all know that your tendency
is to be feline, Mr Vidal.
- Yes.
- Oh, wow, OK, hah...
Just relax for a moment,
relax for a moment
and think very simply on this.
I have not advocated...
I'm not horrified at the prospect of...
Bill, I just quoted whole sentences to you,
when and where.
- Are you saying you didn't say it?
- I'm saying I didn't say it.
- Tune in this time tomorrow night...
- Your misquotations...
...and we will have further evidence of
Bill Buckley's cold warrior turned hot...
Yes, yes, without the human greed
of everybody in the world except yourself.
Tomorrow we'll have what
Mr Vidal thinks about the Kennedys.
Goodnight, and let me tell you...
'Excuse me, gentlemen.
'It's been very enjoyable
hearing you articulate two points of view.
'Thank you very much indeed.
'I think I detected some
unfinished lines of thought.
'There'll be time
to follow them through tomorrow,
'and tomorrow,
'and tomorrow.'
'Thank you, everyone!'
Well, that started to catch fire, I'd say.
Wouldn't you both?
I think this is gonna work! You?
Yes, I found that most enjoyable.
- Until tomorrow, Bill.
- Er... yeah.
Well, exclamation point.
Move over Nixon and Reagan,
exclamation point.
The beauty of Buckley and Vidal
disliking one another so intensely
and both gifted in invective, dash,
they are far and away
the best infighters in Miami Beach.
Exclamation point, end quote.
Well, I would say, as I suspected,
Billy Buckley doesn't like to have
his own words and his own viewpoints
repeated back to him,
and, frankly,
I don't blame him at all.
Mr Lower, you're parading Mr Vidal
around the convention hall bars
like your prize fighter.
Are we calling debate one for Gore?
Well, that is for the viewing public
to decide,
and I've just heard that that viewing
public is up 250,000 American homes
on our coverage last year.
So, I suggest our friendly rivals
watch out, because ABC's a-coming!
So, what I'm suggesting is a slight
refinement of the format, that's all.
No crosstalk,
none of this interjecting.
Mr Smith asks a question,
I get two minutes to respond,
Vidal does the same.
Like a real debating society,
like Cambridge.
Did you see my famous debate
with his friend James Baldwin
three years ago
at Cambridge University?
In the case of an American Negro,
born in that juddering republic
the moment you are born.
Since you don't know any better,
every stick and stone
and every face is white.
And since you have not yet seen a mirror,
you suppose that you are, too.
It comes as a great shock
around the age of five or six or seven
to discover that the flag to which
you have pledged allegiance,
along with everybody else,
has not pledged allegiance to you.
No, I didn't catch it.
It was civil, proper.
But what makes the whole thing is, William,
is that it is a conversation,
that you are talking to one another.
But he's impossible to talk to!
With his constant, sly,
slithering naughtiness.
But you're both getting equally
good coverage, Mr Buckley. Look.
But was I getting equal time?
Equal time to speak,
it is in my contract.
It sure as hell felt like
he was rambling on more than I was.
We'll make sure Howard is aware.
'Now, what I know many of you out there
are returning here for tonight.
'How the English language
ought to be used by two craftsmen,
'our guest commentators,
William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal.
'Mr Vidal?'
Tonight the key question
for every patriot is,
"Can an aging Hollywood juvenile actor
with a right-wing script
"defeat Richard Nixon,
a professional politician,
"who currently represents
no discernible interest except his own."
Um, Mr Smith, we were just treated
to Mr Gore Vidal, the playwright,
saying that after all Ronald Reagan
was nothing more than, quote,
"an aging Hollywood juvenile actor".
Now, to begin with, everyone is aging.
- Even you...
- Even you are Bill,
- perceptibly before our eyes...
- Yah.
Therefore, that adjective
didn't contribute anything extraordinary
to the human understanding.
Uh, then he said "Hollywood".
Now, Mr Vidal sends all of his books
to Hollywood,
- most of which are rejected...
- Now, Bill, I don't send any there.
- My point is...
- Yes, get to it.
My point is that if you want to play
this sort of game,
I could say, "Look, I don't think
it's right to present Mr Gore Vidal
"as a political commentator
of any consequence
"since he is nothing more
than a literary producer
"of perverted Hollywood-minded prose."
Now, now, Bill, careful now.
- I'm almost through.
- In every sense.
- 'Let Mr Buckley finish.'
- As usual, Mr Buckley,
with his enormous and thrilling charm,
manages to get away from the issue
towards comedy.
He is always to the Right, I think,
and almost always in the wrong.
And you certainly must maintain
your bloodthirsty reputation, Bill,
as the Marie Antoinette of the right-wing.
Mr Smith, I was invited here,
and I'm prepared to try to talk
about the Republican Convention...
- 'Yes.' - ...but I maintain
it's very difficult to do so
when you have someone like this,
who speaks in such burps
and who likes to be naughty,
which has proved
a very highly merchandisable vice.
Not unlike your so public vices...
- No, I don't have any public vices.
- ...and wickedness, Bill.
Stop there.
Wind the tape back.
Living through it once was tedious enough,
I don't see why we have to watch
the tapes back again each time!
We are trying to learn from them, Bill.
To improve.
Look, you cannot keep getting drawn
into this trap
of chasing any quote
he pulls from his ass.
Simply say, "I don't recognise that,"
and get back to your point.
Also, is that little worm allowed to call
on your wickedness on national television?
Why didn't Howard step in?
It's libellous. The mind boggles.
Let's keep watching.
Mr Vidal, I'm quite sure there is someone
in Haight-Ashbury or Greenwich Village
who considers your caricature fetching,
but I don't.
I am so happy to see your elegant prose
style at its very best tonight, Bill.
It's very inspiring
to those of us listening to it.
I think you're being sarcastic.
See, I thought I was doing well here,
showing that he couldn't anger me
by belittling our publication.
A sense of humour? No?
As Pericles once pointed out,
once you get an empire,
it's very difficult to let it go.
But if we don't let it go,
it's going to wreck us economically
at a time when the resources
should go to the slums and the poor and...
for trying to revive
an extremely shabby country.
The country's not quite so shabby
as Mr Vidal believes.
It'll be shabbier if the Rep...
This is the hobgoblinisation
of the Marxists.
But there are left in America
people who can penetrate such myths
that have been energetically projected
by Mr Vidal,
who choose not to avail themselves of the
alternative that Mr Vidal offers them up,
Which would not only be a philosophy
of economic stagnation,
but also a spiritual world of stagnation.
Well, that was nice.
"A spiritual world of stagnation."
Yes, precisely.
You're fighting the good fight, Ducky.
And I'm very proud,
whatever anyone else says.
"The Marie Antoinette of the Right"!
How did you come up with that
on the spot?
