Last night on the FOX News Special Report, Bret Baier announced that Charles Krauthammer’s collection of columns (mostly) — Things That Matter — has sold a million copies. It is a remarkable achievement for a book of previously published pieces by an author who is a pundit and not a political player in his own right. Aside from the merit of the pieces compiled in the book — a big consideration, to be sure, but the pieces were almost all previously published — what can account for the book’s huge success?
We saw Krauthammer speak this past November at the Pacific Research Institute’s Gala Annual Dinner for which Steve Hayward served as the master of ceremonies. The year before we saw Krauthammer speak in Minneapolis at the Center of the American Experiment’s annual dinner for which John Hinderaker served as the master of ceremonies. The PRI event sold out in part on the strength of Charles’s rock star status among the resistance to Obama. Charles was brilliant, of course: acerbic, dry, funny and penetrating.
Following Krauthammer’s speech, Steve proved the perfect straight man for Krauthammer. He picked through written questions submitted by the audience and summarized them for Krauthammer’s response. The two of them just about brought the house down. I would add only that Krauthammer wowed my mostly apolitical twenty-something daughter and her boyfriend. I don’t think he makes many campus appearances, but he should. He can persuade those whose minds are open to persuasion.
Steve used Krauthammer’s column on Churchill to introduce and characterize Krauthammer himself as our indispensable man. Everyone in our vicinity at the back of the room for the PRI dinner nodded his assent to Steve’s characterization of Charles. Krauthammer’s column on Churchill is compiled in the book. A photocopy of the column is accessible here. (I think the column errs in its description of Lincoln’s racial views.)
In his November 23, 2009 National Review cover story, Jay Nordlinger named Krauthammer the leader of the opposition in the Age of Obama. It was an honorific he had earned for his analysis both in his weekly Washington Post column and in his nightly appearances on the Special Report panel. His nightly appearances on FOX News have obviously served him well because he is so good at condensing sharp analysis into a minute or two of well-organized comments.
The 2010 elections brought new conservative leaders onto the national stage. Krauthammer isn’t necessarily still the leader of the opposition in the Age of Obama, but his opinion matters. He is the man from whom I want to hear first on the issues of the day. If I disagree with him, I will check my premises against the facts of the case. The success of his book may or may not be a harbinger of the coming elections, but it can’t hurt, and (again apart from the merits of the pieces compiled) it certainly reflects the admiration and respect of readers like me.