Three hours ago, the heartbreaking news broke on the Fox News, Newsmax, and the Washington Post – followed by all of the other mainstream media outlets. One of the greatest giants of conservative politics, and a journalistic genius, had passed away.
Dr. Charles Krauthammer, 68, has been an inspiration to millions of conservatives for decades including myself. His life story is just one run-on sentence of tenacity, bravery, patriotism and common sense values that has made him a trusted journalist, and one of my greatest heroes. Fox News called him tonight “a longtime Fox News contributor, Pulitzer Prize winner, Harvard-trained psychiatrist and best-selling author who came to be known as the dean of conservative commentators”.
I would add “and my hero” to that list of accolades. I mourn his death tonight, and I feel a sense of loss already that his wisdom will no longer be available for people like myself to learn from.
And I’m thankful for his life. And what a life it was.
He was a regular panelist on the Fox News’ Bret Baier newscast, We all watched with concern in the last year as we saw him periodically struggle with breath, gulping for air as he looked more and more uncomfortable in his wheelchair, physically slowing down a bit over time.
But Dr. Charles Krauthammer’s mind was always racing at 100 miles an hour, and when he opened his mouth, I’m so thankful that it was one body part that never failed him. And it changed the world.
Irving Charles Krauthammer was born in Manhattan on March 13, 1950, and at 5 settled in Montreal with his father and mother, Jewish refugees from Europe. In Canada, his dad prospered as a real estate executive. Charles, the younger of two sons, graduated first in his class at Montreal’s McGill University in 1970 with a degree in political science and economics. He then spent a year studying political theory at the University of Oxford.
Ironically, he quickly got very tired and disillusioned with politics of student revolution on campus, so he abruptly switched course to pursue medicine. That discipline, he later wrote, “promised not only moral certainty, but intellectual certainty, a hardness to truth, something not to be found in the universe of politics.”
It would also be a decision that would change his life forever, in ways he hadn’t planned.
As a first-year medical student at Harvard Medical School, he went swimming one afternoon in a local Boston pool on Summer break. Having completed two dives, he took a third into the pool – but this time, for reasons unknown, he hit his head on the bottom of the pool. He had been studying neurology that week and said he “knew exactly what happened the second it happened.”
He felt nothing as his spine was severed, imprisoning him in an non-functional lower body, in a wheelchair, for the remainder of his life – though ironically, also developed in him the strongest of backbones when writing and speaking about the issues of the day.
He was visited one day in the hospital by one of the dean’s in the medical program, who said they were happy to offer him an absence from the program as needed. Krauthammer told the dean that if he left now, he’d never come back, and received permission from the program to study in his hospital room for the next 14 months during his recovery, taking all of his exams orally, as he hadn’t yet learned how to write again. He would later regain the use of his arms, which assisted tremendously with his writing.
He never wavered, never stumbled, never led anyone astray. I often waited for him to appear on Fox News in order to know what to really make of things going on in the news of the day, and I had so many “ah ha” moments with him – I now consider him to be one of my mentors. His journalism was never tainted, like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and others, with personal issues or failures that leaked into his professional life. And we admired him for staying above the fray. Married for 42 years and a loving grandfather, he was the epitome of conservative values, both on the page and off-book / off the record.
“History is shaped by its battle of ideas, and I wanted to be in the arena, not because I want to fight, but because some things need to be said. And some things need to be defended.”Dr. Charles Krauthammer
After a brief and slightly strange stint as a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale, he joined the staff of the New Republic in 1981, writing opposition pieces for the liberal magazine which advocated a stronger military budget and anti-Soviet stance, and support for Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contras efforts.
He received a National Magazine Award in 1984 and joined The Washington Post the next year. His books included two essay collections, “Cutting Edges: Making Sense of the Eighties” (1985) and “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics” (2013) – the latter of which instantly became a New York Times bestseller, remaining in the number one slot for 10 weeks, and on the coveted list for nearly 40.
Dr. Krauthammer won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1987 for his work for the Washington Post. Working for liberal newspapers most of his career sharpened him, I believe, to become the bulwark of conservative thought that he became over time. He also spent decades as a panelist on the syndicated public affairs talk show “Inside Washington.”
The Left had a hard time with him as they couldn’t help respecting him. A former leftist columnist at the New Republic, Jacob Weisberg, said that during his time at their magazine:
“Politically, Charles made a right turn that most others at the magazine didn’t follow. But I think his old colleagues not only liked him a great deal personally but admired him as a principled conservative — today an endangered species. After Charles, it takes another big step toward extinction.”
On June 8, 2018, in a statement broadcast around the world through Fox News, Dr. Krauthammer announced that he had undergone surgery in August 2017 to remove a cancerous tumor in his abdomen. While thought to be successful, he said there were complications that he was overcoming. However, he wrote recent tests revealed the cancer has returned and is “spreading rapidly.” He was off the air on Fox News for the past 10 months, during this attempt to recover.
He was never to return to the network again.
Rest in Peace, to a great warrior of conservative principles, a trusted advisor to millions, and a true hero that believed in something important, and never changed his mind again. We are changed because of it.