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Dr. Charles Krauthammer On Things That Matter

Thursday, October 31, 2013

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HH: Joining me to discuss that and much, much more, because he is the author of the number one bestselling book in America, Charles Krauthammer joins me now. Things That Matter is his brand new book. Welcome, Dr. Krauthammer, and congratulations. Number one is a good thing.
CK: Yeah, it is pretty good. Non-fiction, of course, I can’t compete with fiction writers. Of course, that’s like competing with the Obama administration.

HH: But Amazon is out of your book?

CK: As of this hour. I think there’s a bunch of pack mules headed up the Mississippi carrying my book to headquarters. So they should arrive fairly soon.

HH: That is so awful. Things That Matter is linked at, and I’m about to tell you, America, you’ve got to read this for your own great pleasure and relief. Charles, you heard that opening montage. Before we dive into Things That Matter, where I want to spend the bulk of our hour, what did you make of this performance today?

CK: You know, to her credit, and it was a pathetic, horrible, just mortifying performance, she didn’t, she wasn’t holding a lot of cards. I mean I was just thinking about it this morning. What is there to say? You’ve just presided over the biggest debacle in sort of liberal administrative history. You’re into it for several weeks. You have no way out. You’re now getting reports that people are losing, people perfectly happy with their current policies, are having them cancelled out of the blue because of a regulation in Obamacare that they hadn’t told you about. I mean, what in God’s name can you say? So she said what she had to, and it certainly didn’t help them in any way.

HH: Oh, it was a total disaster for her.

CK: I mean, I hate to say it, but I almost felt sorry for her, almost. I can’t say I did entirely.

HH: Oh, I went there. I was thinking Rita Lavelle.

CK: Yeah.

HH: I was thinking other tremendous train wrecks of hearings past.

CK: Yeah, I know.

HH: Let’s turn to Things That Matter, because this is a joy. And I want to begin with your family. And specifically, I want to begin with Marcel, your brother. It’s an achingly beautiful essay about him. But I have the galleys, not the final book. Is the picture of you two on the beach in the final book?

CK: No, it’s not. We actually have no pictures. There was a documentary that Fox did on me that ran Friday and Sunday. It was a one hour documentary by Bret Baier in which they had lots of photos and even home movies from when I was three years old, believe it or not, in color. My parents had this super-8, I forgot what it was. So there’s a lot of that of a fat, little three year old running around a beach. But unfortunately, that picture, and there is a picture like it of my brother and I a few years older, but that specific one, my mother had in her house. It’s my brother and I sitting on a jetty going out from the beach on Long Island, and there’s nothing but sand and sea and sky, the two of us together. He’s maybe eleven, I think I’m seven. And he’s draping his arm over my shoulder in that kind of protective way that older brothers do. It is the most touching photograph I can ever remember, and yet when my mother moved here, she’s now 92, it disappeared. So all we have is the memory of the photo, and the paragraphs I wrote in describing it.

HH: Well, they’re beautiful paragraphs, and we can pray it turns up at some point. I think this essay, for anyone who has brothers, and I have two, is worth the price of the book alone just to send it to your brother, with whom you cannot have that kind of a conversation about whom you might remember such things. And it’s beautifully done. Now your father also must have been quite the man. And his putdown of cold warriors, Resistance Fighter Post-War on Page 283, who took after him more? You or Marcel?

CK: I think in some ways, I did. He had this wonderful energy and spirit. He lived the 20th Century. He was in France in the 20s and the 30s. He was a lawyer. He fought in World War II. He was lucky. He got the Italian front.

HH: (laughing)

CK: Yeah, and he said, he said I prefer a tank. I’m not sure I want to be in the air. He was in the tank corps on the Italian front. And then the war ends, and he left. He went to Lisbon. He found his way to Cuba and Brazil. He has a fantastic, obviously, of a story. But he was always free French. One of the proudest things he would show me is he always carried with him, you know, the double cross, de Lorraine. It’s the double cross of two horizontal lines through a T. And that was the sign of the French resistance. He always carried it with him when he was in the Caribbean, and wherever he was. And there was always this expression of, after the war, of course, everybody claimed to have been in the resistance. In French, it’s Maquis d’apres-guerre, the resistance of after the war. So he had this kind of wonderful French cynicism about him, but cynicism in him, and still a very humane way. And I always thought that’s the way to face life. You face it with a smile, you understand sort of the fallenness of man, you don’t go around angry, and you simply carry on. And that’s always been my model.

