On Friday, beloved and respected political commentator Charles Krauthammer unexpectedly said a final goodbye to his readers and colleagues. After a ten-month battle with cancer, Krauthammer penned a public letter this morning sharing his disappointing prognosis:
[R]ecent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.
Apologies for the cliché, but Krauthammer’s influence cannot be overstated. I won’t offer a preemptory obituary—I’m sure Erick and others will have much to say when the time comes—but this is truly an epochal loss for political discourse in our country. Few voices in any generation attain the alchemy of thoughtful analysis, articulation, and true advancement of ideas that Charles Krauthammer has brought to our American sphere of debate for the past four decades.
I’m gonna try to avoid employing the past tense prematurely here, but it’s worth cataloging at least a few of Krauthammer’s stunning list of accomplishments. A lauded psychiatrist first, and undaunted by a neck injury that left him paralyzed throughout his entire public career, Krauthammer got his start in the political octagon as a columnist for The New Republic and a speechwriter for Walter Mondale. Not exactly the origin tale of a GOP shill. Over the years he has earned broad acclaim from across the spectrum for his fair judgment and insightful elevation of the national conversation. He has contributed to Time, The Weekly Standard, Fox News, and The Washington Post, among countless others—notably receiving a Pulitzer Prize for his column work at the Post in 1987.
Though known mostly as a conservative commentator today, his ideology has never been chained to either party, regardless of era or employer. The same writer who distilled and coined the so-called “Reagan Doctrine” in the ‘80’s, to the consternation of his old Democratic allies, has been no less a thorn for Republicans in his moderate stance on abortion and capital punishment. The son of two Orthodox Jews, Charles himself is largely non-religious, though he has openly derided modern atheism as an absurdity.
In recent years, his credible criticism of the White House has made him the most consequential columnist in the US. This, despite the fact—or perhaps because of it—that his sharp takedowns have been aimed at both the Obama and Trump regimes.
We could belabor the story with discussions of his matchless prose or his uncanny powers of discernment for both people and the times we live in, but maybe the most remarkable legacy worth considering at the end is that of his personal character: Charles Krauthammer has, in modern Washington of all places, continued to be married to one woman, Robyn, since 1974. And by all accounts, he’s supposedly a real nice guy.
I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.— Dr. Charles Krauthammer, June 8, 2018