Well, little secret,
sometimes I may prepare
a few little manoeuvres in advance.
I try it out on the producers.
George Marketing, I tried that one
out on you, didn't I, young George?
- You did, yes.
- Uh, and me. I laughed.
Anyway, George,
some observations on the format,
having watched the playbacks.
I don't think it works to have the director
cut to Bill while I'm talking.
It's something about the language of
television which we're all learning -
suddenly my words are filtered
through the prism of his reaction.
It alters the meaning of my words.
Do you see?
- I'll see what I can do.
- There's a good man.
Everything all right?
Oh, we were just noting
how grotesque it is
to have that man's face on camera
while I'm talking.
He certainly has some peculiarities,
doesn't he?
- Do you mean this?
- Yes! His smile!
It's as though one side
of his mouth decided
to enjoy something without
telling the other!
It's... It's his eyes.
The, uh... you know, the blinking!
And his tongue! Eurgh...
I want to tell him to stick it back
in his cheek the whole time.
In fact, I shall!
It's the final day in Miami.
Where did they put you, by the way?
- The Four Seasons.
- Ah! I'm at the St Regis.
I didn't ask.
Ready? And...
'We would now like to call upon
our two "controversialists".
'That's a term from the BBC in London,
'and it's a good one.
'I beg our guests
to look beyond the nomination.'
Well, Richard Nixon,
if he is the candidate,
and we assume he will be
in a very few minutes,
I think it would be an absolute disaster
because the young, the black,
the poor are disaffected,
- and I don't see him drawing them to him.
- Yah, well, yah...
We have a 75-billion military budget.
We have two billion dollars for poverty.
Well, if you get us nice and socialised,
like India, we'll all be poor.
Does it appeal to you
that in the United States,
5% of the population
have 20% of the income,
while the bottom 20%
have 5% of the income?
- I think that's irrelevant.
- Well, it seems to me...
- No, no, no!
- I know you revel in a kind of inequality,
- because then this is based upon that.
- I believe that freedom breeds inequality.
Say that again?
Freedom breeds inequality.
Now, I'll say it a third time.
No, twice is enough.
I think you've made your points, yes.
Unless we have the freedom to be unequal,
there is no such thing as freedom.
And that we ought to encourage a system
that permits people like you,
people like Mr Smith,
people like the technicians,
and all the people in this room
to make progress.
The fact that they make more progress
than other people is not their fault,
nor is it the fault of other people.
It is the fault of freedom.
Don't agree.
I think the strongest
line Mr Nixon could take
is to face the people
of the United States and say,
"The principal reason,
for the discontentment of our time,
"is because you have been encouraged
by a demagogy on the Left
"to believe that the federal government is
going to take care of your lives for you."
(The answer is the federal government
a) can't, b) shouldn't, and c) won't.
Under the circumstances,
look primarily to your own resources -
spiritual, economic, and philosophical.
Don't look to the government to do it
because the government
is going to fail you.
- Well, what can I say?
- Not much.
You have given that ghastly position
once again
of the well-to-do
and those who inherit money...
- Balderdash!
- ...and believe in others who do not.
But in actual fact,
you are going to have a revolution
if you don't give the
people what they want.
Now, I am putting it
to your own self-interest,
they are going to come
and take it away from you.
Look, my friend...
Mr Vidal, if you really
believe that the way
to address the people
of the United States
is to say to them, "Well, unless we
give you precisely what you want,
"you are entitled to come and take it,
"to burn down the buildings,
to loot the stores, to disrespect the law,"
then I say you do not recognise
you are an agent
for the end of democratic government.
And you are the minority position
in politics in the country.
I believe in America.
- We are...
- Which America?
'Can we stop on the words
"Which America"?'
"Which America", very good.
'Thank you, gentlemen.
'I hadn't designed that by the way.
'In any case, you'll be back with us,
I am delighted to know,
'when we pick up with the Democrats,
in Chicago.'
Just wonderful!
It's all anybody is talking about!
We're up two million on last convention.
And it's only gonna climb higher!
Nixon has just won
the Republican nomination by 92%,
while the Democrats are completely split
without Bobby.
We've got a real presidential race
on our hands! A nail biter!
Oh, Christ, can it be true?
They just united
around a political heavyweight,
while our side are about to start
tearing chunks out of one another!
It's gonna be all right.
Come on, come on.
"Which America"?
Mr Nixon!
Congratulations on the nomination, sir.
I'm a huge supporter of your wo...
Oh, really? I...
I didn't realise that delegates
and the candidates themselves
were taking any notice of this...
Yes, we'll be going head-to-head again.
I shall certainly try my best, sir.
For you... and the movement.
Yes, sir. Goodbye.
I don't believe it!
This has actually become a thing!
People are watching.
The party's listening to me.
I didn't think this was going to be
so important,
but with someone like that,
so dangerous sat opposite me,
and the format so unpredictable...
We have to get to work.
I need to be ready in Chicago.
I have to win... whatever that means.
And not just narrowly,
not just the perception.
I need to completely end his tranche
of reckless thought and obliterate him!
I did warn you, Bill.
"The soul of America," remember?
O say can you see
By the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight's last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
Through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched
Were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there
O say does that star-spangled banner
yet wave
O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave?
Well, that was the last motherfucking thing
we needed, goddammit!
Whose dumb shit idea was that?
Mister Mayor, it's Aretha Franklin.
The Republicans
don't have Aretha Franklin.
The Republicans aren't split down
the goddamn middle.
Did we know she was gonna
sing it like that?
Jazz it up, soul sister!
It was her own interpretation.
The National Anthem
doesn't need an interpretation!
Listen to that! The Southern delegates
yelling, the Northern delegates cheering.
No more!
Chicago is my town, my convention.
And you news boys better know
which side your bread is buttered.
Mayor Daley...
Just keep the cameras pointing
in the right direction, OK?
Don't go broadcasting any trouble
from a vocal minority
out there on these streets.
The cameras can only show
what's there, Mayor Daley,
if protestors do descend
onto the streets.
You pick and you choose.
You create "narratives".
And you say "protestors",
I say "rioters".
Well, any arsonists
clutching a Molotov cocktail,
shoot to kill. OK?
Jesus Christ, most of these are kids.
You do your jobs,
the police will do theirs,
and hopefully the dumb fucking
delegates will do theirs, too,
and nominate Humphrey
as LBJ's successor.
Nice and easy, down the centre.
All right?
Oh! And keep Gore fucking Vidal
on a leash, too!
He's meant to be one of ours!
Gore is not an ABC employee,
Mayor Daley, he says whatever he likes.
For fuck's...! We need a convention
free of controversy.
Vidal is a notorious,
narcissistic controversialist.
Jesus Christ!
