By ERIC GOLUB via Jewish Journal
Nobody knows everything, but Dr. Charles Krauthammer sure came close. Five years after his death, the words on so many subjects of this psychiatrist-turned-political commentator have done more than been proven prescient. They have become truisms themselves. Whether the topic was Judaism, foreign policy, baseball, chess, classical music or D.C. follies, Dr. Krauthammer offered platinum prose. The breadth, width and depth of his knowledge was so extensive that it was reasonable to think that “Maybe this guy does know everything.”
Few would have expected that a wheelchair-bound man in a soft voice would become a television rock star, but Krauthammer was exactly that. His genius was breaking down complex issues of religion, politics and other matters in the simplest, clearest terms. Sixty months after his passing, this unique gift is not just relevant but sorely missed.
While not a culture warrior, Krauthammer summarized the debate over public education for kids with four key words of common sense: “Parental rights are sovereign.”
With humor, he deftly chose a side in the debate over whether negative government actions were based on incompetence or deliberate malice. Given those options, he opined, “When dealing with government, always assume incompetence. Don’t give them more credit than they deserve.”
In explaining his shift from Walter Mondale liberalism to Ronald Reagan conservatism, Krauthammer flippantly remarked, “I was young once.” Yet his more serious answer is one everyone can learn from. “I followed the evidence. The evidence changed, so I changed.”
His humor was evident in explaining why Australian Prime Minister John Howard was given less respect than Rodney Dangerfield despite a successful presidency. “He looks like a bank branch manager at a Waga Waga bank.” Australians laughed and nodded in agreement.
Krauthammer was trusted because without bombast or theatrics, he told it like it was. This was his moral obligation to those who heeded his words. “You’re betraying your whole life if you don’t say what you think – and you don’t say it honestly and bluntly.”
His appreciation of Israel went beyond religious and political affinity. The man guided by logical reasoning saw Israel as a miracle. “Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.”
Despite receiving sustained adulation, Krauthammer showed a humility and open-mindedness. He understood what little he could not understand. His rational mind could not always process the irrational, especially when it pertained to himself. His column “Suffering a Relapse, and Loving It” had him analyzing his own obsession with baseball. “Why should I care about these tobacco-spitting, crotch-adjusting multimillionaires who have never heard of me and would not care if I was dispatched to my maker by an exploding scoreboard?” Krauthammer happily conceded, “I have no idea.”
He had no idea because this one time, the intellectual titan’s premise was wrong. The Washington Nationals knew exactly who he was. They honored him on the jumbotron scoreboard the day he died. The only thing that exploded was the roar of the crowd.
From culture to religion to politics, his medical ethics were his commentary’s beating heart. He said the right things to encourage people to do the right things. He was a proud Jewish agnostic who feared God. His lifetime of writing meaningful words belied a man far more concerned with deeds. “I don’t really care what a public figure thinks. I care about what he does. Let God probe his inner heart.”
He was a proud Jewish agnostic who feared God… “I don’t really care what a public figure thinks. I care about what he does. Let God probe his inner heart.”
Five years after his death, the evidence points toward Charles Krauthammer’s words lasting in perpetuity.