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Who Is Charles Krauthammer?

There's something cryptic and elusive about Krauthammer, like the coy Waldo in the famous puzzle. (And don't miss Steve Green on "Krauthammer Correcting Krauthammer.")

by
David Solway

Bio

January 29, 2011 - 12:00 am
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For example, Krauthammer opines that Obama’s “string of lame-duck successes” — Stimulus II, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the START treaty — “is a singular political achievement,” and that “the great Republican ascendancy of 2010 lasted less than two months.” But in a subsequent WaPo article, Krauthammer rightly observes that a new spirit of “constitutionalism” is a “promising first step to a conservative future,” which would appear to imply that the Republican ascendancy is not over but has just begun. “Sneering” Democrats are given the back of his hand; yet those he calls “non-suicidal liberals” are still “[d]emeaningly, and somewhat unfairly … having to prove their fealty to the flag.” Since liberals are for the most part affiliated with the Democratic Party, it would make some sense to suggest that the best way to prove their fealty to the flag is to leave the party.

On the whole, the value of Krauthammer’s general deposition is that it serves as a warning to Republicans not to take Obama lightly or to underestimate the conniving shrewdness of the Democratic left. But even in his more balanced columns, a latent current of misplaced respect for a divisive and destructive president willy-nilly tends to emerge. This seems at times like something more than the cautionary esteem of a redoubtable opponent; it smacks of a kind of selective bemusement masked by an aura of Olympian detachment.

A lauded political analyst from whom much is anticipated, a man of presumed conservative principles, an eminence by consensus, he now occasionally prattles away in fluent liberalspeak, attacking a patriot like Geert Wilders and, in practical effect, inflating the “achievements” of a schismatic like Barack Obama. This looks a lot like cognitive dissonance or a species of intellectual vagrancy. Who knows, maybe he has started to mellow and is no longer the Critter Gitter he used to be.

Or is he, as I suggested above, simply sui generis — one can never be sure where on the radar screen of current events his columnar blip will next appear. He clearly leans toward the conservative standpoint on the major questions of foreign policy and the Constitution; yet on social issues such as abortion, energy taxes, and stealth jihad he seems sympathetic to the liberal perspective. True, he opposes the Cordoba mosque project as a violation of “hallowed ground”; on the other hand, as we have seen, he trashes Wilders who has spoken passionately against the Cordoba mosque. What gives? The same man who came out strongly in Israel’s defense during the 2006 “Lebanon War,” backed by the conservative right, also supported Ariel Sharon’s disastrous “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005, which was naturally encouraged by the liberal-left.

How does he juggle what resembles a set of incompatibles? To use a metaphor from Bridge, it is as if Krauthammer is playing a tenace hand, holding two nonconsecutive high cards in a suit, but with no intention of “finessing underneath” the missing “honor.” There is no doubt that he plays a powerful game. But regrettably, one misses both the level of consistency one would infer from so formidable a player and the willingness to grapple with the terminal implications of that game.

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David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, was released by Mantua Books. His latest book is The Boxthorn Tree, published in December 2012. Visit his Website at www.davidsolway.com.
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