Why don't you just hand the Republicans
the keys to the White House now?
Welcome, delegates!
Chicago is delighted to have you.
And rest assured,
as long as I'm mayor of this town,
there'll be law and order
in Chicago.
The bells, the bells!
May they never stop.
Er, one moment, please.
Um, it's Norman.
Which Norman? Mailer?
No, no, add him to the call-back list.
But gently, now. Remember,
he's been known to stab people.
Er, Mr Mailer?
Yes, yes... he'll call you back.
Uh, he says, "Go fuck yourself,
you can of intellectual toxic waste."
Well, I would fuck myself,
but I've got others to fuck first.
I don't want to be too tired.
There's Hubert Humphrey, for a start.
Likely nominee, but Vietnam hawk.
Then the entire Republican Party watching
from home and thirsting for my blood.
Everyone is sending notes
and leaving messages.
Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem,
Allen Ginsberg.
Oh, and, er... Arthur Miller
and Paul Newman have turned up.
They'll be rooting for you
on the floor of the convention hall.
They're delegates, here to select a
nominee, let's not get carried away.
You're allowed to enjoy it, Gore.
I would.
I've never... well, I will never have
any kind of recognition like this.
- A platform of this scale.
- You don't know that.
I know that you're happy. Admit it.
From the biggest talker in town,
to being the talk of the town.
I don't need a psychologist.
Well, then, fuck!
What do you need, huh?
What does Gore Vidal need?
You always hurt the one you love
- And they say I'm guilty of theatrics.
- The one you shouldn't hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose...
Not really. I predicted it entirely.
Oh, you didn't have to come, Howard.
But I'm so glad that you did.
And who do we have here?
Oh, er... er, no one.
No one is no one.
Er, Matt, Matthew. Hello.
I'm helping out with...
- Howard Austen. Gore and I...
- I know.
You know? Oh, Christ! Tell me, then.
I've never been able to work it out.
Howard, don't be slinky.
I'm afraid I have a dinner
with three congressmen, two senators,
and one soul singer.
I must finish getting ready.
Please, don't squirm. It's all right.
It's part of the arrangement.
- Oh, I wasn't...
- Well, I assume it is.
That's the nature of such things.
One doesn't put words to them,
it's never spoken out loud.
The funny thing about Gore,
a man so verbose,
there are things he cannot
or will not put words to.
He's never actually said
he's a true friend of Dorothy's,
or even her casual acquaintance.
Labels are dclass to him.
And I wouldn't have known
what dclass was,
had Gore not picked me up
from some bath house 20-odd years ago.
So, what do you say to people?
To people? To press?
To the parents
who no longer speak to him?
That we made a decision
to live together forever.
What more is there to say?
Er... I will go and, er...
finish up these notes for... er...
I'll, er... leave you to it.
Look at this suite!
To the Windy City
from the Miami Seas.
Do you know they
actually decided to hold
this convention in the
meatpacking district?
Flies everywhere!
And all those armed soldiers outside.
It felt like entering a police state.
Well, Matt says everyone and his wife
is here to protest.
Black Panthers, Students, Anti-Vietnam,
every grievance on earth.
And the whole city is holding its breath.
Perhaps the whole country,
I don't know.
Have you come to drag me back to Italy?
Please say it's so.
Fuck off!
Wild horses couldn't, and so on.
This is all you've ever wanted.
You are just like him.
Go on, then, what?
You men who know me so well,
what has been my soul's desire
now fulfilled?
Fame? I already had that.
You had infamy. This is different.
More than that.
Political significance.
The powerful are taking note.
But here's the thing, Gore Vidal.
I think you're better than this.
Buckley's right about you. You...
Excuse me? Buckley doesn't know
the first goddamn thing...
You are exceptional at being naughty,
fine, OK,
but where's the writer,
the great thinker I know?
- The great poet?
- "Poet"?
- Yeah, poet.
Be better.
That's incredibly helpful, thank you.
Why not?
Buckley will be better, he's not stupid.
He will be, Gore, this time.
You can make them laugh. Hurrah.
What about making them think?
Making them feel?
Find the words to tell them
exactly where we are.
Good heavens, honestly!
Every excruciating essay of his it has been
my misfortune to read this past fortnight
indicates the real weakness
of the new, modern Left.
Everything they obsess over
and advocate for
now actually alienates those
who used to vote them into power.
Hard-working men and women.
That's because the Left
don't care about class anymore.
Their obnoxious leaders,
Vidal included,
they're not from these neighbourhoods,
they don't know these people,
they probably don't even like them.
And that's a whole new constituency
which we can move to our side at last.
These are the silent majority
in America.
And that is exactly
who you must speak to, Bill.
The silent majority.
This army of mutinous young people we're
told are about to lay siege to this city
and wail about how awful
American capitalism is.
Who are they?
Everyday citizens? Hell, no!
Long-haired, bearded,
middle-class college elites.
Well, their campus language won't cut
through the cameras to Middle America,
so ours must and can and will.
Oh, sure, cos you sound like
a regular trucker in a bar, Bill.
Now, now.
Bill can be... apple pie.
No, no, she's right, she's right, I can't.
Nor do I desire to.
It's about what I say, not how I say it.
Yes, well,
this is all well and good,
but you're playing the ball.
Did the debates in Miami
not teach you anything?
People are tuning in
to watch you play the man.
- I won't stoop to his...
- Bill, listen. You're too damn smart!
And it is going to kill you out there.
Look, the average American,
as you call them,
cannot follow all you're saying,
they just can't.
So, what they're trying to work out
instead, between you and Vidal,
is who is the better person,
and in so doing,
whose America that they want to live in,
his or yours, that's it.
That's all this is.
"Who do I like the most?"
And I don't care if Frank disagrees,
he's too damn smart, too.
I agree with everything Patricia's saying.
So... go on, then, Ducky, do tell.
How do I beat him at this disgusting
popularity contest you are envisioning?
How can you beat him
if you don't know him?
- Absolutely not!
- What?
Myra Breckinridge, the darkest
recesses of Vidal's filthy mind.
What, are you worried
you might enjoy it?
Look! What I would like is
to destroy his character, yes,
but preferably preserve my own.
I want to demonstrate
you can win the argument
without plumbing his undignified depths.
Then explore how deep
those depths go, Bill. Come on.
All right, all right, all right!
Drag up everything you can about him,
so that we can warn America.
Who the hell is he?
What emotional buttons can I push?
What buried trauma is there?
Didn't Daddy love him?
Is he a closet Republican
acting out of self-loathing?
Did he lose a cat as a child?
If so, what was the damn thing's name?
I know some people at his publishers.
I could pump them for intel.
Well, I have the gays covered.
You know, I think quite a few of them
might loathe him even more than we do.
- And Bill?
