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On Having Recently Been Krauthammered

The OLD Philosopher – John M. Miller


Through the years I have read essays by Charles Krauthammer in newspapers and magazines. I would have to admit that on most of those occasions, Mr. Krauthammer was anything but my political and philosophical cup of tea. I assumed that dyspeptic editors chose some of his more outrageously conservative pieces to vex readers such as myself, and almost always they succeeded in their intentions.

I have had a friend of forty years who has listened to me preach and has read my sermons and essays with a generous frequency. However, he and I, it would be fair to say, are not on the same wave length politically or philosophically. We both accept that continuing disparity.

This friend occasionally sends me books, usually of a conservative nature. He hopes thereby, I presume, they will get me turned in the proper direction. Recently he sent me The Point of It All by Charles Krauthammer. I readily confess that, now having read an entire Krauthammerian book of essays, I have become pleasantly Krauthammered.

Charles Krauthammer, as you may know, was injured in a teenage diving accident, and was in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, which ended last year as a result of pancreatic cancer. For ten years he was a psychiatrist, but he gave it up to become a full-time journalist and columnist for --- of all newspapers! --- the Washington Post. (In retrospect, that is a tribute to both Krauthammer and the Post.)

 CK was an exceedingly brilliant, engagingly humorous, and enormously opinionated writer. The breadth of his interests was as eclectic as it was astonishing.

Ordinarily I underline books that I own. A third to half of The Point of It All has my underlines and notes to myself about what he wrote. Whether I agreed with it or not, everything in his tome sent my gray matter into a freewheeling cerebral frenzy.

Most of the essays are two-and-a-half-page columns from the Post, but some are longer pieces he wrote for magazines or speeches he delivered in various settings. He was a lexicographical craftsman extraordinaire.

The Inestimable Charles did not transform me into an instantly transformed conservative. Nevertheless he did give me a much greater appreciation for an educated conservative’s positions on a whole host of issues. But CK was not conservative on everything, and in fact was moderate and eminently sensible about many things, as I told myself in my notes at the end of many of his essays.

On May 17, 2016, Krauthammer wrote a column for the Washington Post called The Arrow of History. Initially he explained, from his perspective, the difference between foreign policy realists and idealists. In my ugly elderly scrawl I wrote that it was the most important of all the pieces in the book that were posthumously chosen for publication by Daniel Krauthammer, Charles’ son.

CK skewered both neoconservatives and liberal idealists for supposing that humans, systems, or foreign policy are perfectible. How true that is! The Arrow of History is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking summaries of foreign policy I have ever read. I cannot assent to everything he said, but he said everything with insightful clarity.

Many conservatives are essentially intellectual reactionaries. Charles Krauthammer was certainly not that. Now I understand far better why there was so much genuine sorrow when this great and good man died. What a blessing for me belatedly in life to have been Krauthammered.

Furthermore, my generous friend just sent me yet another book of Krauthammer essays. I do not foresee myself ever fully climbing aboard the Krauthammer Express, but I have been given a new pair of eyes by which to assess genuine traditional conservatism. Hail to the Inestimable Charles!  


John Miller is Pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC. More of his writings may be viewed at www.chapelwithoutwalls.org.



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