Salute to Charles K

Scott has noted the sad news from Charles Krauthammer, which comes hard on the shocking earlier news of the morning of the apparent suicide of Anthony Bourdain.

I had heard that Charles’s recovery from surgery several months ago was going poorly, and that the prognosis was not good. But as he explained in his note today, he’s had an amazing full life, and I know he has confided to close friends that he has lived longer than he ever expected following the dreadful accident 40 years ago that left him severely disabled physically.

You often hear that people who can’t see develop a keener sense of hearing, or that humans compensate in other ways for specific disabilities. Pascal said that all the ills that afflict a man proceed from one cause—the inability to sit quiet and contentedly in a room. Charles had no choice in the matter. Though even sitting, I’ve seldom perceived someone so energetic. And he didn’t let his disability limit his mobility all that much. I did once see him speeding down the sidewalk in Washington in his powered wheelchair—a typical sighting I am told. He had a specially outfitted van with custom hand controls that he could drive himself, usually to Washington Nationals baseball games after he finished a stint on the Special Report panel on Fox.

I’ve wondered about whether Charles’s disability in some way contributed to his laser-like clarity and lucidity of his (dictated) prose. Charles was always riveting in his live remarks as well as in his prose. His statement this morning also calls forth the insight of Seneca, who said it is the hallmark of a well-regulated mind to be able to call a halt at will and dwell at peace within itself.

From two years ago in San Francisco

I can’t say I know Charles well, but I did get to spend some time talking with him on several occasions. Once, following the huge success of his collection of columns, Things That Matter, we fell to talking about his writing a standalone book. He demurred, saying he much preferred the short-form writing of columns on current events to long-form book writing. But he relented some as I made the case that the story of how he made the transition from a liberal to a conservative (remember, Charles had been a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale back in the 1970s) would be interesting and no doubt unique, and he admitted that this was an attractive idea.

If you have 15 minutes, this clip from an interview with Charles Kesler on The American Mind is worth taking in, as he explains some of his intellectual evolution:

And as a bonus: