A tribute to Charles Krautham­mer

The Record (Troy, NY) - - OPINION - Cal Thomas, Amer­ica’s most­syn­di­cated columnist, is the author of 10 books.

I have of­ten thought that trib­utes to those we love are best made when the ob­ject of our af­fec­tion is still with us, rather than at their fu­ner­als.

I do not know Charles Krautham­mer well, though we would oc­ca­sion­ally see each other at Fox News when I worked there and at Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als baseball games.

Oth­ers have com­mented on his bril­liance, his dry wit and his skill at de­con­struct­ing ar­gu­ments made by his po­lit­i­cal op­po­sites. On “Spe­cial Re­port with Bret Baier,” a Fox News pro­gram on which he reg­u­larly ap­peared, his fel­low panel mem­bers would some­times sit in stunned si­lence fol­low­ing an ar­gu­ment he had made that seemed to them ir­refutable.

Krautham­mer had come a long way from his days as a speech­writer for Wal­ter Mon­dale to po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions di­rectly op­po­site those of his for­mer boss. In this he was like Ron­ald Rea­gan, who also had stud­ied and ex­pe­ri­enced the weak­ness of lib­eral do­mes­tic and for­eign poli­cies and found the con­ser­va­tive point of view a bet­ter path to solv­ing prob­lems.

What I have found most amaz­ing about Charles is that de­spite an ac­ci­dent in his youth that left him par­a­lyzed, he never com­plained, at least in my pres- ence, and there is no pub­lic record of his hav­ing done so. Nei­ther did he ac­cept or em­brace pity. He scooted around in his pow­ered wheelchair and into and out of a van es­pe­cially con­fig­ured for him.

While he was un­able to ex­er­cise his limbs, he ex­er­cised his mind to the great ben­e­fit of all those who have read his syn­di­cated col­umn and watched him on TV. He spoke slowly, partly from phys­i­cal ne­ces­sity, but also be­cause it helped him make his points and de­mand a hear­ing. In the rapid-fire speech char­ac­ter­is­tic of cable TV, one was more likely to re­mem­ber what Krautham­mer said.

So much of our po­lit­i­cal dis­course to­day sounds like re­gur- gi­tated sound bites put out by the White House and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. Few speak of so­lu­tions with the his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge and deep un­der­stand­ing that Charles pos­sesses.

Like Rea­gan’s final let­ter to the Amer­i­can peo­ple in which he an­nounced he had Alzheimer’s, but con­cluded on an op­ti­mistic note about the fu­ture of Amer­ica, Charles wrote in his final col­umn that he is grate­ful for the life he led. How many able-bod­ied peo­ple can say that? One might not ex­pect such a sen­ti­ment from a man who has ex­pe­ri­enced the most ex­treme per­sonal chal­lenges, the last be­ing can­cer, which has taken over his body.

Charles Krautham­mer has been an in­spi­ra­tion to me in many ways be­yond his con­sid­er­able tal­ent. He has demon­strated that even if life seems to deal you a bad hand the game doesn’t have to be over. Blind peo­ple are known to have en­hanced abil­i­ties in other ar­eas, such as hear­ing and touch. Charles over­came weak­ness in one area with su­pe­rior strength in another.

When he an­nounced re­cently that doc­tors told him he had just weeks to live, I thought of Frank Si­na­tra’s song, “My Way.” It is a fit­ting epi­taph on a re­mark­able and con­se­quen­tial life.

“And now the end is near And so I face the final cur­tain My friend I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case of which I’m cer­tain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full I’ve trav­eled each and ev­ery high­way

But more, much more than this

I did it my way.”

God bless you, Charles.

Cal Thomas

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