THE PLANK MARCH 1, 2008
Amidst all the nice encomiums about Bill Buckley given to the New York Times by both his liberal and conservative interlocutors, there was, predictably, this:
“I was never on his show,” Gore Vidal, with whom Mr. Buckley had a famous feud, said on Thursday. “I don’t like fascism much.”
He added: “I was one of the first people he asked. And, of course, I
refused to be on it. And, of course, he lied about it afterward.”
The "famous feud" in question occured during a live televised debate at the 1968 Democratic National Convention when Buckley called Vidal a "queer," (it ought be noted that Buckley was prompted in this utterance by Vidal's calling him a "crypto-Nazi" first). What was remarkable about the outburst was that it was so utterly uncharacteristic of Buckley, who never evinced such ad hominem hostility in speech or print before or since. It was an outburst that he forever regretted. Sam Tanenhaus, who's writing a biography of Buckley, wrote earlier this week that, "I can reiterate that in all the time I knew him, dating back
to 1990, I never once heard him speak disparagingly of anyone,
including Vidal." I lack Buckley's restraint, and will permit myself to observe that Vidal, true to form, remains a catty old bore.