No Comment — March 4, 2009, 10:39 am

Who Is the Real Charles Krauthammer?

I have long found Charles Krauthammer one of the more fascinating figures on the neoconservative right. He’s intellectually and analytically gifted, so much so that I often read through one of his columns and come away suspicious. He’s too smart to actually believe this vacuous drivel. And he’s from French-speaking Canada to boot but he writes as if he hailed from the American heartland. But then who knows? I don’t know Krauthammer personally.

On the other hand, Rick Hertzberg does. He has a post up at The New Yorker that makes for a fascinating read and confirms a lot of what I long suspected about Krauthammer’s political trajectory.

In 1978, when I first met Charles, he had recently left the practice of psychiatry and was in the process of landing a speechwriting job with then-Vice-President Walter Mondale. Charles’s political views back then? I’d estimate them at 70 per cent Mondale liberal, 30 per cent “Scoop Jackson Democrat,” i.e., hard-line on Israel and relations with the Soviet Union.
During the nineteen eighties, Charles and I were colleagues at the New Republic. By halfway through the decade, he was 50-50: still fairly liberal on economic and social questions but a full-bore foreign-policy neoconservative. Since foreign policy was all he really cared about, he might as well have been 70-30. We argued a lot. The whole staff argued a lot. The quality of the arguments was fairly high. I have to say this for working for TNR: it was intellectually bracing.

Nowadays, as best as I can make out, Charles is a pretty solid 90-10 Republican. He continues to believe in science, including evolution, but after twenty-plus years of conservative cosseting he seems to have made his peace with Republican economics—tax breaks for the rich, a generally negative attitude to what Lady Bracknell called “social legislation,” and so on. He endorsed and voted for McCain. George W. Bush, too, if memory serves.

As an undergraduate at McGill University in the late sixties, Charles was friends with Bob Rae, later the first New Democratic Party premier of Ontario—the NDP being the Canadian affiliate of the Socialist International. (Rae is now a leading Liberal Party parliamentarian, shadow foreign minister under Michael Ignatieff.) Charles used to tell me that if he still lived in Canada he’d vote NDP or Liberal and if there were no such thing as foreign policy he’d be a standard-issue liberal Democrat.

Which leaves me wondering to what extent Charles Krauthammer has shaped the forum of political opinion in Washington and to what extent is he now himself a product of right-wing group think?

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
New Television·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Season 5 of Louie (FX), Louie is a new kind of superhero. Like Wonder Woman, the canonical superhero he most resembles, Louie’s distinctive superpower is love.”
Illustration by Demetrios Psillos
Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today