Who Is Charles Krauthammer?

Charles Krauthammer has long been recognized as one of America’s most astute and authoritative political columnists, acknowledged as a cut above the majority of his scrivening colleagues. And yet there is something cryptic and elusive about him, like the coy Waldo in the famous puzzle. Perhaps he resents being put in boxes and wishes to preserve his independence of judgment, or his unpredictability. Still, one detects a growing tendency to pronounce upon critical affairs without sufficient grounding in the penetralia of things along with a positional inconsistency that renders him at times maddeningly unlocatable, like a slippery electron in a split-screen experiment.

In other words, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine where he can be reliably found on the ideological scale. Is he a conservative, a centrist, a “situational libertarian,” or all of these at different times? Is he a fiscal conservative like Terry Corcoran and, simultaneously, a social liberal like Alan Dershowitz? He is certainly far to the right of the New York Times, as any thinking person must be, but then he writes for the ultra-liberal Washington Post. Does he share a secret sympathy with choice portions of its editorial line or is he the paper’s resident conservative, whose purpose is to impart a semblance of impartiality?

Despite his apparent conservative credentials, Krauthammer had already become somewhat problematic after his stunning denunciation of the intrepid Geert Wilders at National Review Online. This is a great enigma since, extrapolating from his earlier track record as a sober and insightful observer of the world’s combustible transactions, Krauthammer might have been expected to give the Dutch parliamentarian his seal of approval. But to slander Wilders — a vigorous critic of political correctness, a courageous defender of democratic rights, and a man dedicated to resisting the Islamic cannibalizing of Western civilization — as “extreme, radical and wrong” is clearly beyond the pale. So gratuitous a condemnation seems especially mean-spirited when one recalls that Wilders is living under an Islamic death fatwa for speaking his mind. The stigma lies more with the American journalist than the Dutch politician.

And when Krauthammer proceeds to dismiss “Islamism” as merely “an ideology of a small minority,” he loses credibility, revealing a state of denial more plausibly associated with America’s coastal elites, public intellectuals, academic limpets, and media dilettantes like Paul Krugman, Peter Beinart, Thomas Friedman, David Remnick et al. Andrew Bostom takes Krauthammer roundly to task for his “fundamental ignorance of mainstream, classical Islamic Law” and for his “uninformed, incoherent musings on Geert Wilders and Islam.” Diana West, too, in The Death of the Grown-Up, castigates Krauthammer for going “all mushy on us,” passing off as “Islamist” what is plainly part of “Islam as a whole, as a historical continuum, as the theology of what we know as terrorism, as a rationale for dhimmi repression.” How someone as presumably knowledgeable as Krauthammer could become on this matter a charter member of the middlebrow illiterati is troubling.