The Life and Genius of Charles Krauthammer

Courtesy of Fox News

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper about the passing of my friend Charles Krauthammer.  I spoke on Fox News about Charles, who was an extraordinary mind and an extraordinary man.

Here is the column:

“He’s with me.” Those words from Charles Krauthammer reassured me when my appearance by his side, standing in full Cubs regalia, caused the owner’s box of the Nationals to go dead quiet.

Krauthammer, who died Thursday, was a diehard Nats fan (a self-described “rehabilitated Red Sox fan”), and he was my friend. Despite our otherwise diametrically opposed baseball allegiances and some differing political opinions, I was proud to hear those words because I was always proud to be with Charles, whether at a stadium or a television studio.

He was one of the most intelligent and honest men I have ever known. From baseball teams to politics to his own physical state, Charles led a life of change, breaking away and rebuilding with every new generation. He succeeded out of sheer will and a type of quiet passion. His was a life of growth and discovery. And, for the many of us who knew him or followed his writings, there was a genuine genius to his 68-year journey.

Two weeks ago, Charles penned a goodbye note to his family, friends and fans. It was vintage Charles: unadorned, honest, direct. After explaining that an aggressive form of cancer had returned, he shocked the world by saying that he had just weeks to live. He ended with these words:

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny. I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

Charles lived a life intended but unplanned. He faced obstacles that would seem insurmountable but always had a confidence about the correct, often unplanned path. Charles was born in New York City in 1950 in a Jewish Orthodox family. His father was from Ukraine and his mother was from Belgium. They would move to Montreal and, early in his schooling, Charles stood out as a brilliant mind. He graduated from McGill University with first class honors and then studied at Oxford University. He was then admitted at Harvard Medical School.

While a first-year student, Charles was paralyzed below the neck in a diving accident. After 14 months in the hospital, Charles returned in a wheelchair and later became a resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. Despite being paralyzed, he quickly rose as a star in psychiatry. He would publish groundbreaking work on the study of mania and coined the term “secondary mania” as a type of manic depression.

Krauthammer’s life took another turn in 1978 when he started to write for that liberal iconic publication, The New Republic. Yes, Charles Krauthammer was once a classic liberal. He even served as a speechwriter for Walter Mondale. His writing style and penetrating analysis quickly became a sensation and soon he was writing for the Washington Post, leading to a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1987 and a position as a television commentator on PBS “Inside Washington.” Charles continued to defy expectations and assumptions, both physically and politically. His analysis moved him gradually rightward. He would be credited with the first broad treatment of what became known as the “Reagan Doctrine.”

Charles was now one of the most influential thinkers of his generation. (Even Bill Clinton called him a “brilliant man,” to which Charles quipped that his career was officially “toast.”) He later answered the most common question about his intellectual evolution this way: “I was a Great Society liberal on domestic issues. People ask me, ‘How do you go from Walter Mondale to Fox News?’ The answer is, ‘I was young once.’ End of answer.”

Charles continued to eschew labels, often speaking in a voice that was both intellectual and irascible. His take on stem cell research was illustrative: “I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception. But I also do not believe that a human embryo is the moral equivalent of a hangnail and deserves no more respect than an appendix.” Charles called himself a “psychiatrist in remission,” and his writings often reflected his view of human experience.

Charles remained a contrast of the rivaling forces in his life and his writings. He had the most inquisitive, active mind of anyone I knew despite being anchored to a wheelchair. He had seats at the Nats that allowed him access to the games. We would discuss kids and politics and, always, baseball. We would watch the game gently unfold as we discussed the world around us. Baseball was a profound experience with Charles. He said that he loved baseball precisely because it was a slow, “complex, cerebral game that doesn’t lend itself to histrionics.”

Complex, cerebral, and no histrionics. Just like Charles Krauthammer.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

43 thoughts on “The Life and Genius of Charles Krauthammer”

  1. Patriot, you seem like a man with a lot of pent up anger. Maybe a few sessions with DR. Krauthammer would have helped you find some peace of mind.

