I'm currently reading Craig Shirley's excellent book on Reagan's 1980 campaign, Rendevous with Destiny. It talked about Reagan's opposition to Carter's Panama Canal treaty and it reminded me of a debate between Reagan and Buckley on that very issue that I saw re-run on C-Span while I was in college. Thankfully, C-Span actually does have it in it's extensive video library. Unfortunately, I couldn't embed the video but you can watch it here.
It really is an amazing debate. First, on one side you have William F. Buckley and George Will versus Ronald Reagan and Patrick Buchanan (before he went nuts) on the other. Even John McCain's father, Admiral John McCain, gets involved. It reminds you of the high caliber of people who used to be the leaders of conservative thought and they weren't afraid of offending anyone. In his opening remarks, Buckley made a quip about Turkish heroine and Qadaffi "lubricating his megaphones". While Reagan said that Carter would pull out all the stops to promote this treaty, saying "we might even possibly hear from someone who might have an interest in banking", which he made to applause (remember Reagan was a fan of Main Street, not Wall Street). Second, the amount of detail in this almost two hour debate is amazingly extensive. Our current debates are just a shadow of their former selves, as, it seems, are most of the representatives of conservatism. It really is hard to imagine any of the GOP candidates in 2012, other than Newt Gingrich, being able to participate in such a debate. Mitt Romney, a Lowell Weicker Republican, who does a great job in making statements that mean nothing, would not have been even allowed into the building where this debate was being held.