- Hmm? Ah!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
'All this security
makes me very nervous.
'But it's necessary, apparently.'
'The delegates Paul Newman
and Mr Arthur Miller...'
'It's a little frightening, quite frankly,
being in this, er... fortress,
'trying to select a president.'
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
- He grew up in D.C.
- Ha!
No one grows up in Washington D.C.
It's a swamp you travel to
in order to do politics.
But Gore Vidal, as I live and breathe...
No wonder he's so sycophantic
about government power.
- Parents divorced.
- Well, naturally.
He moved from house to house,
mainly with his grandfather.
- Ah, this is the blind senator.
- He ran for Congress.
- And lost.
- You lost, when you ran for Mayor.
Yes, dear, that was different.
I was running disingenuously.
- He was sincere.
- Ah.
It was at the same time his pal
John F. Kennedy was running for Senate.
- Only Gore lost.
- Yes.
Wait a minute.
- Wait a minute.
- Ooh, what? What are you looking for?
A letter.
Ah! A silver bullet
to load into my pistol.
He loathes the mention of the Kennedys.
It disorientates him. Why?
They all got what he truly wants,
but he pretends otherwise.
He's an outsider, desperate to be in.
So are you.
- I am not.
- Oh, please. Look at you.
No wonder you loathe one another,
you're the same people.
We are not the same.
I think that's self-evident.
- Two sides of the same coin, then.
- Ah!
He has two apartments in Italy.
Ravello and Rome.
Er... a place in New York,
another L.A.
And a long-term something
with this Howard Austen fellow,
though whatever it is exactly,
the one thing it isn't is monogamous.
Goodness, he really can't
make up his mind, can he?
Not only that,
he doesn't even go by his real name.
His Christian name is Eugene!
Gore is a surname he just took
and gave it to himself.
My God! He doesn't even exist.
Nothing about him is real, permanent.
He has no roots.
He doesn't come from anywhere.
He has no regular family.
He is incapable of committing
to a relationship
as much as he is
a country to reside in.
No wonder he wants to burn it all down
and to hell with the consequences.
He lives an entirely
consequence-free life.
"Though liberals do a great deal of talking
about hearing other points of view,
"it sometimes shocks them to learn
that there are other points of view."
OK, new tactics!
You have to come out strong
as soon as the bell rings.
Vidal will most likely do what he did in
Miami, go immediately below the belt.
Saying something provocative and personal,
a punch to the gut to wobble you.
- Instead...
- I, er... I block that and back off.
Enjoying the insult!
Bill, you need to revel in his pastiche
of you as the arch conservative, OK?
Laugh it off. Ha-ha-ha-ha!
Good. Good!
Then surprise him by...
Going in for a clinch.
Saying something that he agrees with.
- Just the thought of it!
- But he's confused.
He clinches back, agreeing with you.
And that's when you counter
with an uppercut...
Getting personal back,
attacking his character.
He's disorientated,
"Where did that come from?"
So, he starts to swing wildly.
He looks deranged. You back off...
While he's flailing around, confused
that his left jabs aren't connecting,
you come in
with a straight right counter...
- Um... common sense.
- Yep!
- Principled. Pow! Practical. Pow!
- Yes!
- You've got him on the ropes now!
- Time some low blows of your own.
- Um... lives abroad.
- Oof!
- Hates America.
- Oof!
- Pervert!
- Argh! He's down!
'I am Myra Breckinridge,
who no man will ever possess.
'The new woman whose astonishing
history started with a surgeon's scalpel,
'and will end... who knows where.'
'Who is Myra Breckinridge?
'What is she?
'Myra Breckinridge is a dish,
and don't you ever forget it,
'you motherfuckers,
as the children say nowadays.
'My mission?
'The destruction of the last vestigial
traces of traditional manhood...'
Oh, heavens!
' the race to realign the sexes,
thus reducing population,
'while increasing human happiness
and preparing humanity for its next stage.'
Of course, you know my theory.
Why does any bigot
really hate the gays so much?
Oh, come off it, such a clich.
He is very effete.
He's rich.
Rich and gay often look the same.
I don't know. I do not know.
Useful buttons to press, though,
as we hit round two.
'After their successful debut
as convention commentators in Miami Beach,
'William F. Buckley, the conservative
commentator on the defensive in Miami,
'may now take the offensive.
'But I beg to put the question
to Gore Vidal,
'author, playwright,
increasingly also a commentator.
'Mr Vidal, do you
feel more comfortable
philosophically here
than you did in Miami?'
I wonder if that word will ever be used
again while we're here in Chicago.
This place is a shambles,
a police state.
One is aware of the horrors
of the world here,
the smell of old blood,
the shrieking of pigs
as they're slaughtered in the morning.
All this reminds one of life and death.
Lovely, calm, gravitas.
And I think the conversations
that are going on now
seem to be particularly urgent.
In a sense, I do feel at home in a way.
But not happy.
Good, nice.
'Mr Buckley, what do you think
will be the main weaknesses
'the Democrats will display
here in convention assembled?'
For years, America has elected
a Democratic President,
a Democratic Senate
and a Democratic House,
but what has been done
to greatly speed America along its way
to achieve stability, security?
I think the main weakness
of the party at this point
is the collision between its ideology
and the practical consequences
of its ideology.
A party that preaches peace,
and yet periodically leaves the world
in a shambles.
The uncertain war in Vietnam,
the politics of unrealism in Europe...
Come on, Bill, remember the plan.
Something he can agree on.
The fact that the Democratic plan
commits to, quote,
"encourage by all peaceful means
"the growing independence of the captive
peoples living under communism."
Well, if in fact America
can't devise a foreign policy
which seeks to affect these goals,
why do they bother to create the rhetoric?
- 'Mr Vidal?'
- I think that is an awfully good question.
I'm happy to see you doing
your homework, Bill,
that you quote from the platform
of the Democrats.
I... I think I quite agree.
It is totally irrelevant rhetoric,
and I wish we'd stop it.
Now, in for the kill!
Except you specialise in staring crises
in the face and saying irrelevant things
about how impossible it is
to do anything about them.
Republicans specialise in avoiding crises.
Have you noticed we haven't had
any major wars when the Republicans are in?
Or have you not been doing
your homework?
Er... if I may say, no thanks to you,
because you, after all,
favoured the invasion of Cuba...
The invasion of Cuba was undertaken
by a Democratic administration.
Mr Buckley really does believe
in these Holy Wars,
that we are the forces of light,
and they are night,
forcing ourselves upon the world.
To what end? To what end?
It seems you know less about international
politics than even I supposed.
The reason, Mr Vidal,
is that there is among decent people
a tradition that dates back
to the Declaration of Independence
that says we have a concern
for the decent opinions of mankind.
