Doctor Charles Krauthammer, a paralyzed psychiatrist and irascibly syndicated columnist, writes that he has only weeks to live. The letter is matter-of-fact, and the fact is that it’s over.
This unwelcome sentence is occasioned by a fast-moving cancer which had looked to be beaten, but which gained the upper hand. A rapidly invasive, mid-abdominal cancer “everywhere” sounds perhaps like the miserable interconnected pancreas/gall bladder. I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer about a year ago, and if you know how to do the “pancreas salute”, then you know that this one is meaner than many.
Krauthammer has been a fixture on the TV screens of reasonable and unreasonable people alike, depending upon whether or not you agree with me about politics. I parted with him in many of his views. he (if I recall correctly) was never more than lukewarm about Trump, and was famously not going to drink the Kool-Aid that me and the boys been brewing in the fever swamp. Doc Chuck (to those who pretend to know him) was over there on the far bank of the river, swollen by a raging flood and newly dividing the conservative crowd. Reasonable and frustrated people on my side, and the squinting likes of Bill Kristol o’er dere. George Will. I rest my case.
Except that they got Krauthammer on that bank, and I always made a welcoming exception for him. Some of it was an awe-filled respect for the demonstrated mental abilities of the man. Some of it was no doubt a forbearance granted to a man with a physical struggle on top of the struggle that is life itself. cf. Dean “Chowdah!” Barnett, whose death while I was in Afghanistan rattled me deeply. Some of it may or may not have been a dopey smile and the way he clearly enjoyed himself in the back and forth with cohort and commies alike.
I can’t recall any specifics, and I haven’t looked anything up. You can listen to an airhead sibilate her fricative way through his letter on the post that Pencilvania put up. For some reason, I want to write this based just on my memory to date. Memory is important to me now, as I grow older, as the new patriarch-at-a-distance of my wing of the family. What will they say of me? Who will look me up to see what I thought?
No, no need to look it up with CK. I recall a general sense, a clutch of favorite moments now abstracted into my sense of the notorious Chuck K-Hammer. He engaged in a respectful banter with his opponents. Krauthammer, the wrecked man who towered over the bad guys even while sitting, propped up in his wheel chair, would let his interlocutor get what he had to say off of his chest. And when the guest got stupid, he bade us all witness the power of this fully operational battle station. Sometimes cross, sometimes gasping for breath more than usual, always effective, he would scorch his trespasser with a withering professional fire.
I said good bye to a good number of Never-Trump people based on their nastiness, or their fickleness, or their just plain wrong-headedness. But for some, whose wrongness was leavened by a history of personal respect and epistemological gratitude, I held no grudge. Thomas Sowell comes to mind in a way that, oh say, Rich Lowry does not. And I have written about Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin and John Podhoretz in a way that, oh, say, Charles Krauthammer would not. Not just because he may agree with those sorts more frequently than I, but because he is a fine and upstanding gentleman, whereas I am a jerk.
Perhaps it is a failing on my part to carry water for some folks on the opposite bank, but I confess my sins and keep right on doing it. Charles is a better man that I am, even when he is wrong, and it costs me nothing to admit it. His fight has been fiercer, and his victories more sweet. Oh, and he has victories. I do not know if we shall ever again hear him parry and thrust while chronically short of breath, breathing itself looking to be an exhausting task for him.
He has written a sawed-off little good-bye letter, which is more eloquent in its brevity, and tender in its bluntness than any rambling eulogial blog post could be. I haven’t the words to get this right, and I haven’t the skill anyway. Let’s not blame the words, then, as they served Krauthammer just fine.
Soon, he will know how it feels to be on his own, finishing the journey that we each must make, and which we each must make alone. He will walk where he once had sat, a relax where he had always fought. There will be a moment where a phrase popular on the right, the empty chair, will take on a special meaning in honor of the memory of Doctor Krauthammer. Fox News will have the privilege of saving him a spot for an episode or two.
Like a rolling throne.
Originally published at Ratburger.org by yours truly.