HH: And your mother at 92, I don’t know if she’s still following the news or…

CK: Oh, she is. She is so with it.

HH: Is she a critic of yours?

CK: If I don’t show up on Special Report without having my office call her in advance, she calls me and says what happened? So after about eight of these in a row, I said look, Mom, I want you not to worry. And I want you to think of it in this way. Assume that I had died during the day and not been on Special Report. Don’t you think they would have announced it? And she said yeah, so she no longer has to worry if I’m not on, if there’s no announcement that I have met an unfortunate end during the afternoon.

HH: Where did she meet your father?

CK: Havana.

HH: Okay. Now tell me, given that she’s had, obviously, a lot of joy in her life, but also a lot of suffering.

CK: Yeah.

HH: To lose a son and a husband, and to have a son injured. How has she dealt with that?

CK: She has been a rock. I mean, in some ways, it’s absolutely remarkable. She is, thank God, extremely healthy, physically and mentally, intellectually sharp as anything. All she wants to talk about when she calls is why I’m so hard on Obama, and why can’t I give him one week off. But she has gone through these terrible things. My brother’s death, it’s all, I mean, for a parent to bury a child is the worst thing ever, and we all understand that. And I was injured when I was 22. That was extremely hard on them. And then, of course, she loses my father. She’s been a widow for a quarter century. And the beautiful thing, as I’ve said to her many times, have you ever thought of remarrying? And she said after your father, I could never look at another man again.

HH: Oh, it is beautiful. Now I have to ask a question. At the end of the book, you reference your son, Daniel, and your wife, Robyn. Daniel obviously has a genetic package that includes Marcel, your father, your mother and Robyn and you. So who is he or what mix is he?

CK: I used to carry him around The New Republic when I worked there when he was very small, and Rick Hertzberg, the editor, used to call him Xerox. There are pictures of us in our early 20s where I defy you to say which is his and which is mine. But he has the sharpest, most brilliant mind, sharper than mine, and I’ve always said that. From a very early age, he would always be challenging not in an aggressive way, but with a wonderful wonder and curiosity that was simply staggeringly beautiful. And where we would have conversations, deep ones, historical ones, philosophical ones, going all the way back in the years, it’s been a remarkable development.

HH: Now later in the book, you write that until the age of 30, I had not the faintest idea or expectation of becoming a writer. I don’t know what Daniel does, but is that path in front of him as well?

CK: He’s a very, he’s an excellent writer. He’s trained as an economist. He studied economics at Harvard, and then he got a graduate degree in economics at Oxford. But he decided to run away to Hollywood and to try to become a screenwriter and director. He’s taking a year or two off. He’s right now at Stanford Business School, and I think he wants to sort of combine that, so I think the writing, he’s more interested on the fictional side than the kind of stuff I do, and he’s far more interested, when it comes to political analysis, on the hard sciences of economics rather than the floaty stuff that I write.

HH: Well, I would again encourage anyone under the age of 30 who feels like they’re drifting, if for no other reason, than to read the essay in which Charles Krauthammer says that until the age of 30, I had not the faintest idea or expectation of becoming a writer. It will encourage you greatly if you are a bit adrift.

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HH: Charles, one of the things I appreciate about Things That Matter is that you are full of compliments for other people. And you are very quick to acknowledge who impacted you. For example, Charles Murray’s book, Losing Ground, mattered to you a lot. What do you read now? How do you consume, what, are you a non-fiction guy exclusively? Are you a short-form person? How do you read?

CK: I’m a non-fiction guy. There’s one exception. My favorite author is an Argentinian short story writer called Borges. I started reading him on my 22nd birthday. I remember it, because it had such an enormous impact on me. I read a collection of his short stories, including one story called A Library Of Babel, which I think is the most beautiful and elegant rendering of human mystery, and how can one put it, and what it’s like to live in a world of the unknowable. It’s a beautiful story. It’s about eight pages, and the prose is so simple. But other than him, I generally like to read non-fiction, simply because I think there’s so much I need to know before I die. And the books I’ve read lately is A History Of Alexandria. There’s a history of Jerusalem called, by Montefiore…

HH: Oh, sure.

CK: …The Biography of Jerusalem. I read, for some reason, I got into a Middle East thing. I read T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which is his story during the First World War in Arabia. So I’m kind of caught up in, it could be the Arab Spring, It’s gone to my head.

HH: There are four people if they put a book out, I do not miss it. I read Joseph Epstein, everything he writes, Bill Bryson, everything he writes.

CK: Yeah.

HH: But I read Daniel Silva and C.J. Box as well, and they’re novelists.

