Most pundits from both the right and the left say the most predictable things about the most predictable subjects. Their writing is devoid of new information, novel thought, or fresh insight.
A notable exception is Charles Krauthammer. In his columns and his Fox News commentary, Krauthammer offers some of the most brilliant, trenchant observations we are privileged to see or hear today. Yet most of us know little about him.
For his book “Portraits of Success: Candid Conversations with 60 Over-Achievers,” Burt Prelutsky, an author, columnist, and screenwriter, asked Krauthammer about himself. Prelutsky, who has written for “Dragnet,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” and “M*A*S*H,” began by noting that Krauthammer started out as a Democrat.
“I’d always been a Democrat,” Krauthammer confirmed. “I was a Great Society liberal on domestic issues. I even worked in the Carter administration and did some speech writing for Walter Mondale.”
But, Krauthammer said, “My evolution came in the 1980s when the Democrats were talking about a nuclear freeze. The Great Society, I came to see, did far more harm than good. I became a free-market conservative. So far as I’m concerned, Ronald Reagan was the best president. Nixon was the worst. Some of his policies were okay, but he disgraced the office.”
“How did you make the transition from psychiatry to writing?” Prelutsky asked Krauthammer, who was chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in the late 1970s.
“I answered an ad,” Krauthammer said. “The New Republic was looking for a copy editor. I replied, but I knew I didn’t want to be an editor. I wanted to write. So when I was interviewed, the editor asked me why I wanted to write. My answer was that I didn't want to be a doctor. I guess he found the answer intriguing. In any case, the first piece I did for them wound up getting reprinted in the Washington Post.”
“Do people often have the same reaction I had when I saw you in person for the first time and discovered that you're paralyzed?” asked Prelutsky, whom I met when he wanted to adapt a book I had written as a TV movie.
“Yes,” Krauthammer said. “On TV, you can’t always see that I’m seated in a wheelchair. In fact, in 2004, I was at the GOP convention in Madison, Wisconsin. At one point, Sean Hannity, who’d been a colleague for a few years by then, noticed me in the wheelchair and asked me what had happened. He thought I must have been in a recent accident.”
“What sort of accident caused your paralysis?” Prelutsky asked.
“I was 20 years old. I dove into a swimming pool and broke my neck on the bottom.”
Prelutsky asked if Krauthammer had any hobbies.
“Chess,” Krauthammer said. “It’s like alcohol. It’s a drug. I have to control it, or it could overwhelm me. I have a regular Monday night game at my home, and I do play a little online.
What is the best advice you ever received? Prelutsky asked.
“My father told me to always try and be your own boss.”
“How important is money to you?” Prelutsky asked.
“I always wanted my family to be comfortable. I’d say we have enough.”
“You write, you lecture, and you appear on TV with some regularity,” Prelutsky noted. “Which gives you the greatest satisfaction?”
“Writing is the most satisfying,” Krauthammer replied. “When you’re speaking, you can’t edit and rewrite yourself.”
“Does writing come easily for you?” Prelutsky asked.
“No,” Krauthammer said. “I dictate my first draft into a tape recorder. Then I transcribe it and edit the copy. When I’m dictating, I do it as if I’m speaking to a very bright college student. I envy people who write easily. I enjoy the process, but it’s not easeful for me.”
“Are you religious?” Prelutsky asked.
“I’m Jewish,” Krauthammer said, “but I’m not terribly observant. I attend synagogue on the High Holidays, and I light yahrzeit candles for my parents.”
“If you could invite any eight people who have ever lived to a dinner party, who would they be?” Prelutsky asked.
“Einstein and Newton would sit at the ends of the table,” Krauthammer said. “Then Jefferson, Maimonides, Plato, Aristotle, and John Stuart Mill. The eighth chair would be hard to fill, but I would like to have a conversation with Bar Kokhba, who led the second rebellion against the Romans in 132 A.D. He’s not as intelligent as the others, but I think he’d be very interesting.”
“How do you see yourself?” Prelutsky asked.
“It’s funny,” Krauthammer said. “When I was a psychiatrist, I used to end my interviews with prospective clients with that question. I would say I see myself as a psychiatrist in remission.”
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Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, CIA, and FBI. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," is to be released in August. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.
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