  2. He wrote: “Clashes of values and the struggle for primacy constitute a constant in human history that accounts for that other constant – conflict and war.”

    True, as far as it goes, and also revealing his #MeFirst attitude as he aged. Interesting intellect, minimal humanity.

  3. Krauthammer was tough, I didn’t like him but he had a sharp mind and persuasive rhetoric. Very thick skin. Mentally tough as hell

  4. Off topic, I suppose, and last week’s news but I just learned of it from TNYT discussion on the 30th anniversary of Jim Hansen’s testimony before a US Senate committee regarding climate change:

    Hansen & Ramanathan share Tang Prize worth $1.3 million:

    Two Scholars Awarded Tang Prize for Sounding the Alarm on Climate Change and Impact of Air Pollution
    AP Press Release
    2018 Jun 18

  5. I loved him and would have loved to meet him. He was strong, articulate and a hero to me. People can put whatever labels they want upon him. I does not matter. He was brilliant and honest. I could tell he was sweet because everyone that knew him said so. I will miss his brilliance forever.

  6. Charles Krauthammer was a war criminal, a war monger and an advocate for and an aider and abettor in the murder of millions of innocent human beings.

    One who asserts a claim or position must offer facts, evidence.

    [ At best, the professor confuses feelings for facts. At worst, the professor is an oligarch who knowingly, deliberately and willfully supports and maintains a murderous military, industrial, surveillance security State. ]

    I offer facts, evidence why Charles Krauthammer was a war criminal, a war monger and an advocate for and an aider and abettor in the murder of millions of innocent human beings.

    Fox News contributor, Washington Post columnist and neoconservative thought leader Charles Krauthammer has died of cancer, and there is a mad media rush of establishment eulogies scrambling to canonize him as a great man in the eyes of the public before anyone can step back and take stock of what this man’s legacy actually is. This is perfectly understandable, because if social consciousness cements into history what a wheelchair full of toxic human waste Krauthammer actually was, it will make things much more difficult for them to manufacture support for their neoconservative wars going forward.

    In April of 2003, Charles Krauthammer christened the Iraq invasion he had loudly and persistently advocated the
    “Three Week War“. As part of his arguments about how easy the war would be and how soon it would be over, the time-challenged Krauthammer bizarrely asserted that the war in Afghanistan had taken nine weeks.

    In October of 2003, after the Three Week War had been raging on for seven months, he penned an article for the Chicago Tribune titled “The problem with armchair pundits“, which was essentially one long whine about all the criticisms the Bush administration had been receiving for its disastrous intervention.

    “If in a year or two we are able to leave behind a stable, friendly government, we will have succeeded,” Krauthammer wrote. “If not, we will have failed.”

    In February of 2004, after the Three Week War had been dragging on for nearly a year, Krauthammer received an Irving Kristol Award (essentially the exact opposite of what a Nobel Peace Prize is supposed to be), during which he gave an influential speech about the wonders of unipolarity, a popular term he coined that is now a popular term commonly used in reference to neoconservatism which describes America’s dominance over the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The speech laid out a framework for how the US government can best use its ability to unilaterally effect change throughout the post-9/11 world.

    In May of 2006, after the Three Weeks War celebrated its three year anniversary, Krauthammer was named by the Financial Times as the single most influential commentator in all of the United States. He would go on to sell the lie that “Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi,” and then to advocate regime change in Syria. On top of the terror, destabilization, and million deaths caused by the Iraq invasion, Krauthammer used his immense influence to help manufacture support for tens of thousands of dead Libyans and hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians caused by US interventionism in those nations.

    And still he remained gainfully employed. As Obama prepared to leave office toward the end of Krauthammer’s career, he excoriated the outgoing president for insufficient hawkishness and interventionism with Syria, Iran, Russia, and Iraq, all in the same article. One of his final Washington Post op-eds called for the US to re-place nuclear weapons in South Korea, leaving one to wonder if his cancer left him lucid enough to see the steadily progressing peace talks proving him wrong one last time.