CK: Yes.

HH: Do you read Epstein?

CK: I do read Epstein. I think he’s a delightful writer, everything he touches, sort of, it’s illuminated. And the second one you mentioned…

HH: Bill Bryson.

CK: Bryson is one of the most wonderful writers ever. The book he wrote on Australia…

HH: Yes.

CK: The sunburned country, is so funny that you cannot listen to it in the car, because you will go off the road.

HH: Yes.

CK: I did. It just screamingly funny and witty and elegant, fantastic writing.

HH: That’s like The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid.

CK: Yeah.

HH: I was out running, and I was laughing so hard people thought I was insane.

CK: Exactly, yeah.

HH: Well, I’m glad to hear that. Now you’re always on deadline, right? Even as we speak, you’re on a deadline. You’re a weekly columnist.

CK: Yeah, it’s due in about, oh, an hour or so, but what the hell. I’ll make it.

HH: Well, I wanted to know. When do you settle down to turn in your column?

CK: Well, I have one luxury. When I began writing the column in 1984, I was approached by the Post. And I said to Meg Greenfield, who offered, she was the editorial page editor, she said I want you to write a column. I said I’ll do it on two conditions. Number one, I write only once a week. Up until then, no one had ever had a once a week column that was successful. And she asked me why and I said for two reasons. A) I’m lazy, and the second is I don’t have, I barely have one idea a week. I’ll never get two. So she agreed. And the other thing I said is I’d like to do it on a Friday. That way, I’d have my weekends free. And the way it works out is it’s sort of worked out very well. I write it today, on Wednesdays, but it closes around Noon or 1:00 or 2:00 tomorrow. That’s when we send it out to the 400 newspapers that run the column. So what I do is I always get it done by Wednesday night, and then the beautiful thing is if you sleep on anything you write, and this is advice I’d give to any writer, if you have the luxury of sleeping on it, I find at least fifteen things in the column, and I will find them immediately, that can be improved that I did not see after reading it again and again today. So I know that it’ll improve by 30% in the morning just by having the fresh look. There was a writer called Edwin Yoder here. When he wrote for the Post, he was an excellent columnist in his own right.

HH: Oh, yes.

CK: And he told me that whenever he would write a column, he would always stop and go for an hour’s walk and then come back, and he would improve it immensely.

HH: Does the psychiatrist that you are tell you that your mind is working on that column overnight?

CK: The psychiatrist in me has been in remission for about 35 years. And I tell you, I’m doing extremely well, Hugh. I haven’t had a relapse since.

HH: All right, so back to the writing. You talk about your editors in the book, and I’m glad you do.

CK: Yes.

HH: And you just mentioned Meg. You’ve had a string of extraordinary editors. And just a couple of thoughts on their role, because they’re often overlooked, and you pay them homage in the course of Things That Matter.

CK: Yeah, I do. I mean, I have the autobiographical essay at the beginning of the book, and I don’t often write about myself. That’s totally new, that stuff that I write. Yeah, so I’ve been very lucky in my editors. Meg and my current editor at the Washington Post who succeeded her, Fred Hiatt, who’s a prince of a man, brilliant, very judicious, and has given me the freedom, like Meg, the Post has, the Graham family, to write as I please. In the twenty, what is it, seven, eight years I’ve been writing every week, not once, not once have I ever been told what to write, what not to write, been criticized for something I wrote.

HH: Oh, you took out the word gay.

CK: Well, okay. That’s the one exception in the book, and I’ll have to explain. In the mid-90s, I was writing a column in which, just to be ornery, I wanted to use the word gay to mean happy, because it still hadn’t quite transformed. So I snuck it in there, and I sent it in. This, I write about in the book. It’s the only time I ever got a call, a restraining order.

HH: I know. And that was…

CK: And Meg calls me…

HH: It’s a charming story.

CK: And before she can even say hello, I say okay, you caught me, right? She said yeah. And I said well, and she said you’re ten years too late. You can’t use, the word’s already changed. So you know, I was just being perverse, so I had no particular investment in keeping it in, and I said sure, I’ll change it.

HH: Just tweaking your editor. Now you also get to write about sports, and you mentioned Thomas Boswell, who almost single-handedly kept me in Washington, D.C. when I left.

CK: Yeah.

HH: But Ray Fitzgerald, Peter Gammons, Terry Pluto today, sportswriting is hard. Do you find those columns hard? Or are those just whimsical?

