Charles Krauthammer (//; born March 13, 1950) is an American syndicated columnist, author, political commentator, and former physician whose weekly column is syndicated to more than 400 publications worldwide.
While in his first year studying at Harvard Medical School, Krauthammer became permanently paralyzed from the neck down after a diving accident, severing the spinal cord at C5. After spending 14 months recovering in a hospital, he returned to medical school, graduating to become a psychiatrist involved in the creation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III, and later developing a career as a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer. He was a weekly panelist on PBS news program Inside Washington from 1990 until it ceased production in December 2013. He is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and a nightly panelist on Fox News Channel's Special Report with Bret Baier.
Krauthammer was born on March 13, 1950, in New York City. His father was from Ukraine and his mother from Belgium. His brother, Marcel, was four years older. The family spoke French in the home. When he was 5, the Krauthammers moved to Montreal. Through the school year they resided in Montreal but spent the summers in Long Beach, New York. Both parents were Orthodox Jews, and he and his brother were educated at a Hebrew school. He attended McGill University in Montreal, graduating in 1970 with First Class Honours in both economics and political science. At the time, McGill University was a hotbed of radical sentiment, something that Krauthammer says influenced his dislike of political extremism. "I became very acutely aware of the dangers, the hypocrisies, and sort of the extremism of the political extremes. And it cleansed me very early in my political evolution of any romanticism," He later said: "I detested the extreme Left and extreme Right, and found myself somewhere in the middle." The following year, after graduating McGill, he studied as a Commonwealth Scholar in politics at Balliol College, Oxford, before returning to the United States to attend medical school at Harvard.
Krauthammer was injured in a diving accident during his first year of medical school. He sustained injuries that left him paralyzed below the neck and required him to be hospitalized for 14 months. He has used a wheelchair since the accident. He remained with his Harvard Medical School class during his hospitalization, graduating in 1975. From 1975 through 1978 Krauthammer was a resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, serving as chief resident his final year. During his time as chief resident he noted a variant of manic depression (bipolar disorder) that he identified and named "Secondary Mania." He published his findings in the Archives of General Psychiatry. He also coauthored a path-finding study on the epidemiology of mania.
In 1978, Krauthammer moved to Washington, D.C. to direct planning in psychiatric research under the Carter administration. He began contributing articles about politics to The New Republic and, in 1980, served as a speech writer to Vice President Walter Mondale. He contributed to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In January 1981, Krauthammer joined The New Republic as both a writer and editor. In 1983, he began writing essays for Time magazine, including one on the Reagan Doctrine, which first brought him national acclaim as a writer.
In 1984 he was board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. His New Republic essays won the "National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism". The weekly column he began writing for The Washington Post in 1985 won him the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1987. In 1990 he became a panelist for the weekly PBS political roundtable Inside Washington, remaining with the show until it ceased production in December 2013. For the last decade,[vague] he has been a political analyst and commentator for Fox News.
In 2006 the Financial Times named Krauthammer the most influential commentator in America, saying "Krauthammer has influenced US foreign policy for more than two decades." He coined and developed The Reagan Doctrine in 1985 and he defined the U.S. role as sole superpower in his essay “The Unipolar Moment,” published shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Krauthammer's 2004 speech "Democratic Realism," which was delivered to the American Enterprise Institute when Krauthammer won the Irving Kristol Award, set out a framework for tackling the post-9/11 world, focusing on the promotion of democracy in the Middle East". In 2009 Politico columnist Ben Smith wrote that Krauthammer had "emerged in the Age of Obama as a central conservative voice, the kind of leader of the opposition that economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman represented for the left during the Bush years: a coherent, sophisticated and implacable critic of the new president."
In 2010 The New York Times columnist David Brooks said Krauthammer was "the most important conservative columnist." In 2011 former congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called him "without a doubt the most powerful force in American conservatism. He has [been] for two, three, four years."
In 2013 Krauthammer published Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics, an immediate bestseller that remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 38 weeks, 10 weeks in a row at number one.
Krauthammer's other awards include the People for the American Way's First Amendment Award, the Champion/Tuck Award for Economic Understanding, the first annual Bradley Prize, and the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism, an annual award given by the Eric Breindel Foundation.
Krauthammer is a member of the Chess Journalists of America and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is co-founder of Pro Musica Hebraica, a not-for-profit organization devoted to presenting Jewish classical music, much of it lost or forgotten, in a concert hall setting. On September 26, 2013, Krauthammer received the William F. Buckley Award for Media Excellence.
Krauthammer is fluent in French and Hebrew.
Krauthammer has been married since 1974. His wife, Robyn, is a lawyer, but she stopped practicing law to focus on her work as an artist. They have one child, Daniel. Krauthammer's brother, Marcel, died in 2006.
