That aside, I would pay money to hear William F. Buckley, Jr. speak Spanish.
A great moment was when he made the mistake of inviting Groucho Marx on his show (Marx was a liberal), who made him look like the stiff prig he was. A grotesque moment was his debate with James Baldwin at Cambridge University, during the height of the civil rights movement, when Buckley defended states' rights and racial discrimination. It's on YouTube. The students voted and Buckley lost.
No true Scotsman.
> He was a narrow-minded ideologue
> used every rhetorical flourish
> doctrinaire positions
> never acknowledged that his opponents' positions had any value whatsoever
This is really what prompted the response, you can easily find examples of him conceding points to his opponents online.
In his discussions with Hitchens, the default mode is for both participants to bounce between encyclopedic historical/geographical trivia and playfully needling one another. However there are moments where each will say that the other has made an interesting point and carry it forward further. 21:30 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeGKcX-JHNE Earlier and later in the piece Buckley ganged up with Hitchens against Tyrell.
Most of Buckley's opinions are really dated, stuck in a version of Cold War politics that is nearly incomprehensible today, so I'm not trying to endorse his conclusions.
But he is one of the few people I've ever seen on television that has actually waited to hear what the other person says, even rephrasing it to make sure he's clear on their exact arguments before responding. That sort of patience has become a unicorn in entertainment today.
Sometimes his conversations flew off the rails, but he pulled off good conversations from time to time with people he deeply disagreed with.
Maher desperately tries to have difficult conversations, and sometimes succeeds, but it's like he's got a 30 second shot clock above the cameras measuring how often they need to slip in a punchy zinger and change the subject.
Real disagreements are just damn hard to capture on television with the attention span of most audiences. Mostly we just ended up with people shouting over each other. After watching talking heads shows today, going back and watching Buckley argue with someone is a surreal experience, easily preferable in contrast.
The Hitchens discussions were better, even though they were very far apart politically.*
And he had some with sitting Democratic politicians where he would occasionally make concessions. Towards the end here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5-R2aHdul0
Though he starts by setting up an unproductive definitional trap about liberalism, a recurring theme, he basically backs off after being called on it (roughly 4:55).
It's unfortunate that that full conversation (and really, more Firing Line) isn't on YouTube so we'd have more case studies.
* Perhaps ironically, because Hitchens became a lot more sympathetic to Buckley's views on military intervention and skepticism of Communism later in his career. I think that's to Hitchens' credit though, that he was able to continue turning these issues over in his mind and apply them differently to different contexts.