Reagan v. Buckley: Debating American Foreign Policy (video)

October 6, 2011 by  

On October 6, 2011, we joined the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and Heritage Foundation historian Lee Edwards for a theater screening and discussion about the famed 1978 Buckley-Reagan debate. The event was held in the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium. Special Thanks to the Hoover Institution for providing archived video footage for the screening. That debate set the gold standard of how to address differences on policy while agreeing on principle. The Common Sense Society of Washington, DC considers this a model for our future debates about ideas and problems in U.S. foreign policy. CSS is a debating society for young professionals interested in foreign policy.

Archived Video:

Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to post video of Reagan and
Buckley’s debate. Archived video and audio includes Dr. Lee Edwards’
introduction of the debate, followed by the panel discussion after the screening.


Screening of
Resolved: That the Senate Should Ratify the Proposed Panama Canal Treaties

A “Firing Line” debate featuring Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley Jr.,
George Will, Patrick Buchanan, and others

Followed by a Discussion with

Fred  Barnes
Executive Editor, The Weekly Standard

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Dr. Lee Edwards
Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought, The Heritage Foundation

In 1978 two luminaries of the American conservative movement disagreed over a matter of foreign policy – whether or not the U.S. should relinquish control of the Panama Canal Zone.  It was the height of the Cold War.  At stake were U.S. security interests and the nature of America’s role in the world.  Instead of ignoring their differences on this issue, Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. came together for a live televised debate in order to present their arguments to the public.  In so doing, they set a gold standard of how to handle disagreements over ideas and issues in public policy.

Today, as in 1978, the American public and the conservative movement are divided about America’s proper role in the world.  Vigorous, civil, and informed debate guided by America’s founding principles can help us prudently apply those ideas to the issues of the day.  In this spirit, we take a look back to Reagan and Buckley’s example of doing precisely that.  Following the screening, our panelists will discuss the impact of that debate on America and the conservative movement, as well as the continued relevance of live, substantive debate in an age increasingly influenced by social media.

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