Charles Krauthammer, 68, last of the gentlemen columnists

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Grace Vuoto

America mourns the passing of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer. He died as gracefully as he lived, penning a grand letter a few weeks before his death, announcing that his battle with cancer was coming to an end.

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking,” he said in his eloquent June 8 farewell letter. ”I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”

The death of Krauthammer, age 68, on June 21, also marks the end of an era in journalism.

He was the last of the gentlemen columnists, loyal preeminently to a set of ideals, rather than to any political party or politician.

The ugly journalists have now taken over the craft, careless of facts, sloppy and self-serving in their analysis, distorting the truth to suit an ideology and even enriching themselves rather than advancing the national interest. Even the most honest journalists today are forced into tribalism, defending one political side vigorously over the other, and emphasizing the facts most suited to that cause.

Where have the watchmen gone? They are disappearing into memory as one of Krauthammer’s last chess moves, one of his cherished pastimes.

Krauthammer was remarkable due to his extraordinary diligence prior to forming his opinions.

He often began by actually reading the primary sources available, and not just skimming boring reports, but reading them with the precision of the trained psychiatrist that he was. He never ceased being a thorough student of the subject at hand. He thus combined a formidable intellect with a meticulous respect for the materials available. This attribute garnered respect by both those who agreed with his conclusions and those who did not: the information he provided was useful or thought provoking, regardless of his assessment.

Krauthammer was even more delightful to observe due to the paradox of his personality: he simultaneously conveyed both the gravity of the topic, while at the same time radiating a mischievous serenity and humor, transmitting a deeper, spiritual message. All of this discussion and analysis is temporary; what matters is how we treat one another, his demeanor seemed to say. His laughter could erupt in the midst of vigorous debate, cutting right through to our common humanity. He was known at his workplace, the Fox News studio, as among the kindest, most humane of the personalities on set, beloved by both the attending staff and his peers.

Krauthammer was an intellectually honest person.

Only this authentic regard for truth could account for his dramatic ideological makeover — one that was a decade in the making. In his youth he joined the Carter administration, was a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale and an editor at the liberal magazine, The New Republic. He eventually moved to the right, penning a famous 1985 Time magazine article, “The Reagan Doctrine.” He would ultimately champion small government, free enterprise and a hawkish foreign policy because his life experience had led him to conclude these are best for America. The facts he discovered were so powerful they led to a self-transformation.

He will be remembered for his best-selling book, Things That Matter (2013), a collection of his articles. And also for his outstanding strength and courage in coping with a diving accident during his college years that left him a quadriplegic. This tragedy could have sunk him into obscurity. Instead, he rendered his disability irrelevant to his life’s pursuit. And, hence, I deliberately mention it last in the list of accolades; for this is really where this incident belongs. He overcame his physical paralysis with the power, brilliance and beauty of his personality.

He was not without shortcomings. How could he, in his challenging physical state, not recognize that all human life is worth protecting? He remained pro-choice, while opposing the manner in which abortion became legal in America via judicial fiat and eventually supporting the ban on late-term abortions.

And in the final phase of his life, he completely misjudged and misunderstood the populist wave that ushered the victory of President Donald Trump in 2016. By then, after so many years moving in elite circles, he became disconnected from the needs, frustrations and bubbling anger of working people.

“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living,” he wrote in his letter. “I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

It was indeed wonderful to watch and listen to him, as I regularly awaited his frequent commentary on FOX News’ Special Report with Bret Baier.

I will miss you, Charles Krauthammer. You did not know me, but I was blessed to observe you, even for the little while that our paths have crossed on this earth.

Grace Vuoto, Ph. D, founder of the Edmund Burke Institute, is a WorldTribune columnist.

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