    To the very end of his career, Charles Krauthammer was shoving the world as hard as he could toward death. He loved death. Now he has it. May all other neoconservative death cultists soon get their wish as well.

    In spite of overwhelming and repeated mountains of evidence to the contrary, Charles Krauthammer claimed to believe that wars were easy, expedient, and good. He spent decades promoting death and destruction in the name of this perverse ideology, and allowing the world to make a saint of him now would be paving the way for more Charles Krauthammers in the future. He was evil, he served evil, and it is good that he is now dead. Hopefully McCain, Kissinger and Cheney soon follow, with increasingly great disdain shown to their infernal legacies.

    The American supremacist vision of unipolarity Krauthammer based his worldview upon has led to entire nations being collapsed under the false pretenses of spreading freedom and democracy, when in reality they were first and foremost geared at preserving that very unipolarity as a goal in and of itself. US-led wars of aggression are about power and dominance; believing that the most powerful empire in the history of civilization isn’t driven primarily by a hunger for power is like believing that Jeff Bezos is uninterested in money or Kim Kardashian is uninterested in fame. This insatiable power hunger is what Krauthammer dedicated his life’s work to feeding, no matter how many lives it cost.
    And now he is gone. Finally. Good riddance.

    Let us remember him for what he was, and not for the fake image of him that the establishment war propagandists are scrambling to create.

    Charles Krauthammer is dead. May he rest in war.

    With acknowledgement to:

    dennis hanna

    1. Charles Krauthammer was a war criminal,

      You’re a verbose moral idiot with out even an obnoxious child’s sense of the appropriate.

      1. Verbose moral idiot describes Dennis Hanna to a T…. I have never read such a paranoid, delusional post! What if Charles’ family reads this garbage? Just plain shameful!

        1. Public figures take the chance that their public positions will be discussed in public and their family might hear of it. What about the countless families fractured, killed, maimed, starved, dispossessed, and dislocated by the following of his advice? Charles family can be comforted by those that insist that despite all this he was a really great guy, fun to watch a game with.

      1. SO PATRIOT NOW ATTACKS KRAUTHAMMER’S RELIGION! SO PATRIOT THINKS THAT JEWS ARE NAZIS! PATRIOT must therefore believe that Jews are responsible for the Holocaust! PATRIOT is and always has been an ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOT with ZERO CREDIBILITY!

        1. Judaism Rejects Zionism and the state of Israel. Anti-Zionism / Anti-Israel are not Anti-Semitism. Zionism is not Judaism. All Zionists are not Jews

          Zionists are trying to conflate Israel, Zionism, Jews, Judaism and Anti-Semitism. Real Jews are not Zionists, they reject Zionism.

    2. blunt! straightforward! well said Dennis. Oh and it appears nutsy has no facts or evidence to dispute you with.

    1. Doesn’t someone else in the dayroom want to use the computer?

  7. What i remember most of Krauthammer was his constant drum beat to support a war based on lies……a war that ended up killing millions. His memory should be tinged with their blood…………and no honors for the cowardly way he later tried to change his views on WMD and justify the Iraq debacle.

    1. You’ve offered three falsehoods in as many sentences.

      1. All true as evidenced by your lack of specifics.

        I’d give you a hint about WMD’s – but suspect conservative knuckle draggers are already planning to roll out the same playbook with Iran. Oh wait, bebe already did – and dumb donald fell for it hook, line and sinker. Just curious – how many americans and iranians will need to die this time to satisfy conservative’s thirst for blood.

        1. Bill W–So you are obviously an Iran-lover and Israel-hater who loves to play tiddlywinks with the evil Mullahs. You blame Krauthammer for the Iraq war? What about all the liberal democrats who supported the Iraq War? You have absolutely no credibility and should not be taken seriously!

