IN MEMORIAM: Charles Krauthammer

I grew up on Charles Krauthammer.

I don’t mean that I grew up reading Charles Krauthammer. I mean that Krauthammer helped me grow up. The older I got, the more I valued Krauthammer; as I attempted to move beyond the temptation toward provocativeness and toward something more substantial, I saw Krauthammer as something of a guide. When my father asked me which writer I considered the best in the business, there was always only one answer: Krauthammer.

Charles Krauthammer is the thinker I aspired to be, the writer I wanted to emulate.

I failed; I’ll always fail. But, to be fair, that's not my fault. He was just that good.

I’m not alone. Krauthammer’s writings shaped an entire generation of young conservatives – conservatives who were looking for thoughtful, reasoned explanations of the issues of the day. Krauthammer was a moral and political bellwether. If you didn’t know what to think, Krauthammer nearly always did.

And if he didn’t, that was because Krauthammer was willing to consider all sides of an issue. Read some of his columns. This was a man who picked up an issue, turned it over, examined its smooth surfaces and rough undersides, and came away with a judgment. Because, in the end, that’s what Krauthammer was: a judge. A judge of nations, a judge of character, a judge of men.

I met Krauthammer twice, both times briefly. Once, we met in his office; I was with several other columnists and reporters, and we were all rather awestruck to be in his presence. He traded baseball jokes with us as he asked about the news of the day. That was another funny thing about Krauthammer – he wasn’t a news junkie. He was a thought junkie. The headlines of the day simply mattered less to him than the philosophies and worldviews that could be only faintly spotted through the murky waters of daily politics. That’s why Krauthammer seemed to be so clear – he was speaking and writing from a deeper place. It’s also why he was so prescient: the waves of politics varied, but the bottom of the ocean was stable.

The second time I met him was at the offices of Prager University, where he was about to cut a video – a video in which he, an immigration dove, argued for a border wall. We only met briefly again, but in that brief time, he grilled me in specific detail on the differences between the Canadian healthcare system and the Australian healthcare system. Needless to say, I failed the grilling. I remember turning to a good friend who was at the meeting, and asking, “Was Krauthammer testing me?” My friend, who had met Krauthammer a few more times than I, replied, “No. He genuinely wanted to know.” (Only later did I learn that Krauthammer had to lie down for a few minutes after our conversation to recover physically. He was a man so hungry for knowledge that he would literally put himself in physical discomfort to seek it.)

And that was Krauthammer: a man who genuinely wanted to know, and who obviously took great joy in learning and thinking. Only a man who took such joy in the intellectual life could have succeeded so wildly in a life marked by such a great tragedy as his paralysis. Only a man devoted to the pursuits of the mind could write about the end of his life thusly:

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.

May we all live such lives. May we all be blessed by his memory, and by the wealth of writing and thought he left behind. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet.

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