Krauthammer is Jewish but is "not religious." In a Jerusalem Post interview he reflected on how he had been influenced by his study of Maimonides at McGill with Rabbi David Hartman, head of Jerusalem's Hartman Institute and professor of philosophy at McGill during Krauthammer's student days.
Krauthammer is a critic of intelligent design and wrote several articles in 2005 likening it to "tarted-up creationism". He also stated that "atheism is the least plausible of all theologies. I mean, there are a lot of wild ones out there, but the one that clearly runs so contrary to what is possible, is atheism".
He has received a number of awards for his commentary related to religion, including the People for the American Way's First Amendment Award for his New Republic essay "America's Holy Wars" in 1985, and the Guardian of Zion Award of Bar-Ilan University in 2002.
Krauthammer opposed the Park51 project in Manhattan for "reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz, and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there."
Krauthammer first gained attention in the mid-1980s when he first used the phrase "Reagan Doctrine" in his Time magazine column. The phrase was a reference to the American foreign policy of supporting anticommunist insurgencies around the globe (most notably Nicaragua, Angola, and Afghanistan) as a response to the Brezhnev Doctrine and reflected a U.S. foreign policy that went beyond containment of the Soviet Union to rollback of recent Soviet influence in the Third World. The policy, which was strongly supported by Heritage Foundation foreign policy analysts and other conservatives, was ultimately embraced by Reagan's senior national security and foreign policy officials. Krauthammer's description of it as the "Reagan Doctrine" has since endured.
In "The Poverty of Realism" (New Republic, February 17, 1986), he developed the underlying theory "that the end of American foreign policy is not just the security of the United States, but what John Kennedy called 'the success of liberty.' That means, first, defending the community of democratic nations (the repository of the liberal idea), and second, encouraging the establishment of new liberal policies at the frontier, most especially in the Third World." The foreign policy, he argued, should be both "universal in aspiration" and "prudent in application," thus combining American idealism and realism. Over the next 20 years these ideas developed into what is now called "democratic realism."
In the lead article in Foreign Affairs, titled "The Unipolar Moment" Krauthammer coined the term "unipolarity" to describe the world structure that was emerging with the fall of the Soviet Union. Conventional wisdom of the late 1980s was that the bipolar world of the Cold War would give way to a multipolar world in which the U.S. was one of many centers of power, equal to Europe, Japan, China, and others. Krauthammer predicted that instead, a unipolar world would emerge dominated by the United States with a power gap between the most powerful state and the second most powerful state that would exceed any other in history. He also suggested that American hegemony would inevitably exist for only a historical "moment" lasting at most three or four decades.
Hegemony gave the United States the capacity and responsibility to act unilaterally if necessary, Krauthammer argued. Throughout the 1990s, however, he was circumspect about how that power ought to be used. He split from his neoconservative colleagues who were arguing for an interventionist policy of "American greatness." Krauthammer wrote that in the absence of a global existential threat the United States should stay out of "teacup wars" in failed states, and instead adopt a "dry powder" foreign policy of nonintervention and readiness.
Krauthammer opposed purely "humanitarian intervention" (with the exception of overt genocide). While he supported the 1991 Gulf War on the grounds of both humanitarianism and strategic necessity (preventing Saddam Hussein from gaining control of the Persian Gulf and its resources), he opposed American intervention in the Yugoslav Wars on the grounds that America should not be committing the lives of its soldiers to purely humanitarian missions in which there is no American national interest at stake.
Krauthammer strongly opposed the Oslo accords and predicted that Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat would use the foothold it gave him in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to continue the war against Israel that he had ostensibly renounced in the Israel–Palestine Liberation Organization letters of recognition. In a July 2006 essay in Time, Krauthammer asserted that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict was fundamentally defined by the Palestinians' unwillingness to accept compromise.
During the 2006 Lebanon War, Krauthammer wrote a column, "Let Israel Win the War": "What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?" He later criticized Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's conduct, arguing that Olmert "has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later."
Krauthammer supports a two-state solution to the conflict. Unlike many conservatives, he supported Israel's Gaza withdrawal as a step toward rationalizing the frontiers between Israel and a future Palestinian state. He believes a security barrier between the two states' final borders will be an important element of any lasting peace.
When Richard Goldstone retracted the claim in the UN report on the 2008 Gaza war that Israel intentionally killed Palestinian civilians, including children, Krauthammer strongly criticized Goldstone, saying that "this weasel-y excuse-laden retraction is too little and too late" and called "the original report a blood libel ranking with the libels of the 19th century in which Jews were accused of ritually slaughtering children in order to use the blood in rituals." Krauthammer thought that Goldstone "should spend the rest of his life undoing the damage and changing and retracting that report."
