SPECIAL FIRING LINE DEBATE, A: RESOLVED: THE ACLU IS FULL OF BALONEY (TV)

Summary

One in this talk/interview series hosted by William F. Buckley, Jr. This program takes the form of a panel discussion on the following resolution: "The American Civil Liberties Union is full of baloney." Speaking in favor of the resolution are Buckley; Lino Graglia, a professor of Law at the University of Texas; William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and Robert Knight, director of cultural studies at the Family Research Council. Responding against the resolution are Ira Glasser, ACLU executive director; Nadine Strossen, ACLU president; Leon Botstein, president of Bard College; and Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. After moderator Michael Kinsley provides an introduction, Buckley officially proposes the resolution and argues that the ACLU has earned its reputation as an "unfocused bunch of lefties" by bringing lawsuits against such institutions as "the school that said that boys couldn't wear sagging trousers that reveal their underwear," and "the Indiana bar that banned 'dwarf bowling.'" In presenting the counterargument, Glasser asserts that since its beginnings in 1920 the ACLU has striven to "defend individual rights and American freedoms," and has drawn praise from both Democrats and Republicans -- including Buckley himself. Graglia calls the ACLU "subversive of community values, traditional values, and social order," citing examples of the organization's position on a number of controversial issues. Strossen expresses her pride in the work of the ACLU in defending "all fundamental freedoms for all people." Donohue argues that civil liberties must be balanced with a modicum of restraint. When Botstein begins his statement, he is interrupted by a group of Bard College students chanting, "Students of color have no choice, students of color have no voice." Kinsley manages to settle the crowd, but only for a moment; the students begin their chant again, and this time they suspend the debate until they are allowed to read a list of demands, including scholarships and affirmative action for students of color, a student-appointed dean of multicultural affairs, and permanent ethnic-studies professors. Graglia attempts to ask Botstein a question, but the students resume their chant. Kinsley tells the protesters that there is nothing he can do to stop them from interrupting the debate but expresses his opinion that they are invoking not civil liberties but Stalinism in doing so. Strossen then suggests that the students find a more suitable time and place to express their displeasure with Botstein and Bard College. When the auditorium finally settles down, Graglia asserts, "This performance reflects what the ACLU has done to this country." Knight calls the ACLU a "bully" and talks about the parents who have to fight to protect their children from pornography. Lynn, however, says, "When history is written, scholars will say. .. that the ACLU stood up for the rights of everyone," and cites the organization's work in getting a governmental apology and reparations for Japanese-Americans interned during World War II. Next, after Buckley and Glasser defend their opening statements, Donohue and Botstein begin to debate the ACLU's positions on crime and on the rights of those who oppose abortion to demonstrate, but as soon as Botstein begins speaking, the student protesters start chanting, "When they say, 'step back,' we say, 'fight back.'" In an effort to stop the demonstrations, Botstein cedes his time and asks Strossen to take his place at the podium. Graglia and Strossen then respond to questions from the opposition; Buckley and Glasser discuss the ACLU's position on the separation of church and state; Knight and Lynn answer questions in defense of their opening statements; and Glasser and Buckley present their closing arguments.

(Network affiliation varies; this program was also syndicated from 1966 to 1971 and from 1975 to 1977.)

Cataloging of this program was made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Theodore R. Stanley.

Details

  • NETWORK: PBS
  • DATE: June 19, 1998 Friday
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:56:39
  • COLOR/B&W: Color.
  • CATALOG ID: T:61903
  • GENRE: Talk/Interviews
  • SUBJECT HEADING: American Civil Liberties Union
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1971-1999
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Warren Steibel … Producer, Director
    • Paul Sweeney … Associate Producer
    • Muriel Oxenburg Murphy … Associate Producer
    • Dorothy McCartney … Researcher
    • John Virtes … Researcher
    • Russell Jenkins … Researcher
    • William F. Buckley, Jr. … Host, Panelist
    • Michael Kinsley … Moderator
    • Leon Botstein … Panelist
    • William Donohue … Panelist
    • Ira Glasser … Panelist
    • Lino Graglia … Panelist
    • Robert Knight … Panelist
    • Barry Lynn … Panelist
    • Nadine Strossen … Panelist