We have lost the good opinion
of all decent men of Europe,
most of our traditional
allies, of Canada.
No, no, no, no! No!
- We have lost in Vietnam.
- "We've lost Canada"?
'We have about twenty seconds.'
And it is also true
that some people lose respect for you
precisely at the moment when you should be
earning their respect.
I think the important difference is,
the Democrats are clearly displeased
with their own plank,
whereas the Republican's represents
the overwhelming majority of them.
I... I think that is well observed.
The Republicans are pretty united.
I accept there is a definite split here.
I personally favour,
as I think many people do,
the McCarthy/McGovern Vietnam planks
over Hubert Humphrey's proposals...
Perhaps, as a matter
of testamentary integrity,
I could reveal a concrete proposal
contained in a letter
sent to me by the late Senator Kennedy
about six months ago,
the P.S. of which was,
"Instead of giving blood to the Vietcong,
we should give them Gore Vidal."
May I see that? Really?
I do share Mr Kennedy's notion
that Mr Vidal's idea about how to prosecute
the whole situation out there
is marred by his sort of strange fantasies
concerning the realism of politics.
I must say, I am looking at this.
What very curious handwriting.
Also, it also slants up.
Sign of a manic depressive.
Well, whether you forged it or not,
I do not know.
I will have to have my
handwriting experts, the
graphologists will have
to take a look at it.
I put nothing beyond you.
The fact that he was writing you letters
makes me terribly suspicious of him
as a presidential candidate.
But to get back to the plank - it's been
fun inspecting your correspondence.
- Now, wait a minute!
- We have nothing to gain by this war!
We have not lost the war in Vietnam.
What we have lost is our opportunity
to press the war with such weapons
that are especially at our disposal.
Are you in favour
- of an all-out war on communism?
- No, Mr Vidal.
To use nuclear weapons
as you have in the
past, on many occasions.
I never said...
'You are both much better
when you don't talk at the same time.
- 'Could we take turns?'
- I don't see how Mr Buckley,
with his concerted will,
thinks we're ever going to win a war
we've spent five
aggressive years in losing.
I said we could win, Mr Vidal,
- I never said we were going to.
- No, no, no! You said, "We will win."
- I said we could, Mr Vidal.
- Could we or should we?
Well, obviously, we should.
Ah, that's all we needed to know.
Here he sits, take a good look at the
leading warmonger of the United States!
Bill, don't point your tongue at me now.
Keep it in your cheek where it belongs.
If, uh... If I am the leading warmonger
in the United States,
then I am contrasted with you
in the sense in which the majority
of the people in the United States,
including the leadership
of the Democratic Party
and the leadership of the Republican Party,
belong with me,
whereas you go to Rome
and expatriate yourself.
Oh, I think we need
to straighten this out now.
I don't expatriate myself.
I have an apartment in Rome, and I go there
for two or three months every year
to be close to the Vatican
and to contemplate William Buckley
and his mad activities back here,
with enormous serenity.
Ah, well, the encyclopaedia of morality,
which constitutes your published work,
is hardly my primary source.
Do you read?
You could learn a great deal.
Mr Vidal, to be perfectly bleak
and to be perfectly blunt,
I think we're headed for total disaster,
this empire.
With people like Mr Buckley here
beating the drum,
the ecological balance of the planet
is upset.
The food supply is in danger.
I think there is war coming.
Mr Smith,
this is a recurrent phenomenon.
People who like to sort of massage
their world-weariness
by telling us how everything
is going to the dogs.
There's a curious coincidence about
the fact that it's always going to the dogs
because we don't do
what they tell us to do.
Well, as a matter of fact,
this year's liberal rhetoric
has fallen into a conservative chapter.
It's all about private enterprise
making money, not... not doing good.
Don't you understand, Mr Vidal,
that the making of money is, according
to systems discovered 300 years ago,
a way of helping people
because it is a way of making goods
available to people at a cheaper price.
Got it?
Got it?
'I think this is the last remark.
'Can you do it in one line?'
Yes, simply in one line,
it has been a great pleasure to observe
America's leading hawk and great heart
with enormous compassion...
Don't stick your tongue out, Bill!
...once again in action.
'That was a long line.
'We must break it off there
and return tomorrow night.'
- Need a hand?
- No, thank you.
- You did fine.
- Oh, shut up!
- You did good.
- Shut up! Just shut the fuck up!
Look, what's the difference?
As usual, your supporters will think
you did better,
- his supporters will think he did.
- That is not enough!
That is no longer enough!
Not enough, I agree.
What was with your tongue reference,
over and over?
- He threw me, I...
- Gore!
You are a chronicler of antiquity,
the great biographer of America -
enough already
with the goddamn stupid jibes!
You could walk out.
I would. Just refuse to be here.
That's not very grown up, Matthew.
This whole convention
is a stitch-up, a sham.
Real politics is happening on the streets.
You should wanna be outside, Gore.
And what would that look like,
leaving the field?
I know the advice you're going to be given
and you'll probably take out of pride.
"To be less loud, less angry,
more like him."
When you should be louder!
And angrier, like the people out there.
The people out there are going
to hand this election to the Republicans,
who won't deliver any of what they want.
- Well, at least they're honest.
- Enough! OK?
Enough fucking advice!
Jesus Christ!
I need to think.
Mr Vidal?
Might you have a moment?
'As I look at the confusion in this hall
'and watch on television
the turmoil and violence...
'...that is competing
with this great convention
'for the attention of
the American people...
'...there is something else
in my heart tonight.
'I say we Democrats
must reject the Mayor's gestapo tactics
'on the streets of Chicago.
'I say we must turn away
the National Guard...'
Those TV bastards!
Whose side are they on?
East Coast pricks.
They pointed the camera straight at me,
right at me,
to capture my response to Ribicoff
pissing on my city from the DNC stage!
Your friends at ABC, fucking lipreaders,
saying I said...
What are they saying I said?
Uh, "Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch,
you lousy motherfucker, go home."
And that's not what you said?
That is exactly what I said!
But it was my business saying it!
We should throw the TV cameras
out of here.
Democracy can't function like this!
But you, Gore.
Look at you flying the flag,
every night, doing your bit.
Mayor Daley, my positions remain quite
clear on the war and how you're running...
I only meant it's great to see you
back in the centre of things.
I know your journey up through the party
was, uh...
Well, I mean, it didn't quite go
how you might have...
Look what I'm saying is,
what I'm seeing, what we're all seeing... the real Gore.
A statesman.
And I think if you continue
fighting for us on air,
in your own way, not propagandising,
just singing your own party's song,
then maybe
there are some Senate seats,
such as that fucker Ribicoff's out there,
that might become available after all.
Come back inside, Gore.
Come in from the cold.
Well, look who it is!