He laid out the underlying principle of strategic necessity restraining democratic idealism in his controversial 2004 Kristol Award Lecture: "We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity—meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom."
The 9/11 attacks, Krauthammer wrote, made clear the new existential threat and the necessity for a new interventionism. On September 12, 2001, he wrote that, if the suspicion that bin Laden was behind the attack proved correct, the United States had no choice but to go to war in Afghanistan. He supported the Second Iraq War on the "realist" grounds of the strategic threat the Saddam regime posed to the region as UN sanctions were eroding and of his alleged weapons of mass destruction and on the "idealist" grounds that a self-sustaining democracy in Iraq would be a first step toward changing the poisonous political culture of tyranny, intolerance, and religious fanaticism in the Arab world that had incubated the anti-American extremism from which 9/11 emerged.
In October 2002 he presented what he believed were the primary arguments for and against the war, writing, "Hawks favor war on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is reckless, tyrannical, and instinctively aggressive, and that if he comes into possession of nuclear weapons in addition to the weapons of mass destruction he already has, he is likely to use them or share them with terrorists. The threat of mass death on a scale never before seen residing in the hands of an unstable madman is intolerable—and must be preempted. Doves oppose war on the grounds that the risks exceed the gains. War with Iraq could be very costly, possibly degenerating into urban warfare."
He continued: "I happen to believe that the preemption school is correct, that the risks of allowing Saddam Hussein to acquire his weapons will only grow with time. Nonetheless, I can both understand and respect those few Democrats who make the principled argument against war with Iraq on the grounds of deterrence, believing that safety lies in reliance on a proven (if perilous) balance of terror rather than the risky innovation of forcible disarmament by preemption."
On the eve of the invasion, Krauthammer wrote, "Reformation and reconstruction of an alien culture are a daunting task. Risky and, yes, arrogant." In February 2003 Krauthammer cautioned that "it may yet fail. But we cannot afford not to try. There is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the monster behind 9/11. It's not Osama bin Laden; it is the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world—oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism." Krauthammer in 2003 wrote that the reconstruction of Iraq would provide many benefits for the Iraqi people, once the political and economic infrastructure destroyed by Saddam was restored: "With its oil, its urbanized middle class, its educated population, its essential modernity, Iraq has a future. In two decades Saddam Hussein reduced its GDP by 75 percent. Once its political and industrial infrastructures are reestablished, Iraq's potential for rebound, indeed for explosive growth, is unlimited."
On April 22, 2003, Krauthammer predicted that he would have a "credibility problem" if weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq within the next five months.
In a speech to the Foreign Policy Association in Philadelphia, he argued that the beginnings of democratization in the Arab world had been met in 2006 with a "fierce counterattack" by radical Islamist forces in Lebanon, Palestine, and especially Iraq, which witnessed a major intensification in sectarian warfare. In late 2006 and 2007, he was one of the few commentators to support the surge in Iraq.
Krauthammer is a supporter of abortion legalization but opposes euthanasia; an opponent of capital punishment; a critic of the intelligent design movement and an advocate for the scientific consensus on evolution, calling the religion-science controversy a "false conflict;" a supporter of embryonic stem cell research using embryos discarded by fertility clinics with restrictions in its applications; and a longtime advocate of radically higher energy taxes to induce conservation.
Krauthammer was appointed to President George W. Bush's President's Council on Bioethics in 2002. He supported relaxing the Bush administration's limits on federal funding of discarded human embryonic stem cell research. However, he opposed human experimentation, human cloning and euthanasia. He warned that scientists were beginning to develop the power of "creating a class of superhumans". A fellow member of the Council, Janet D. Rowley, insists that Krauthammer's vision is still an issue far in the future and not a topic to be discussed at the present time.
In March 2009 he was invited to the signing of the executive order by President Barack Obama at the White House but declined to attend because of his fears about the cloning of human embryos and the creation of normal human embryos solely for purposes of research. He also contrasted the "moral seriousness" of Bush's stem cell address of August 9, 2001, with that of Obama's address on stem cells.
When my father was dying, my mother and brother and I had to decide how much treatment to pursue. What was a better way to ascertain my father's wishes: What he checked off on a form one fine summer's day years before being stricken; or what we, who had known him intimately for decades, thought he would want? The answer is obvious.
