October 26, 2013
Charles Krauthammer, revealed
Fox News Channel is featuring a documentary on Charles Krauthammer this weekend, with two airings yesterday, and another two to follow on Sunday (9 PM and midnight, Eastern). It is truly must-see TV, because the life story of a very private man is revealed, and the narrative which emerges is both sobering and inspirational.
Most tea party conservatives are still stinging from Dr. K's rebuke of the Cruz-Lee defund Obamacare strategy, and so may not be open to a program that is warm, verging on reverential. But that would be a mistake. Even when I disagree with him, Krauthammer is enlightening and worth hearing through. As viewers of Special Report with Bret Baier know, the daily panel discussions which occupy the last third of the hour normally include Krauthammer and at least one non-conservative member, often Juan Williams. One of the great delights of that show is watching Krauthammer disagree with Williams, and observing the facial expression of Juan as he reacts. Like most intelligent liberals, Williams realizes that Krauthammer's mind is extraordinarily penetrating, and his views cannot be dismissed idly. Often there is more than a hint of dismay in the visage of Williams after Dr. K has spoken.
While I was aware that Charles Krauthammer suffered a severed spinal cord in his early 20s, after diving into a swimming pool and hitting his head on the bottom, and was wheelchair-bound ever since, I did not know the details of his amazing response. The story would scarcely be believable if written by a novelist. Refusing to let the accident impede his studies at Harvard Medical School, the bedridden Krauthammer continued his studies, with textbooks placed on a Plexiglas sheet above his head, and his professors coming to his bedside to deliver the gist of their lectures to him (imagine how deeply he must have impressed them to motivate them to invest such time!). Krauthammer ended up graduating near the top of his class at this insanely competitive institution, and accordingly received a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, the most prestigious training venue for continuing his medical studies.
There is only one conclusion to draw: the smartest people in his field recognized that his mind was of a quality that demanded nurturance, respect, and elevation.
The story of how he left medicine for political punditry utterly flabbergasted me. I won't spoil it for you. So, too, the story of how he evolved from a Democrat (he had become a speechwriter for Walter Mondale) to a conservative Republican is well worth hearing.
But just because he is brilliant doesn't mean that Charles Krauthammer is infallible. In fact, he would be the first to admit it, and his reflections on his own political odyssey reveal that he tests his opinions against facts, and changes his opinions once he sees the error of his ways.
I heartily recommend recording this program and viewing it with your family. Charles Krauthammer is a man who, when dealt lemons by life's fate, has made outstanding lemonade. This is a man to learn from, on many dimensions.