Charles Krauthammer dies at 68: The conservative colossus who started off as a liberal

The conservative commentator has been outspoken for decades in his support of Israel, and is an unapologetic critic of the Obama administration.

                            Charles Krauthammer dies at 68: The conservative colossus who started off as a liberal
(Source : Getty Images)

UPDATED: Pulitzer-prize winning analyst and best-selling author, Charles Krauthammer, has died. He was 68. His death comes just two weeks after he revealed he only had weeks left to live in his battle with cancer on June 8. 

Recently, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer revealed to the dismay of his millions of readers that he is just weeks away from his death. The renowned political commentator wrote about his terminal cancer in a post on the websites of both Fox News and The Washington Post, with whom he has had decade-long associations.

Krauthammer, who can easily be touted as the governor of neoconservative columnists in Washington, previously thought that he had beaten the dreaded disease. At the time, he had reported that the tumor had been removed from his abdomen early on, and his prospects for recovery had seemed good for a while.

“There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly,’ Krauthammer wrote. “My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.”

The wheelchair-bound intellectual began his life as a liberal, just like many of our smart intellectuals. But many of these liberals showed hints of jumping over to the other side as they grew up and came face to fce with reality. Charles did make the leap, and that too with grace, erudition, and pure eloquence. 

The 68-year-old conservative pro-Israel Israel firebrand, who has been forthright in his support for the promised land, was also a fervent critic of the Obama administration.

Back in 2015, he rejected the Iran nuclear deal and was primarily responsible for invigorating Jewish opposition to the agreement. He made public appearances in quite a few organizational events held by Jewish activists.

The New York native was also one among a minuscule coterie of conservatives who criticized Donald Trump in the run-up to the Republican presidential nomination back in 2016. One of the most striking examples of Krauthammer's rejection of sentimentality was during a Fox News appearance, after Trump was sworn in, when he put the idea of America before himself.

"I had a view of Trump when he was campaigning. I did not keep it a secret that I didn't think he should be president, but that doesn't matter on the day he's sworn in: He is the president.

"At this point, whatever I thought about his ascendance is irrelevant. I want the country to succeed. I want him to succeed (I'm a patriotic American), and I simply call him like I see him."

At the same time, he denounced Trump for failing to condemn white supremacists and neo-nazis whose protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, culminated in grave violence and called it a "moral disgrace."

That is how he cast a dispassionate eye on a world that we otherwise perceive with emotions. Whether he was speaking on national television or writing his column, it never seemed as though he had a personal score to settle with anyone.

Kathleen Parker, a columnist who worked closely with Krauthammer, described his nature rather succinctly in her column for the Press Herald:

"Between his calm demeanor and a probing intellect, he seemed most like an anthropologist remarking upon the fascinating behaviors of an indigenous people."

The author, whose weekly column was syndicated to more than 400 publications worldwide, was raised in Montreal. During his college days as a first-year medical student at Harvard, a diving accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. 

After graduating as a psychiatrist, he took his first step into American politics as a speechwriter for Walter Mondale, the vice president to President Jimmy Carter. Krauthammer was soon allured to President Ronald Reagan's hard-line standpoint during the Cold War like most Jewish Democrats.

The day Reagan took the presidential office, Krauthammer began his new gig, calling himself a "Cold War liberal." He tried hard to charge the post-Vietnam war party with the spirit of Kennedy and Truman but in vain. While secretly hoping that Reagan would win, he refused to vote against Mondale, displaying true loyalty.

Krauthammer said that many people ask him how he went from Walter Mondale to Fox News, to which, he solemnly answers: "I was young once."

By saying that, he meant plans devised by liberals, which look fantastic on paper, barely work when implemented in the real world, and this fact emerged rather gradually than immediately. The columnist says he ultimately gave in to "empirical evidence": The move from Carter to Reagan marked the change from the Democrats' prescriptions of welfare to the conservatives' realistic goals of creating jobs. 

Conservative theories weren't originally supposed to bring in upgrades to society like the technology boom and small business explosion, which were direct results of capital gains tax cuts. Incomes rose and black families crossed the poverty line. Krauthammer saw that the sound fiscal policies deployed by conservatives gave way to social goals, and thus, he turned.

When we consider all the hype that surrounded the 1960s, when Krauthammer came of age, it never stood true to its promise. The generation took over universities, synagogues, politics, and society and ultimately ruined them. Although it looks like after decades, a resistance to the 60s spoiled brats is finally gaining traction, the zeitgeist is going to take a long time to develop. Rather ironically, this resistance could be led by one of the least anticipated leaders of that generation, President Donald J. Trump.

One can easily say that Charles Krauthammer has overcome obstacles that would consume most human beings, managing to keep his pragmaticism intact all the while. Whilst revealing his rapidly degrading health, he did so with a "writer's concision and a physician's precision."

In the conclusion of his announcement, Charles recapitulated his life and principles rather eloquently: “I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

“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.”

He extended his regards and thanked all who helped him in his journey, including his readers, viewers, as well as his colleagues “who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work.”

Most of his readers will tell you that none could match his inimitable style and the flow of his logic. During his debates, he was a force to be reckoned with.

Having said that, the nobility with which Krauthammer conducted his life is almost a glimpse from a bygone era.