Meg Greenfield, editorial page editor for The Washington Post who edited Krauthammer's columns for 15 years, called his weekly column "independent and hard to peg politically. It's a very tough column. There's no 'trendy' in it. You never know what is going to happen next." Hendrik Hertzberg, also a former colleague of Krauthammer while they worked at The New Republic in the 1980s, said that when the two first met in 1978, Krauthammer was "70 percent Mondale liberal, 30 percent 'Scoop Jackson Democrat,' that is, hard-line on Israel and relations with the Soviet Union"; in the mid-1980s, he was still "50–50: fairly liberal on economic and social questions but a full-bore foreign-policy neoconservative." Hertzberg now calls Krauthammer a "pretty solid 90–10 Republican." Krauthammer has been described by some as a conservative.
Krauthammer's major monograph on foreign policy, "Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World," is critical both of the neoconservative Bush doctrine for being too expansive and utopian, and of foreign policy "realism" for being too narrow and immoral; instead, he proposes an alternative he calls "Democratic Realism." In a 2005 speech (later published in Commentary Magazine) he called neoconservatism "a governing ideology whose time has come." He noted that the original "fathers of neoconservatism" were "former liberals or leftists."
More recently, they have been joined by "realists, newly mugged by reality" such as Condoleezza Rice, Richard Cheney, and George W. Bush, who "have given weight to neoconservatism, making it more diverse and, given the newcomers' past experience, more mature." In "Charlie Gibson's Gaffe" in The Washington Post, September 13, 2008, Krauthammer elaborated on the changing meanings of the Bush Doctrine in light of Gibson's questioning of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin regarding what exactly the Bush Doctrine was, which resulted in criticism of Palin's response. Krauthammer states that the phrase originally referred to "the unilateralism that characterized the pre-9/11 first year of the Bush administration," but elaborates, "There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration."
Krauthammer criticized President George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to succeed Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. He called the nomination of Miers a "mistake" on several occasions. He noted her lack of constitutional experience as the main obstacle to her nomination.
On October 21, 2005, Krauthammer published "Miers: The Only Exit Strategy", in which he explained that all of Miers's relevant constitutional writings are protected by both attorney–client privilege and executive privilege, which presented a unique face-saving solution to the mistake: "Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives." Six days later, Miers withdrew, employing that argument: "As I stated in my acceptance remarks in the Oval Office, the strength and independence of our three branches of government are critical to the continued success of this great Nation. Repeatedly in the course of the process of confirmation for nominees for other positions, I have steadfastly maintained that the independence of the Executive Branch be preserved and its confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process. I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield."
The same day, NPR noted, "Krauthammer's scenario played out almost exactly as he wrote." Columnist E.J. Dionne wrote that the White House was following Krauthammer's strategy "almost to the letter". A few weeks later, the New York Times reported that Krauthammer's "exit strategy" was "exactly what happened," and that Krauthammer "had no prior inkling from the administration that they were taking that route; he has subsequently gotten credit for giving [the Bush administration] a plan."
On July 27, 2012, Krauthammer wrote a column that stated that President Barack Obama "started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office." In 2010 White House curator William Allman claimed that the bust had been on loan to President George W. Bush by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and "was already scheduled to go back" once Bush left office. However, Dan Pfeiffer, then Obama's communications director, called Krauthammer's claim "patently false" and "ridiculous," expounding: "The bust [is] still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room." It quickly emerged that the bust Pfeiffer referenced was in fact a completely different bust of Churchill that had been given to President Lyndon B. Johnson decades earlier. On July 30 Krauthammer demanded a retraction and apology from the White House. He initially received a private apology, but, upon his request, the apology was made public in the White House Blog on July 31. Krauthammer later said that he was "the only entity on earth, other than rogue states, that has received an apology from the White House."
Pfeiffer continued to maintain that returning the bust was "not something that President Obama or his administration chose to do," let alone "a symbol of President Obama's failure to appreciate the special relationship"—a charge that had gained currency after an Obama administration official told The Sunday Telegraph "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world" in 2009. Finally, Obama recounted in 2016 that he made the decision to return the bust of Churchill to make room for a bust of Martin Luther King Jr., thus contradicting previous White House denials that he had been involved, and refuting contemporary news reports stating Churchill had been replaced with a bust of President Abraham Lincoln. Obama explained his reasoning: "As the first African American president, [I thought] it might be appropriate to have a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King in my office."
A few days before the 2012 United States presidential election, Krauthammer predicted it would be "very close" with Republican candidate Mitt Romney winning the "popular [vote] by, I think, about half a point, Electoral College probably a very narrow margin." Although admitting his incorrect prediction, Krauthammer maintained, "Obama won but had no mandate. He won by going very small, very negative."
Krauthammer wrote in The Washington Post on February 20, 2014, "I'm not a global warming believer. I'm not a global warming denier." Objecting to declaring global warming settled science, he pointed out that much that is believed to be settled turns out not to be so.
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