WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL
Charles wrote for the right reasons. Lord knows — and presidents, from right to left, can attest — he didn’t seek invitations to White House dinners or other badges of approval from the powerful. He sought, rather, to provoke us to think, to enlarge our understanding, at times to make us laugh. Like few others, he succeeded, week after week, Friday after Friday, year after year.
More than just a political pundit, Charles Krauthammer has been a true public intellectual of our age. Like the Harvard-educated psychiatrist that he is, Charles seems to know our country and our culture better than we know ourselves. He’s helped not only conservatives, but all Americans, reason together through our biggest questions with eloquence, brilliance, and charity.
Charles will be remembered as one of the greatest public intellects of his generation. A true renaissance man, there was no topic too complex for Charles to probe; no party or politician too powerful to challenge. It was Charles’ integrity in his prose and thoughtfulness in his commentary that attracted countless loyal readers and viewers, myself included.
Charles Krauthammer, who died Thursday at about 5 p.m. ET, announced his impending departure from this world in the straightforward, clear-eyed, elegant manner that fans had come to expect from him. The loss to America is dwarfed by the loss to his family and friends, but nevertheless it is enormous.
[W]hat overwhelmed me as I sat down to write was my appreciation of Charles the man. Charles was, to be sure, a major public figure who contributed a great deal to his country and his people—as much perhaps as any writer of his generation. But it is Charles the man who was unique.
It turns out Charles wasn’t stating the obvious in 2013. As he did so often over his long career, he was seeing things before the rest of us. He was making an observation simple, profound, and prescient.
It was a far more personal offering than most of his written work and, despite a full catalogue of essays and columns that influenced the thinking of world leaders, it was one of the most memorable pieces in a long and distinguished career.
IN THE WORDS OF HIS FRIENDS
[H]e completed medical school, did an internship and, one thing leading to another, as life has a way of doing, became not a jewel in the crown of the medical profession, which he would have been, but one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Nothing against doctors, but the nation needed Charles more as a diagnostician of our public discontents.
Charles Krauthammer was in a very real sense a dinosaur — a man who loved to debate (often ferociously) but never felt the need to raise his voice or use a foul word. His class and intellect would never indulge such a thought. He was also efficient while engaged: He sliced and diced opponents with facts eloquently and elegantly presented.
Krauthammer said in that long-ago interview that in the immediate aftermath of his paralysis, he thought, “The terrible thing is that people are going to judge me now by a different standard... I decided if I could make people judge me by the old standard, that would be a triumph, and that’s what I try to do.” Krauthammer did it. And he became a model for other journalists with disabilities, including this one, to attempt the same.
His writing on U.S. politics inspired and sustained a generation of conservative policymaking; even those who strongly disagreed with him could not deny his influence. His legacy–particularly with regard to the Iraq War, for which he cheered–is worthy of the sort of serious consideration at which he was so preternaturally good. But I will remember Charles Krauthammer first and foremost as a man of deep compassion.
There was no modern political writer of comparable skill and insight, no one whom you rushed to read on Fridays to see if you had “gotten” what went on in the preceding week or to see what magnificent insight into the cosmos, baseball or chess he had in store for you. There was Charles, and then there was everyone else.
Charles was a voice of persuasion, of rational discourse, one that cleared the air of the acrid smoke slowly choking us all. While the rest of us debated to win, Charles wanted to convince…..A man of great wit, commanding enormous breadth and depth of knowledge, dedicated to presenting the truth as he sought to persuade others with reason…. He was a man of character, a man of honor, and always, above all, a true gentleman in the best sense of that word.
If liberals are sincere when they say that they wish conservatives were more independent-minded, intellectual and civil…then we need to recognize and mourn for the void that has been ripped into our public discourse by the death of Charles Krauthammer…. Because Krauthammer could alienate both sides with his opinions, he provided that invaluable service to virtually everyone who read enough of his columns to eventually disagree with him.