          1. rofl. thanks for the sandbox interpretation. because since the thread was about krauthammer, I was obviously required to mention every single supporter of the iraq war…..especially those that did not control the intelligence. That said, you would be correct democrats should never have believed the extensive bush, cheney, krauthammer lies, lies, lies …….and more lies……and then years of whiny, pansy-ass conservative excuses (which embarrassingly you appear to be continuing).

            the reality is that crooked netanyu wanted to shed american blood to eliminate his Iraqi scud problem. and was able to con a dumbass president (calling bush a dumbass is a compliment to his actual stupidity) to do his bidding.

            now the bigger question is how stupid Americans will be to believe netanyu again? so far, dumb donald has fallen for it – which means that probably 85% of conservatives believe it even though no supporting evidence. Will trump try to start bombing Iran or start a war so that he stands a better chance of winning in 2020? My guess is that millions could die and the traitor trump wouldn’t give a shit if it bumped his poll numbers up by 1 or 2%.

            1. “how stupid Americans will be to believe ..” Stuart and his ilk prove their stupidity daily.

  8. I’m unclear how JT makes this conclusion:

    Krauthammer’s life took another turn in 1978 when he started to write for that liberal iconic publication, The New Republic. Yes, Charles Krauthammer was once a classic liberal.

    When I look at The New Republic website, they say:

    For over 100 years, we have championed progressive ideas and challenged popular opinion.

    From what I’ve read and heard from Charles, he was as classical liberal; not once was.

  9. JT is a man w/ balance between head and heart, it shows in this wonderful piece. Charles would be proud of this direct and precise tribute. But, I think the greatest tribute for Charles was a moment of silence @ Nat’s Park the day he died.

  10. One of the writers in the Times quoted in his tribute to Charles a snippet from one of The Hammer’s columns:

    But convictions on some matters never meant certainty on all matters. He was comfortable with what he called “inescapable ambiguity” on complicated moral matters. For Charles, abortion was such an issue. My views on abortion are more conservative than his were, but I have long kept in mind what he wrote in 1985:

    There is not the slightest recognition on either side that abortion might be at the limits of our empirical and moral knowledge. The problem starts with an awesome mystery: the transformation of two soulless cells into a living human being. That leads to an insoluble empirical question: How and exactly when does that occur? On that, in turn, hangs the moral issue: What are the claims of the entity undergoing that transformation?

    How can we expect such a question to yield answers that are not tentative and indeterminate? So difficult a moral question should command humility, or at least a little old-fashioned tolerance.

    I admit that based on this snip of The Hammer’s thoughts that I have pondered this aspect of an issue which was previously decided without question in my mind. For anyone on any side to imagine that their view is the lone correct view is the heighth of folly and demonstrates unequivocally the depths of hubris that the human animal is capable of. Charles raises the possibility that we just don’t know….

    1. As the formatting makes it unclear in my post above, my portion begins with “I admit…”

  11. Charles Krauthammer was a Co-conspirator in initiating the Murders, Maiming of a Million+ Men, Women & Children in the War of Aggression on Iraq..

    “The U.S. Government has committed Wars of Aggression which is War Crime under U.S. and International law. The U.S. Government has violated the same law used to prosecute and convict the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials. During the trial, the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, stated: “To initiate a War of Aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” A War of Aggression against Iraq violated the United States Constitution, the United Nations Charter and the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal. The former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has declared explicitly that the US-led war on Iraq is illegal.”

    1. Patriot – normally I would not respond your hysteria. However, Justice Jackson was delivering “winner’s justice”.

  12. Thank you. I will miss Charles Krauthammer’s wit and wisdom. He made me think and he made me laugh. RIP, dear man.

    1. “He made me think and he made me laugh.”

      Truly unique characteristics among commentators today. A class act all the way.

  13. JT, This is a lovely tribute to your friend. R.I.P., Charles.

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