12 Jun 2018

Can You Speak Ill of the Ill?

Foreign Policy 4 Comments

I wouldn’t have said a word about Charles Krauthammer were it not for people who are guffawing over the fact that some criticize him. For example, here’s Jim Geraghty:

There’s not a lot that can be added to the tributes and appreciations that arrived almost immediately. Fay Vincent writes “he goes out like Lou Gehrig.” Chris Wallace offered an emotional salute to “a great man.” Jonah writes, “Charles is one of the most impressive and decent people I have ever known. He is a mensch in every sense.” What could unify Fox News’ Sean Hannity and CNN’s Brian Stelter these days? Not much beyond a tribute to Krauthammer.

The only silver lining to all this is that he (hopefully) gets to hear how much we appreciated him before he passes.

One other point worth keeping in mind, though. Soft-spoken, clear-thinking, clear-writing, ever-polite, never-shouting, never-table-pounding Charles Krauthammer — Charles Krauthammer! — was hated. Throughout his career, left-of-center writers wrote what they perceived as devastating take-downs of Krauthammer on a fairly regular basis. After a throwaway sentence along the lines of “while smarter than the average knuckle-dragging conservative,” the writers would usually denounce Krauthammer with such fury that you could almost see the flecks of spittle on the computer screen. The gist was always the same: “Don’t let your lying eyes and ears deceive you, even though Krauthammer seems smart and eloquent and thoughtful and nuanced and well-informed and all of these traits we’ve assured you are missing from the Right, he’s still every bit as bad as all the rest.

Over at the Huffington PostBen Cohen called him a “neo hawk megalomaniac.” In Esquire, Barrett Brown wrote that he perspectives on Afghanistan and Iraq reflected “a haze of amnesia and inexplicable self-regard.”

Joe Klein rather infamously suggested that his analytical abilities were limited because of his handicap.

“There’s something tragic about him, too,” Klein said, referring to Krauthammer’s confinement to a wheelchair, the result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school. “His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about.” After getting grief for it, Klein insisted “didn’t mean to imply second-class status for disabled people.” A few sentences later, he accused Krauthammer of starting wars and killing people: “Given his influence with the Bush Administration, his unflinching support for American unilateralism — his invention of the notion of a unipolar world — did extensive damage to our nation’s security and reputation overseas, and caused the unnecessary loss of life.”

News of Krauthammer’s imminent passing brought sneers and cheers from the usual low-life detritus of the political world.

No matter how polite you are, how smart you are, how refined and dignified you are, some people will hate you in the most vociferous terms. The lesson of this is not “never be polite,” but to recognize that being hated does not necessarily reflect that you’ve done something wrong.

Of course, nobody benefits from hate. If you’re a Christian you should love serial killers (while hating the sin). But Geraghty seems outraged by the fact that just because you do everything in your power to start wars that get people killed (as wars do), so long as you don’t raise your voice, people ought to say you’re an all right guy.

Here’s a sample from Krauthammer’s post-9/11 article:

Secretary of State Colin Powell’s first reaction to the day of infamy was to pledge to “bring those responsible to justice.” This is exactly wrong. Franklin Roosevelt did not respond to Pearl Harbor by pledging to bring the commander of Japanese naval aviation to justice. He pledged to bring Japan to its knees.

You bring criminals to justice; you rain destruction on combatants. This is a fundamental distinction that can no longer be avoided…

Nor is the enemy faceless or mysterious. We do not know for sure who gave the final order but we know what movement it comes from. The enemy has identified itself in public and openly. Our delicate sensibilities have prevented us from pronouncing its name.

Its name is radical Islam. Not Islam as practiced peacefully by millions of the faithful around the world. But a specific fringe political movement, dedicated to imposing its fanatical ideology on its own societies and destroying the society of its enemies, the greatest of which is the United States.

Israel, too, is an affront to radical Islam, and thus of course must be eradicated. But it is the smallest of fish. The heart of the beast — with its military in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and the Persian Gulf; with a culture that “corrupts” Islamic youth; with an economy and technology that dominate the world — is the United States. That is why we were struck so savagely.

These are the shock troops of the enemy. And the enemy has many branches. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Israel, the Osama bin Laden organization headquartered in Afghanistan, and various Arab “liberation fronts” based in Damascus. And then there are the governments: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya among them. Which one was responsible? We will find out soon enough.