CK: They’re harder to write. When I’m writing on the news, like what I’m writing now is a vicious attack on Obamacare. Boy, it almost writes itself. It’s almost too easy. But you want to write, as I do, I write at least once or twice a year on baseball or chess, or all the other lovely things in life. That’s hard, because you’ve got to create something from nothing. I mean, you’ve got to make it up. And that’s really hard. That’s almost like writing fiction, which I think is extremely hard, because you’ve got to make it up. When you’re writing non-fiction, the world creates the boundaries within which you write. So once you’re constrained, it’s easier to make your choices. But I do love writing. I have a few articles on baseball in the column. I write one, it’s just about the beauty of the game, just about watching the perfectly thrown outfield assist, or I write about chess, which people imagine is the dullest of the dull. But I guarantee you, you read the one about speed chess, and what that does to the inside of your head, I think you’ll get a kick of it. And I wrote one about Rick Ankiel…

HH: Yes.

CK: …who I listed in the, I begin the book with a list of columns about people, starting with my late brother, as you mentioned, including one about my mentor at Harvard, the medical school, who helped me get through medical school, and there’s one on Rick Ankiel, who has this fantastic story.

HH: Hold it for after the break.

CK: I can hear the music. I’m going to have to postpone it.

HH: I’ll be right back.

CK: And I’ll tell everyone to read it in the book.

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HH: It’s Bach, of course, because in Charles Krauthammer’s brand new book, Things That Matter, he echoes the opinion that our world ought to simply be Bach on an endless loop out to the world beyond, but that would be bragging. Charles, I’ve been talking about the light-hearted stuff thus far, because the grim side of Things That Matter is grim indeed, and you are almost bipolar in your columns. Has anyone else commented on that?

CK: Well, I try to regulate the medication. And I can do it myself. No, I’m just kidding. No, I mean, there is some somber views in the column, and it comes out in odd ways. One of them is a column I wrote on the Fermi Paradox.

HH: Yes.

CK: Enrico Fermi was a physicist, one of the great physicists of the 20th Century who posed a question. And it was very simple. We know there are thousands, millions of habitable planets out there. And that means there are thousands, millions of civilizations. How is it possible that we have not received a signal, heard a word, a whisper, from any one of them? And I go through the calculations that the physicists have made about how probable it is. And you come out with a very high number. And the question is why haven’t we heard? Well, the most plausible explanation, and it was offered by Carl Sagan, was that the lifetime of a civilization once it achieves consciousness and the ability of its science to actually send signals, the lifetime of such an advanced civilization is extremely short.

HH: And that is echoed in your essay on the proliferation, hyper-proliferation when you write, “Our planet is 4.5 billion years old. We’ve had nukes for precisely 61. No one knows the precise prospects for human extinction, but Richard Feynman, great mathematical genius who knew how to calculate odds, if he were to watch us today about to less loose the agents of extinction, he’d call a halt to bridge building. Do you agree with that?

CK: Well, you know, Feynman was one of these fantastic scientists, the youngest scientist at the Manhattan Project in New Mexico. Actually, you know what he used to do in his spare time? He’d break into the safes of the other scientists and leave little notes behind, just for the fun of it.

HH: And he taught at Cal Tech for years, didn’t he?

CK: Yes, he taught at Cal Tech. He wrote, I mean, he’s one of the most fascinating scientists over the last century. Feynman wrote in a very touching, just a little part of his autobiography, and this is a joyous man who is not melancholy. He spent a year in Brazil learning the bongos. I mean, this is a great, energetic, happy man. But he wrote that when he returned from the Manhattan Project, he’s driving through the outskirts of New York, and he saw people working on a bridge. And he said to himself, why are they doing that? Don’t they understand? And of course, it didn’t alter his life. He didn’t become a depressive. But still, it was, and the question I have, and this really is the terror that lies ahead of us. I don’t think we understand the stakes with Iran and North Korea and others. We can handle, perhaps, or we can handle a North Korea. We might be able to handle an Iran. I don’t think so. And I think it’s a really important test case.

HH: That’s why I just spent two hours talking to Peter Baker about Days Of Fire.

CK: Yeah.

HH: And I think Cheney is Cheney because he studied those reports and has that thought, Charles.