Mr Huntley, Mr Brinkley,
how goes it at NBC?
You're looking very much at home
in these old stockyards, Elmer,
rolling around like a pig in shit.
Oh, is that right?
Well I'm just going over our ratings,
and, uh, where did all these extra viewers
come from?
Oh, gosh, I sure hope
we're not taking them from you.
Said with all the characteristic grace
of your political coverage, I see.
Yeah, you know what I see?
You two, interviewing
celebrities now,
putting famous mouthpieces
up on the screen.
Don't seem to be laughing at our little
experiment quite so much anymore, huh?
It's the Democrats, for God's sake!
All of Hollywood is here, you can't swing
without hitting someone famous.
And believe me, we wouldn't be
lowering ourselves if we had any say in it.
Lowering themselves?
Who's lowering themselves?
Buckley and Vidal are the smartest men in
America. They're elevating the discourse!
They are insulting each other, Elmer.
It's a slanging match, nothing more.
Have you even been listening?
Look at what they're saying.
"Metaphysical differentialism.
"Marxist hobgoblinisation.
"Recidivist imperialism."
"Recidivist imperialism"
on prime-time network television!
I don't even know what it fucking means!
But these are smart words.
Big words. Huge!
It's theatre.
Well, people like theatre.
Some of it.
Goddamn these flies!
What genius decided
to hold the convention here?
Hogs and cows being slaughtered
in the midday heat.
It feels prophetic.
- Pathetic?
- Pro-phetic.
I stand by mine - it's pathetic!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
The whole world's watching!
It's a full-scale riot downtown.
- Oh, fuck! My eyes!
- Matthew?
The police, they're
dragging protestors away,
they're firing tear
gas into the streets.
What happened?
The Mayor's office denied marchers
a permit to assemble in the park,
but there were already thousands
on their way,
and someone took down a flag.
I don't know, you need
to ask your producers
to send more people
down there now.
Folks have to see this.
- I'm going down there myself.
- Don't be an idiot, you'll be hurt.
Well, maybe I should be.
Gore, this is fucking real.
It's not a TV show.
You think that you sit there
under those lights,
that it's real, that it matters.
On the frontline of history.
You're nowhere near the frontline, Gore,
you never are, any of you.
You distance yourself from everything...
...and everyone.
- What happened?
- Jesus, my eyes!
The protest is outside the Convention Hall.
They're right at the gates.
Are the police lines holding?
They're using tear gas and mace.
- On reporters?
- What on earth is going on?
Annie, are you OK?
You're bleeding.
It's just a bit of a blow to the head,
I'm all right.
We can't have our own news teams
being beaten by police.
We've up to twenty reporters with injury
being carried in there, and...
Goddammit! There's tear gas
spreading into the hall now.
Maybe it'll help with the flies.
This is the assistant director
who was hit in the hand
by the bullet that killed Bobby Kennedy!
Where's the protection,
let alone the respect?
That was you with Bobby?
It's not as bad as it looks.
It just hurts a little.
Excuse me, I need a second.
All right, I want everyone in production
to wear these masks.
We're gonna put fans on the stage
to clear any gas that's there.
We got half an hour before we go on air.
You need to talk to the Mayor, Elmer.
This is damned absurd.
If I may, Mr Smith, it
is not the job of the
news to get involved
in local politics,
merely report it.
And those lines of police officers
are trying to keep us safe.
Are you out of your mind?
Does she look safe?
In this hall, there are men and women
engaged in peaceful, democratic action -
the same action threatened
by an angry revolutionary mob.
I wish I was out there with them!
Oh, do be my guest.
Gentleman, please, can we save it
for the final showdown?
Everyone else,
I want to see masks!
We go live in 30!
I do believe that Gore Vidal is scared...
I'm not scared, Jimmy.
I am incandescent with rage.
And a little scared.
What is happening?
I think we're losing. Are we losing?
Am I?
The leadership,
they're... they're buckling.
They're buckling under Buckley
and his seemingly unstoppable,
advancing conservatism.
Look at what the mayor is doing,
a liberal mayor in a liberal city,
using the very same language
of law and goddamn order.
And it's working, isn't it?
We are moving in their direction.
We are moving to the Right.
- The Democratic Party?
- America.
I didn't see it, and now...
The forces of history
have driven us to this point.
You cannot take the weight
of that responsibility on yourself.
I volunteered myself into that chair,
thinking it would all be a bit of fun,
a nice profile booster,
that Buckley would crumple
under my ferocious... my...
It wasn't supposed to matter!
Maybe it doesn't, maybe I am
fooling myself, as I always do...
You're right.
It shouldn't have mattered.
This pageant, this pantomime.
The problem is,
people like blood sports,
so they tuned in.
And now it does matter.
And now you have to win.
How did you beat him
at Cambridge, how?
Did I beat him?
- You got the votes.
- Yes...
but did I beat him?
Look around.
He... He said
the strangest thing to me,
just before we began at Cambridge.
He asked me
if I enjoyed this kind of thing,
and I could not fathom what he meant.
Did I enjoy speaking for my life
and the life of millions of others?
Did I enjoy a battle for people's right
to simply exist,
and be heard... and be happy?
But of course now I see it.
The real world,
to him and to others,
and possibly, if I may say this,
to you as well,
is an abstraction.
A thing to consider, like a painting,
and express a viewpoint on it.
But you aren't in it.
Maybe I am not in it anymore.
I make my speeches, and don't get me wrong,
I think speeches are important.
We write our books and our plays,
and don't get me wrong,
I think they are vital, too.
For our humanity.
We have our debates.
But let's be honest, Eugene,
you are a God up high on Olympus,
musing upon the activities of man below
as if it were an intellectual curiosity
of no significance.
Well, I'm afraid now there is.
We are going to go one
way or the other, and
as you say, you put
yourself in that chair.
And we are where we are.
And the whole world is watching.
' our two guest commentators,
William Buckley and Gore Vidal,
'and to ask them what observations
they've made about the security
'we've seen all week this convention,
'and the events tonight
on the streets beyond this convention hall.
'Who is first?
Mr Vidal, first?'
I think there is very little that we could
say that would be in any way adequate.
It's like living under
a Soviet regime here.
The guards, the soldiers, the agents
provocateur on the parts of the police.
You've seen the roughing up.
It was a friendly,
nonviolent demonstration.
As a rule, the press
is on the side of the police.
But this time, the police
have seriously injured some 21 newsmen,
and the press has, of course, reacted.
'I wonder if we can let Mr Buckley comment
now for a short while.'
The distinctions to be made,
Mr Smith, are these: Number one,
do we have enough evidence
to indict a large
number of individual
Chicago policemen?
It... It would seem from what
you have shown us that we do.
