Dr. Charles Krauthammer joined me in the first segment today to discuss the astonishing fact that his non-fiction collection of essays “Things That Matter” has sold more than a million copies, as well as to muse some more about President Obama’s ongoing collapse:
HH: I am beginning with Charles Krauthammer today, because this morning on a conference call with Michael Medved, Michael announced to me that Charles’ book, Things That Matter, had sold a million copied. And then I read that Pete Wehner at the Ethics And Public Policy Center said that’s unprecedented. I actually, Charles, just told Michael that’s not possible, because collections don’t sell a million copies.
CK: Well, they don’t sell at all, actually. And everybody’s kind of in shock. You know, it is, as far as we can tell, there’s never been a non-fiction collection that has ever sold a million copies, which would mean, Hugh, that Things That Matter is the best-selling collection of non-fiction since Marcus Aurelius, but we can’t be sure, because their final sales results from Byzantium and Thrace have not yet come in. So we’re withholding judgment on that one.
HH: And he might make a comeback at any time now that iTunes is out there. But that is remarkable, and I have a theory about this. Things That Matter has in its first chapter, and I’m doing this from member, I don’t have the book with me, my copy’s at home, is that politics are sovereign. That was the theme of your original…
HH: And that is becoming truer by the day. And I think people who see that realize you’re on to something.
CK: Well you know, I wrote in the introduction that I really wanted to do a collection of my non-political stuff, because in the first half of the book is all these weird, wonderful things in life, everything from meditations on Rick Ankiel to Winston Churchill and Woody Allen, and I wrote about chess and baseball and physics and Halley’s Comet and all that, just stuff I really enjoy. But as I wrote, you’re right, in the introduction of the book, a very long autobiographical introduction. And at the end, you can’t really do that. I have spent 30 years of my life writing mainly about politics, and the reason is, and the reason I left medicine, I was a doctor once, to do this, it’s for the same reason, because you know, all the other things that matter, the beautiful things in life, they can flourish, they can be wonderful, they can be thriving. You get your politics wrong, and everything is wiped away. And we see it all over the world. We see it historically, of course, Germany, 1933. You see it today in North Korea. Compare it with South Korea. South Korea got their politics right, and they’re thriving. They’re free, prosperous. North Korea, you know, this is a slave culture with the people spiritually and materially totally deprived. This is all about politics. So in the end, the book is a compromise. It was half politics, and half fun, and I’ve always loved part of it…
HH: Well, everyone should, all compromises should work to a million copies. That’s also profoundly influential, and people are reading it. I hope it’s going to move politics and will move the needle in some places, for example, Arkansas, where Tom Cotton is a serious man, where a serious book might matter, if people are reading it seriously, and they’re at Cory Gardner in Colorado, other places. I hope it moves politics. But I wanted to ask, I know you’ve said before you no longer practice psychiatry. You’ve given that up. But I want to tempt you to do a little armchair diagnosis here. On the New York Times front page yesterday, Peter Baker wrote about a series of dinners the President’s been having, and our friend John Hinderaker at Powerline says he sounds whiny. He sounds depressed to me. What do you think is his mental state?
CK: That’s very funny, because my specialty when I was a psychiatrist was bipolar disease. And I wrote some papers on manic disease. He’s not manic, and I don’t think he’s depressed. And I, you know, look. I’ve foresworn psychiatry simply because you really can’t do it at a distance. And one other thing is that you remember 1964 when about 500 psychiatrist signed a statement that Barry Goldwater was psychically unfit for the presidency?
HH: Well, I’ve read about it. I don’t remember it.
CK: Oh, you’re not young enough. Actually, I probably got it second-hand, for all I know. But that’s a real abuse. Psychiatrists, doctors and others who use their science, or even the global warming folks, you know, you have your expertise, and some people just use it to try to bludgeon other people with their authority. So I decided when I left psychiatry never to use my authority. But let me just say as a layman, without invoking any expertise, Obama is clearly a narcissist in the non-scientific use of the word. He is so self-involved, you see it from his rise. Here’s a man who says I don’t to theater, you know, I don’t do that. Well, his whole run in 2008 was theater, including the Roman, the Greek columns that he had around him at his speech at the convention in Denver. So I think he’s extremely self-involved. He sees himself in very world historical terms, which means A) because he’s an amateur, he doesn’t know very much, and B) because he’s a narcissist, he doesn’t listen.