CK: And that, but you see, what lies beyond that in my son’s lifetime, you know, beyond us, fifty years, seventy years, it is inevitable that many countries are going to acquire the bomb, and they’re going to be less stable. There are always going to be crazies among them. They’re going to be small countries with apocalyptic leadership, some like Iran. And then you ask yourself how does such a world regulate itself? I’m almost grateful that I’m living in an age that precedes that, because that’s going to be something the world is going to have to decide. But one way it can go is to become like a global authoritarianism where let’s say a war breaks out and there’s terrible devastation, and then you just abolish liberty, and the world has to be run in a way that controls that. Or there’s a way, and this is the reason I support the foreign policy I’ve always supported, which is to try to spread democracy as best we can. It’s almost as if there’s a race between the spreading of democracy and the spreading of the weapons. If Iran became a democracy, we wouldn’t worry about it.

HH: Exactly.

CK: When Russia was soviet, we worried about the bombs. They have the same number of bombs, but they’re not communists. They’re not dedicated to our extinction. And that’s why we don’t wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night building a bomb shelter. So it is that the reason, I think, the core of American foreign policy, and I write about it in the last half of the book, about America and the world has to be over time, it’s not going to happen overnight, spreading democracy, because that’s the only hope for civilized societies to live side by side and not to have the weapons.

HH: A very concise or actually, much better explanation of the Bush doctrine than was ever actually enunciated by the Bush administration.

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HH: One of your essays, Charles, on Page 287 is your 9/12 essay, the day after 9/11. And it ends, “The long peace is over. When war was pressed upon the greatest generation, it rose to the challenge. The question is, will we?” What do you think?

CK: I think we have. I think we’re in a period somewhat analogous to the late 70s when after a hot war, namely Vietnam and of course here, Afghanistan and Iraq, there was a decided war weariness. And for those who thought at that point that was the mark of American decline and that we were going to withdraw from the world, the Russians thought so. They went out and began acquiring a whole bunch of colonies around the world – Nicaragua, they went into Afghanistan, they watched as Iran kicked us out, even Grenada, of all places, they went to. And there were a lot of places. There were, everybody was saying there was a book by Jean-Francois Revel, How Democracies Perish. And that was the pessimism that I don’t think is warranted. There is a lot of it now, because you saw the resurgence with Reagan. It takes one leader, it takes one turn, it takes a revival of the spirit, and the right said of the domestic and foreign policies. And that’s what we, we are just one president, one set of policies away from the resurgence. So I am not at all sharing in the pessimism. I think we will rise to it. But we have to understand is it’s a lot more, it’s not the Second World War, even though it began with a Pearl Harbor, which lasted, you know, less than half a decade. This is the Cold War. The war against Islamism will last a generation, possibly two. And that’s how long the Cold War lasted. And if we keep our spirit and understand the challenge, which is one of the things I have against Obama, he simply will not face the challenge. He won’t use the word, he speaks of extremism as if it’s just some kind of people like being extreme without talking about the content, that extremism, namely Islamic radicalism. If we keep our eye on what it is, how to defeat it, and why our civilization is superior, we win, and I think we will.

HH: Almost in passing, in an essay called The Inner Man, which is about a lot about Edmund Morris writing on Reagan, you note that in four pages of his book, he blows through the years ’76-’80, and I quote you now. “When Reagan remade American politics,” might we not be at the same place, and I’m not going to call you to say is it Cruz, is it Rubio, is it Christie, but might we not be in the same sort of situation as that, those four years in which Reagan remade American politics?

CK: I do think so. I think we, and I would give one example of a sign that that might be coming. I’m not a prophet here, but I’m looking at the collapse of Obamacare. Obamacare is the great symbol of the overreach of American liberalism. It’s an attempt to add an entitlement at a time in our history when we have to be reducing, slimming, reforming and remaking the entitlements, because it’s devouring the budget and making the country, turning its economy into a stagnant pool. At that time, we get a president whose ideal is the Western Europe and those social democratic states of Europe, adding an entitlement which will be hugely expensive. But now, as it unfolds, is a disaster. I’m not saying it necessarily will be, but if it is, if it continues on this path, I think it will be an event that will set back American liberalism, and the idea of the ever-expanding, ever-intrusive, ever-overprotective, paternalistic state, that will set it back ten years, maybe a generation.

HH: That brings me to a question I wrote when I was on your essay on affirmative action, in which you wrote, “Issues of this magnitude should never be decided by nine robes.” I thought of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in Sebelius, which I thought was a masterpiece when it was written, though I was disappointed with the result, and I think increasingly, it’s a work of genius to have stood back, preserved the Commerce Clause jurisprudence, and at the same time, understood that this had to happen if the country was ever going to confront the empty, hollow, tragic demands of progressivism. What do you think?

