Dr Charles Krauthammer – “A Wonderful Life”

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Dr Charles Krauthammer
Dr Charles Krauthammer

Dr Krauthammer, American conservative commentator and Pulitzer Prize winner, died aged 68, June 21, 2018.

In a tribute to Charles Krauthammer, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote, “I shall always remember you as a fearless fighter for truth, the best of the best our people has produced.”

Krauthammer knew all about fighting fearlessly. Born in 1950 the son of Jews who fled the Holocaust, he studied political philosophy at Oxford, but switched to medical school at Harvard. He tried to embrace the family medical history and became chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts, General Hospital. Hence Dr Krauthammer!

Severe tests came. A spinal cord injury in a swimming pool accident came when he was 22. At poolside were two books he had been reading ‘Anatomy of the Spinal Cord’ and Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux.

Confined to a wheelchair, Charles Krauthammer made little of his situation. He learned an acquaintance suffered the same fate. In a letter of encouragement he wrote: “I heard about your accident. I’m so sorry. As you know, I’ve been there. What it required in my case was the simple determination to keep going in the direction I was headed. I found that I could do psychiatry and then a journalism career at a totally even par with my colleagues.” Famously the eloquent writer said, “It is better to be paralyzed from the neck down than the neck up!”

At his own crossroads Krauthammer made a choice. “I decided to become a writer so I could write about politics, because I thought that’s the most important thing one can involve oneself in. In the end, all the beautiful, elegant things in life, the things that I care about, the things that matter, depend on getting the politics right. Because in those societies where they get it wrong, everything else is destroyed, everything else is levelled.”

Charles Krauthammer recalled: “I began my journalistic career on the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in. That’s the day I showed up for work at ‘The New Republic’ magazine.” It was the Reagan policies that led Dr  Krauthammer to embrace conservative politics. His Pulitzer Prize came in 1987.

As a proud American and a proud son of the Jewish people, you harnessed your formidable intellect to defend liberty and the Jewish state… Your writings will forever attest to that.

– Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

He influenced followers through a long association with Fox News. His participation in the news analysis programme Special Report panels, won international enthusiasts.

Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 20th Century Fox and Fox News said, “his always principled stand on the most important issues of our time has been a guiding star in an often turbulent world, a world that has too many superficial thinkers vulnerable to the ebb and flow of fashion, and a world that, unfortunately, has only one Charles Krauthammer.”

Many have quoted Krauthammer phrases. For instance: “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.”

In an article ‘Farewell to Charles Krauthammer’ Rabbi Shraga Simmons said: “For 30 years, Krauthammer stood out as the consummate intellectual—calling out hypocrisy, standing up for justice, and displaying sophisticated intellectual coherence irrespective of political alignment or social acceptance. As Krauthammer described, ‘the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking.’”

His book ‘Things that Matter’ was published in 2013. He wrote: “Israel is not just any small country. It is the only small country—the only country, period—whose neighbors publicly declare its very existence an affront to law, morality and religion and make its extinction an explicit , paramount national goal. Iran, Libya, and Iraq conduct foreign policies designed for the killing of Israelis and the destruction of their state. They choose their allies (Hamas, Hezbollah) and develop their weapons (suicide bombs, poison gas, anthrax, nuclear missiles) accordingly. Countries as far away as Malaysia will not allow a representative of Israel on their soil or even permit the showing of ‘Schindler’s List’ lest it engender sympathy for Zion.” (Charles Krauthammer, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics)

In Time magazine, February 26, 1990 he wrote: “The conscious deployment of a double standard directed at the Jewish state and at no other state in the world, the willingness systematically to condemn the Jewish state for things others are not condemned for—this is not a higher standard. It is a discriminatory standard. And discrimination against Jews has a name too. The word for it is antisemitism.”

The American Jewish Committee, which had previously honoured him with the AJC award, noted Krauthammer’s steadfast support for Israel over the years. “Charles Krauthammer’s trenchant analyses of critical international issues, including his eloquent defence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, were hallmarks of his remarkable writings, speeches and media appearances,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

And this. “The Simon Wiesenthal Center mourns the passing of brilliant, passionate, irrepressible Charles Krauthammer. He overcame a horrific injury to his body. It never damaged his soul. America has lost him just when we need a strong dose of his integrity most. His memory will always be a blessing,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of the Global Social Agenda.

Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to Charles Krauthammer weeks before he died:

“More than anything else, you have lived a life of purpose. As a proud American and a proud son of the Jewish people, you harnessed your formidable intellect to defend liberty and the Jewish state. No one has done this with greater clarity, consistency and conviction. Your writings will forever attest to that.”

Weeks before he died, Dr Charles Krauthammer declared: “I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life—full and complete with the great loves and great endeavours that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”