HH: Well, the Baker piece includes this statement. “The President invited a group of foreign policy experts and former government officials to dinner on Monday, and a separate group of columnists and magazine writers for a discussion on Wednesday afternoon.” And from this flows this incredible self-pity. It’s, the world’s on fire, and he’s worried that the second-hand smoke is drifting his way.
CK: This is all because, I mean, count the number of times he uses the word I in any speech, and compare that to any other president. Remember when he announced the killing of bin Laden? That speech I believe had 29 references to I – on my command, I ordered, as commander-in-chief, I was then told, I this. You’d think he’d pulled the trigger out there in Abbottabad. You know, this is a guy, you look at every one of his speeches, even the way he introduces high officials – I’d like to introduce my secretary of State. He once referred to ‘my intelligence community’. And in one speech, I no longer remember it, ‘my military’. For God’s sake, he talks like the emperor, Napoleon.
CK: I mean, he does have this sense of this all being a drama about him, and everybody else is just sort of part of the stage. And that’s what’s really terrifying. I mean, how can a guy make the statement he made about the beheading, the grisly, cruel beheading of that American, James Foley, then go off to golf. And that’s not the worse part of it. Remember what he did on Meet the Press when asked about it. He said yes, I think I would take that one back. He said I understand the optics were wrong, but I’m not very good at theater.
HH: Same thing, yeah.
CK: He thinks that not playing golf would have been an act of pretense and theater.
CK: And that’s what he’s apologizing for.
HH: It raises this question. At some point, Hillary Clinton, who was in Iowa over the weekend, has to actually condemn him. I think this is coming, because the foreign policy is such a disaster, that eventually, there’s this Sharyl Attkisson piece today about her document drop at State Department, which will be an interesting thing to follow, but do you see a time coming when Hillary is going to have to speak bluntly, and at some political peril, about the President’s amateurishness and utter incapacity?
CK: I don’t think she will, because I think her husband, who’s a brilliant political tactician, will counsel her correctly that it will do more harm than good. This is a dilemma you really can’t escape. Hubert Humphrey couldn’t escape it ’68, very unpopular president. He tried to distance himself, but if you denounce, you really look small, or you look like, you know, where were you the first four years? Why didn’t you resign? Why didn’t you make a statement? You played along four years, and now you’re going to denounce him? I think it doesn’t work. You get Al Gore in 2000. He’s just talking about, you know, his problem, of course, is the Clinton zipper problem, not even a policy problem. But he can only go so far, because once you’ve served someone, then you’re going to lose more than you gain. I think this is pure politics. I’m not talking about in moral standing, I’m talking about in votes.
CK: I think you lose more by turning on whoever it was simply because people will think you’re of lower character.
HH: Interesting, okay.
CK: And that’s the calculation I bet she’ll make.
HH: All right, last question, over the weekend, or over the last few days, David Petraeus, General James Mattis and George W. Bush all found forums in which to try and push the President towards acting decisively. These are three men who have not said anything publicly about the President. Do you think that helps nudge him? Or does he resent that they are doing so?
CK: I don’t think it affects him either way. The man lives in a cocoon surrounded by sycophants. There’s not anyone of independent stature around him. There was in the first term, because he needed them to prop him up. But now that he entered a second term, he’s the master of the universe, so there’s nobody around him. He is impervious to outside advice, real advice that he takes. Why doesn’t he talk to Henry Kissinger? Why doesn’t he talk to George Schultz? And Petraeus was the one who did what we have to do, which is to turn the Sunnis around. He did that in ’08 and ’09, and Obama then said that he pretended that nothing had happened. No, I don’t think Obama can be reached. I think he’ll have to come to his own decision. And I think what brought him to his own decision to do anything at all was the switch in public opinion. It was not a switch in strategy. I guarantee you that if we hadn’t had the televised beheadings, Obama would never have announced the policy he did.
HH: Well, maybe then a thumping in November will push him towards that decisiveness. Charles Krauthammer, again, congratulations, one million copies sold of Things That Matter. That’s just an extraordinary publishing marvel, and richly and well-deserved. Thank you, Dr.
End of interview.