However, the effort here,
not just on your programme tonight,
but during the past two or three days
here in Chicago -
has been to institutionalise
this complaint,
that we have got, in effect,
a police state going on here,
we have got a sort of fascist situation.
Now, the point is,
policemen violate their obligations
just the same way politicians do.
The point is...
And if we could all
work up an equal sweat,
and if you all would be obliging enough
to have your cameras handy
every time a politician commits demagogy,
or passes along a graft or bribe,
or every time a labour union beats up
someone who refuses to join his union,
then maybe we could work up
some kind of impartiality in resentment.
But don't do what's going on
here in Chicago tonight,
which is to infer from individual
and despicable acts of violence
a case for implicit totalitarianism
- in the American system.
- 'Mr Vidal.'
We have the right,
according to our Constitution,
of freedom of assembly.
These people came here with no desire
other than anybody's
ever been able to prove
than to hold peaceful demonstration.
- I can prove it.
- How can you prove it?
Very easily. I was fourteen windows
above that gang last night.
Those sweet little girls
in their sun-baked dresses
we heard described a moment ago,
and the chant between eleven o'clock
and five o'clock this morning,
some four or five thousand voices,
was sheer and utter obscenities
directed at the President
of the United States
and at the Mayor of this city.
This is their way of accosting
American society.
And I say it was remarkable that there was
as much restraint shown as was shown,
for instance, last night,
by cops who were out there for 17 hours,
without inflicting a single wound
on a single person,
even though that kind of disgusting stuff
was being thrown at them
and at all of American society.
'Our assistant director,
who was injured at the scene,
'said there ought to be a different way
to handle situations like that.'
Well, I wish she would invent it.
What in fact are we supposed to use
when they break law and order
as handed down by judges?
The right of assembly is not absolute,
the Supreme Court has ruled
on several occasions.
'Let Mr Vidal...'
The right of assembly is in the
Constitution, in the Bill of Rights.
It's not absolute, not
without consequences.
Nothing on earth is absolute!
That's right,
we live in a relativist world.
However, it is the law,
it is the Constitution.
And let us have no more sly comments
in your capacity as enemy of the people.
I was out there.
There were none of the obscenities which
your ear alone seems to have picked up.
They were absolutely well-behaved,
- then suddenly the police...
- I was there.
No, you said you were on the 15th floor.
I don't believe you were there.
And furthermore, the leaders
of the New Left who were involved in this
are talking about revolution.
They are not talking about bloody
civil war, as you would indicate.
All you do is violate the law!
It is no violation of the law
to freely demonstrate.
They came here for free assembly.
They have not been allowed
to hold a demonstration in Soldier Field.
Instead, the police,
fired up by Mayor Daley
and a lot of the
jingoes around here,
began roughing up everybody,
and you want to sit here
and talk about law and order?
'Mr Vidal,
wasn't it a provocative act
'to try to raise the Vietcong flag
in the park in the film we just saw?
'Wouldn't that invite, um...
raising a Nazi flag in World War II,
'would have had similar consequences?'
You must realise what some
of the political issues are here.
- There are many people...
- You are so nave.
...who happen to believe the United States'
policy is wrong in Vietnam,
and the Vietcong are correct
in wanting to organise their country
in their own way politically.
If that is a novelty in Chicago,
that is too bad.
I assume the point
of American democracy is
you can express
any point of view you want...
- Yes, but not without consequences...
- Shut up a minute!
No, I won't!
Some people are pro-Nazi.
And the answer is they were well-treated
by the people who ostracised them,
and I am for ostracising people
who egg on other people
- to shoot American Marines and soldiers...
- As far as I'm concerned...
I know you don't care.
...the only sort of pro-or crypto-Nazi
I can think of is yourself.
- Failing that, I would say...
- 'Now, let's not call names.'
Now listen, you queer!
You stop calling me a crypto-Nazi!
- Or I'll sock you in the goddamn face!
- 'Let's stop calling names.'
- And you'll stay plastered!
- 'Gentlemen!'
Let the author of Myra Breckinridge
go back to his pornography!
- 'Gentlemen!'
- Stop making allusions to Nazism!
- 'I beg you!'
- I was in the infantry, I fought Nazism!
You were not in the infantry. As a matter
of fact, you didn't fight in the war.
- I was in the second battalion!
- You were not.
You are distorting
your own military record.
'- Mr Vidal, wasn't it a provocative...
- a provocative act
'to try to, er... take down the US flag
and raise the Vietcong flag,
'even if you disagree with
what the United States is doing?'
It is not a provocative act.
You have every right in this country
to take any position you want to take,
because we are guaranteed
freedom of speech.
We just listened to a...
rather grotesque example of it.
Certain acts that are lawful...
Certain acts that are lawful
are nevertheless provocative.
I think that's what a lot of people
don't understand.
It is that the reason we succeed as a
society is that we exclude certain things.
We exclude genocide, class hatred...
We ought to exclude it.
'Mr Vidal?'
What more to say?
There are many acts which provoke.
What are we doing fighting in Vietnam,
if you cannot freely express yourself
on the streets of Chicago?
'I think we've run out of time,
'and I thank you very much
for the discussion.
'There was a little more heat
and a little less light than usual,
'but it was still, er...
very worth hearing.
'That's all from Chicago.
Good night.'
And we're out!
is he allowed to say that?
I mean, we were live,
and he did say it, so...
Ah, shit!
can you get this thing off me?
- What in Jesus goddamn Christ?
- Boss, we know, we know.
The phone calls I'm getting!
Yeah, OK, some of the sponsors
are freaking out a bit...
Sponsors? Forget them!
My own mother just called! Furious!
Well, we certainly gave them
their money's worth tonight.
- Bill!
- That was a disaster.
How in God's name did this happen?
- '...shoot American Marines...'
- 'As far as I am concerned...
'...the only sort of pro-or crypto-Nazi
I can think of is yourself...
- 'Failing that, I would say...'
- 'Now, let's not call...'
'Now listen, you queer!
'Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi,
'or I'll sock you in the goddamn face,
and you'll stay plastered!'
Well, there you go.
I'm sat here, just as you are,
watching decades later,
trying to make sense of it all,
trying to understand.
Brooke Gladstone.
I'm a media analyst. Hi.
Mr Smith, that must've been
quite the night for you?
"Quite the night"?
I was told the network heads, forgive me,
"shat themselves".
That kind of hate displayed
so openly on live television.
Until, that is, the ratings came in.
Ten million homes!
Ten million!
We've beaten CBS and NBC.
Can you believe it, Howard?
- You did it!
- What did I do, Elmer?
We wanted conversation.
They were just screaming at one another.
Come on, celebrate.
From third to first!
We're number one!
We're number one!
We're number one...
From that moment on, guest commentators
became the norm on every network.
