Charles Krauthammer’s collection of columns (mostly) — Things That Matter — has sold well over 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 in November 2013 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.
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.
New conservative leaders have taken their place on 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 book’s almost shocking success certainly reflects the admiration and respect of readers like me.
Conversations with Bill Kristol has now released Bill’s long interview of Krauthammer (video below). It is posted in its entirety and also broken into chapters here; the transcript is posted here. I found it of interest throughout and thought some readers might want to check it out as well.
At the opening of the interview Charles and Bill discuss Charles’s denomination of “the Reagan doctrine” in the pages of Time in 1985. Charles reflects on the power of naming and harks back to his psychiatric training, in the course of which he identified and named the syndrome of mania manifesting without depression., i.e., “Secondary Mania.” After “Secondary Mania” and the “Reagan Doctrine” came Charles’s 2003 identification and naming of “”Bush Derangement Syndrome.” I think the interview might well have been extended to cover “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” That is to say, this long interview left me wanting more.
In the concluding segment of the interview, Charles discusses Judaism and Israel. Charles’s love of, and respect for, his father shines through. It adds a moving element to this intellectually formidable discussion.