27 Jun 2018

More on Krauthammer

Big Brother 4 Comments

Paul Gottfried gives grudging respect to Charles Krauthammer in The American Conservative. An excerpt:

The contemporary Right bears little if any resemblance to what it was during the 1950s and 1960s, when it resisted the civil rights revolution, opposed communism as a godless enemy that worshipped state power, and favored traditional social relations. Then in the 1980s the neoconservatives came along and imposed their will on a movement into which they and their sponsors invested megabucks. The neocons also moved conservatism towards the Left by identifying it with a global democratic foreign policy, a centralized welfare state (albeit one that was to be “prudently” managed), and a mainstream liberal view of the evolution of American “liberal democracy.” Both support for the Israeli Right and constant warnings about recurrent anti-Semitism became veritable fixations within this transformed conservatism.

This transformation required figures who could present it credibly, and Krauthammer may have been the most indispensable of those who assumed this role. There were others who contributed to this effort, like the political theorist Harry Jaffa and the journalist and fundraiser Irving Kristol. But Krauthammer was clearly superior to them as an exponent of what the appropriate media marketed as “conservatism.” He carried out his task with such pedagogical skill and such obvious conviction that even someone who disagreed with where he took American conservatism had to be impressed. Unlike my friends and followers on the shrinking Old Right, I was not so much upset as awed by Krauthammer’s laying down of conservative party lines as a TV commentator and newspaper columnist. He was so far superior to others attempting to do the same thing that listening to or reading him was like watching an Olympic swimmer after seeing kiddies splash around in a plastic pool.

As I said before, I personally did not think as highly of Krauthammer as even some of his opponents do (e.g. I saw Justin Raimondo on Twitter also say nice things about him), although I certainly defer to Gottfried’s superior knowledge of the American conservative movement. (Also for what it’s worth, I remember that back when I was a fan of Rush Limbaugh etc., that Krauthammer had best crystallized my views on a “principled” approach to foreign policy.)

As a good antidote to the thesis of, “Say what you will, that Krauthammer was a principled, respectable opponent,” yikes! check out this Krauthammer column from 1996 (which someone linked in the comments of Gottfried’s piece):


In an election year you expect Washington to be full of phony arguments. But even a cynic must marvel at the all-round phoniness of the debate over repeal of the assault weapons ban. Both sides are blowing smoke.

In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security. Nonetheless, it is a good idea, though for reasons its proponents dare not enunciate. I am not up for reelection. So let me elaborate the real logic of the ban:

It is simply crazy for a country as modern, industrial, advanced and now crowded as the United States to carry on its frontier infatuation with guns. Yes, we are a young country, but the frontier has been closed for 100 years. In 1992, there were 13,220 handgun murders in the United States. Canada (an equally young country, one might note) had 128; Britain, 33.

Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquillity of the kind enjoyed in sister democracies like Canada and Britain. Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today.

Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation. Its purpose is to spark debate, highlight the issue, make the case that the arms race between criminals and citizens is as dangerous as it is pointless.

Yes, Sarah Brady is doing God’s work. Yes, in the end America must follow the way of other democracies and disarm. But there is not the slightest chance that it will occur until liberals join in the other fights to reduce the incidence of and increase the penalties for crime. Only then will there be a public receptive to the idea of real gun control. The passionate resistance to even the phony gun control of the assault weapons ban shows how far we have to go.

4 Responses to “More on Krauthammer”

  1. Craw says:

    I don’t see why that is unprincipled. It is disdainful of the electorate, but I think that was one of his principles.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Fair enough, but this still seems like an odd person to be a conservative’s conservative, even in the Rush Limbaugh sense of the term.

  2. Mark says:

    Krauthammer was a creep. Speak ill of him all you want. And your title for the post is great. Not sure if it was intentional or not, but when I send emails to my friends re someone or something I find disdainful, I often title the email More on . More on as in moron. Good job.

    • Mark says:

      OK, oops. At the end I said I often title the email More on and then I had the word “subject” in angle brackets which I suppose the browser is interpreting as an html note, so it did not display it. My bad.

      So, I guess more like, “I often title the email More on “subject”.”

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