Face of the day

The columnist Charles Krauthammer at his office in Washington in 2010. “This is the final verdict,” he wrote of his cancer prognosis this month. “My fight is over.”CreditMichael Temchine for The New York Times

Charles Krauthammer, a former psychiatrist and self-described Great Society Democrat who metamorphosed into one of the nation’s most cogent conservative voices as a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and television commentator, died on Thursday. He was 68.

[…] While Mr. Krauthammer continually extolled Ronald Reagan (he ranked him No. 2 among 20th-century presidents, behind Franklin D. Roosevelt) and belittled Barack Obama’s record, he could criticize his fellow neoconservatives and Republicans just as fiercely as he skewered liberal Democrats.

Aligning himself with most conservatives, Mr. Krauthammer was gung-ho about going to war with Iraq in 2003, arguing for replacing Saddam Hussein with a democratic government, and he expressed few compunctions about torturing suspected terrorists.

But he also took a more liberal line in favoring the continued legalization of abortion, looser restrictions on stem cell research, abolition of the death penalty and, as an avowed Zionist, a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In sum, he was “independent and hard to peg politically,” said Meg Greenfield, his editor at The Post for many years.

Mr. Krauthammer would marshal his arguments with logic rather than bombast and deliver them with polished prose.

Known as an accomplished wordsmith, he originated the phrase “the Reagan Doctrine” for the president’s strategy toward the Communist threat — going beyond the policy of containment to actively encourage anti-Communist insurgencies. He coined the word “unipolarity” to describe the era after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, envisioning the United States as dominating it. And he diagnosed as “Bush Derangement Syndrome” the response many people had to the policies, the presidency and even the very existence of George W. Bush.

[…] “You can have the most advanced and efflorescent of cultures,” Mr. Krauthammer wrote in the introduction to his memoir, “Things That Matter.” “Get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away.” This is not ancient history. This is Germany 1933.”

His parents were not overtly political, he said, but his worldview was shaped in part by the Holocaust.

“It gives you a vision of the world which I think is more restrained, conservative,” he told the interviewer Brian Lamb on C-Span in 2005. “You don’t expect that much out of human nature.”

Nor out of divine providence. “I don’t believe in God,” he said, “but I fear him greatly.”

Mr. Krauthammer was born on March 13, 1950, in Manhattan to Orthodox Jewish immigrants. His father, Shulim, a lawyer who spoke nine languages, came to New York from Ukraine through France and Cuba, where he met Thea Horowitz, who would become his wife. She had left Belgium the day the Germans invaded, May 10, 1940, and later translated American military manuals for the Free French army.

-nytimes


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