CK: Well, you know, I do think, all of us would love a shortcut to the policy of outcome that we want. And I write about this, as you’re absolutely right, in affirmative action. What I was writing, a very messy, muddy decision that came, of course, from Sandra Day O’Connor having to do with the Michigan Law admissions, law school admissions. And I said, you know, and the conservatives were in despair over this, and I said, I wrote in the column, look, we could have gotten a decision that would ratify what we want. On the other hand, there would be eternal opposition from the other side, and they would say that we cut short the debate in the same way that the liberals on abortion cut short the debate, took it out of the political arena, and left half of America disenfranchised, and the issue unresolved. So I said, I was writing in praise of the muddy decision, because I said there’s no reason affirmative action is reaffirmed or imposed by this decision. It simply says it’s not legally outlawed. In other words, it leaves the disposition, the future of affirmative action, where it should be, in the hands of the people. Let us over time, and I’m sure we will, let us, over time, come to the collective decision expressed through the ballot box, and through the Congress and the state legislatures, that we want a colorblind society. If we arrive at it in that way, we will have achieved far more, because the other side will see it as a legitimate decision. They will see it as a consensual American response, and they won’t see it as nine robes imposing themselves. So it’s one of those columns which, and I chose a lot of them that are sort of counterintuitive, but trying to show a different way to get to the same vote.

HH: Yeah, I think it ought to be read in tandem with the Sebelius decision, and the error that were some of the same sex decisions. A quick question…

CK: Yeah.

HH: You’ve got a lot of essays on architecture, a beautiful one on the Holocaust Museum. You have obviously moved so much around the city, all the statues of the liberators, which I lived there for six years, I had never noticed. You quote Adams’ double quotation of architecture in his famous musing.

CK: Yeah.

HH: What’s the most beautiful vista in Washington, D.C? We only have 30 seconds.

CK: You stand at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. The lines are perfectly straight. They’re parallel. It’s designed so that you look right through the Washington Monument, right to the center of the Congress, flanked on one side by the White House, the other by the Jefferson Memorial. Is there a more perfect expression of the American idea than what you see standing in that one place?

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HH: Charles, I want to put two questions into one and give you three minutes. The one question is do you ever tangle with Benedict or his American cousins, Chaput and Dolan, and read what they write? And then, I want you to finish by talking about the beginning of your book and the sovereignty of politics. “Politics is the moat,” you write, “the walls beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay and everything burns.” And I think those are actually connected. I think religion is part of that moat, and it’s under attack in America. So you have the floor.

CK: Well, in one sense, I would put religion among the other beautiful, elegant, efflorescence of our culture and society, the expression, the highest expression of being human. But the interesting thing I found about that, I’d originally intended to write a book entirely about all of those lovely things – religion and art and poetry. But in the end, I decided I can’t just include those columns. I have to include politics, and the reason is, as you quote from the introduction, politics is sovereign in the following way. All of those beautiful things, all of those expressions of the highest in human nature, are dependent in the end on getting the politics right. Look at Germany, 1933, the most advanced of all cultures in Europe, and look what twelve years of getting the politics wrong did to its civilization, to its culture. Look at China, cultural revolution, five years trying to destroy five thousand years of Chinese culture. And you don’t have to look to the past. North Korea, this is a society that got the politics terribly wrong.

HH: Right.

CK: A mad kind of Stalinism reduced the population to slavery, no longing, no higher expressions, a beehive in which it is utter desolation, spiritual and material. That’s why I write about politics. That’s why I left medicine, one of the highest expressions of human excellence and of the human heart, the healing profession, to go to politics, because I always had a sense that those lovely, elegant, beautiful things in life have to be protected by the right politics, because if you get them wrong, then you lose everything.

HH: And it is a beautiful injunction, and I wish we had time to talk about Churchill, the Indispensable Manner, any of the other amazing essays in Things That Matter, but we don’t. Charles, thank you, and the foreign policy book you promised, when’s that going to appear?

CK: I’m going to rest on my laurels for about seven or eight years. I don’t know. When I come off the trip, you know, the book tour, I’ll start writing again.

HH: And last question, have you ever filmed the Pariah’s Club at work?

CK: We haven’t. The Pariah Chess Club, which I write about in the book, was a very private association of extremely eccentric people. I’m not sure it would have done well on film.

HH: I think it’s a reality show. I think it’s like the Duck Dynasty waiting to happen. Charles Krauthammer, thank you again. Things That Matter: Three Decades Of Passions, Pastimes And Politics, America, in every bookstore in America, and maybe Amazon’s mules will get there in time. But you can go and order it right now at or over at

End of interview.

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