Mr Pro versus Mr Con, put them together,
fire them up, get them going.
Ah, just different points of view,
having it out.
Poor Bill, I know how much
he regretted it deep down.
I saw it in the years
we spent together at home,
overlooking the calm waters
in Connecticut.
And Gore, perched high above
the Mediterranean at Ravello,
regretting... absolutely nothing.
They never saw one another again.
An arrangement that suited them both.
Oh, please!
They went on for the rest of their lives,
obsessing and utterly loathing each other
in the way that only two men
so similar can.
I never watched the debates again.
Far too busy,
much too much to do.
Gore keeps a VHS copy of the debates.
He watches them constantly.
You snitch!
And why the hell shouldn't I?
I won, after all.
Did you? I mean, Gore, I adore you,
I'm just saying.
Who won that election? Nixon.
Then, we got Reagan, which, to be fair,
this man Bill practically invented.
Conservatism taken root in America.
I mean, you've seen the debates.
Are they something or nothing?
Well, er... in terms of language,
yelling the word "queer" live on television
most certainly broke an unbreakable taboo.
After that,
on American television, we had...
well, a "motherfucker" a year later
on Dick Cavett's show.
We waited eight years for a "dirty bastard"
by a Sex Pistol in the UK.
Is that so? How long
did we have to wait for a "cunt"?
- 1999.
- Oh.
For me, watching them again,
they remind me of a time
when television was still a public square
where we all gathered together.
More and more, we're polarised
into these communities of concern,
living in our own separate realities.
What can I say?
It makes us less of a nation.
It was Bill who died first.
Just a couple of months
after you, Ducky.
Didn't seem much point
in hanging around.
And I was just so tired of... life.
I'm afraid it gave Gore a great amount
of pleasure to outlive Bill.
The problem was that Gore
needed things to fight against,
- and without Bill...
- Oh, without you! all went by so quickly, didn't it?
Of course it did.
We were too happy.
Write about that.
Tell them how quickly it goes.
Oh, they know.
They just won't do anything about it.
What about you, James?
Is Howard right?
Do I thrive
on the hatred of my enemies?
All I will say is...
whatever the hate,
wherever it comes from,
it will always end up destroying
the one hating.
It's an immutable law.
Be happy, Gore.
Be good, and be happy.
What I don't understand is
that you did see each other again.
We did not!
You keep saying that,
and you wrote that,
but the memory shifts to suit the
narrative. It's not the reality.
The reality is, there
was one more debate,
after that famous one
that night in Chicago.
I don't recall. Do you?
What might you actually say
to one another, I wonder,
off camera if you could,
and not performing this time.
Just talking.
Like a true debate should be...
Uh... sure. I would say...
I should... to ask...
..."Do you really loathe it all
so much?
"The America that has given you everything,
celebrates you, accepts you?"
Ha-ha, does it indeed?
They wouldn't elect me, remember.
And why not? Do you think if I had tried to
be more likeable, easy-going, like you...?
Like Bobby?
You clearly attract people,
their curiosity.
Ah, but then they leave.
At the end of the party,
at the end of the night...
...with a waspish anecdote
from Gore Vidal.
And where are you?
- Left alone.
- No, never alone!
No, never on your own,
but always alone,
which I know you revel in.
Now Bill, I know it
must be lonely for you
up on your moral high ground.
Yeah, I know your side likes sneering
at those of us with traditional values
and conventional family.
And I know the way you think
you live your lives is... oh, so brave.
You know what real bravery is?
Loving someone so completely.
Being committed to one person
so entirely that...
...losing them would break you.
And you know that,
don't you, Gore -
whoever the hell that is -
which is why you can't commit
to anything.
To a person you can't leave.
To a home you can't move from.
Yeah, I know, the Left's view of these
small-town people - "how pathetic".
Pride in their nation - "how nave".
Having a God, to believe in - "imagine".
Have you ever believed
in anything that much?
- Except yourself. No!
- Yes.
- Oh, sure!
- Once.
And that once was enough...
I thought of him as my twin, actually.
As close as two things could be,
from the first moment we met, oh...
One half of the same whole.
Always there...
...until he was killed in the war.
One of those things which you love so much,
and I find so...
- I don't love war.
- All that I was not, he was.
And all that he was not, I was.
The two of us would have been pretty good,
rolled into one, actually.
But alas...
But you see the thing is,
Billy Buckley...
you want to preserve
traditional structures,
because these structures
traditionally benefit you.
You talk of fear, but isn't that
where all your politics come from?
Isn't that what conservatism is,
being utterly terrified of change,
of the world altering, into something
you don't recognise and can't control?
And it's why you can't
ever forgive yourself for
exploding at me, live on
television, isn't it?
It tears you utterly apart, the one time
you weren't in control of yourself.
Your emotions,
your natural instincts on full display.
And it's why I think you're happiest
when you sail out in the open water,
away from the world.
In front of the world,
you called me a queer.
You called me a Nazi.
In my more generous moments,
I'm almost sorry.
Only very, very occasionally.
And you?
- 'Mr Buckley?'
- What does concern me greatly,
is the whole notion
of what I think it is we need
to keep civic union working.
- 'Mr Vidal?'
- I think it is quite serious.
I see a great split coming, and I...
...I would agree with Mr Buckley
to that extent.
And, uh...
no reflection, Mr Smith,
but I do now think such debates
are absolute nonsense.
The way they are set up,
there is almost no interchange of ideas.
Very little, even,
of authentic personality.
Then, there's the terrible thing about
this medium that hardly anyone listens.
They sort of
get an impression of somebody,
think they figured out exactly what
he's like by seeing him on television.
This would mean you might have
the most disastrous man in the country
who just so happened to be
an entertaining television performer,
and he could beat a virtuous person
of no telegenic charm.
The whole thing has been taken over
by this camera.
Does television rule America?
There is an implicit conflict of interest
between that which is highly viewable
and that which is highly illuminating.
So, all in all, I hate to come out
against the idea of debate in our lives,
but the way they are now set up
on television, honestly...
I don't even think I'd bother
to watch this one.
'Um, well... Um...
'What then, uh...
'If you don't believe in debates,
'what qualities, then, do you suggest
that people judge candidates by?
- 'Mr Buckley?'
- Uh, here is what I would say.
I would say that we live in an age
where people wander around
pursuing their own private vision,
irrespective of whether or not
it gets in the way of other people.
So, what I think we ought to attempt
is to show how that moral arrogance,
which characterises most units
of our society today,
is going to make democracy...
'Thank you very much, gentlemen.
'We're going to have
many more pressing issues and events
'coming up this year
and, indeed, beyond.
'I wish you were here
to comment on them.
'But, in your absence...
'...we shall try to do our best.'