But when we do, there should be no talk of bringing these people to “swift justice,” as Karen Hughes dismayingly promised mid-afternoon yesterday. An open act of war demands a military response, not a judicial one.

Military response against whom? It is absurd to make war on the individuals who send these people. The terrorists cannot exist in a vacuum. They need a territorial base of sovereign protection. For 30 years we have avoided this truth. If bin Laden was behind this, then Afghanistan is our enemy. Any country that harbors and protects him is our enemy. We must carry their war to them.

We should seriously consider a congressional declaration of war. That convention seems quaint, unused since World War II. But there are two virtues to declaring war: It announces our seriousness both to our people and to the enemy, and it gives us certain rights as belligerents (of blockade, for example)…

It’s kind of shocking that some people respond with strong language to the above guy, no?

And if you want to know the kind of smug liberal takedown of Krauthammer, it includes stuff like this (written back in 2011, FYI):

And so the year rolls around yet again to Krauthammer Day, the day on which we all celebrate Charles Krauthammer’s confident assertion eight years ago that:

“Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.”

Or nearly all of us celebrate it anyway. Charles Krauthammer himself seems to prefer to mark the occasion with an entirely unrelated Run, Paul Ryan Run! column. Which is a little sad – after all it has been five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus thirty days or so since he first put his, and his friends’ credibility on the line. It would be nice to see him (and others) mark the occasion more formally.

If Krauthammer ever apologized for that remark (which he made verbally at an AEI conference), let me know. I’m not saying he should have resigned, but the popular discussion I’ve seen (e.g. from Steve Chapman too) is that Krauthammer just let this go down the memory hole.

OK but perhaps quoting someone after an awful terrorist attack on Americans is not the best gauge of his nuance, soft-spokenness, and the other qualities that Geraghty thought would protect Krauthammer from people hating him. I looked at his Wikipedia entry and saw this article on Intelligent Design. Let’s see the sober Krauthammer discuss this controversial topic:

Which brings us to Dover, Pa., Pat Robertson, the Kansas State Board of Education, and a fight over evolution that is so anachronistic and retrograde as to be a national embarrassment.

Let’s be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological “theory” whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge — in this case, evolution — they are to be filled by God. It is a “theory” that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, “I think I’ll make me a lemur today.” A “theory” that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science — that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution — or behind the motion of the tides or the “strong force” that holds the atom together?

In order to justify the farce that intelligent design is science, Kansas had to corrupt the very definition of science, dropping the phrase ” natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us,” thus unmistakably implying — by fiat of definition, no less — that the supernatural is an integral part of science. This is an insult both to religion and science.

The above treatment of Intelligent Design is sophomoric. It would be like someone saying of Austrian business cycle theory, “This is an ideological crusade posing as economics. Rather than referring to measurable investments or the quantity of money like a scientific explanation, it simply declares by fiat that government intervention is immoral and hence causes a recession.”

Now sure, fans of Keynesians would probably applaud the above description and certainly would understand where that type of perspective was coming from. Likewise, if you are an atheist or agnostic I bet you have no problem with Krauthammer’s description of ID.

The only problem with the two descriptions is that they are totally opposed to the actual statement of the views. At best Krauthammer is throwing out everything that ID scientists have actually written, and instead is telling us what their hidden motivations really are.

So in conclusion, I don’t wish medical ills on anybody, but I can’t take NR’s shock, shock that some people really can’t stand Krauthammer with a straight face. I don’t have a TV so maybe he’s very pleasant in person, but it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that his columns invite vitriol.

4 Responses to “Can You Speak Ill of the Ill?”

  1. Bill says:

    R. I. P. Dr. Krauthamer. Although not always right (unlike R. P. M.), you are also a great American.

  2. Craw says:

    Just to clarify. I believe hate the guy who freed the slaves, and object as strongly to the war against the Nazis as any war Krauthammer advocated. Does my memory deceive me?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Are you missing word(s) in the above? I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to say, though I suspect it’s a shot at me.

    • Tel says:

      Neville Chamberlain was right.

      Only restoration of this much maligned leader can bring us to an understanding of why invading Iraq and Afghanistan had no moral equivalent to WWII.

      Hitler signed an agreement, the demands placed upon him were quite reasonable, and the UK fully intended to honour the agreement if Germany had only done what they promised.

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