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January 13, 2014 / Sandy Asher


Reposted from Shea Magazine,

Things That Matter, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer’s latest series of essays, for the most part previously published in the Washington Post, soared to the top of best seller lists in 2013.  The collection’s popularity rides on his record of being stylistically engaging, sometimes humorous, and seemingly compassionate, logical, and objective.  For many admirers like conservative blogger Tom Tillison, now Senior Writer/Editor at BizPac, Krauthammer is “arguably the sharpest conservative mind in politics today.”

Sharp he is, but more is involved than intellect.  Krauthammer is quite clever in presenting himself as thoughtful and objective.  He’s willing to criticize positions taken by other conservatives – Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck among them – who are given to high emotion, ideological rigidity, and mean-spiritedness.  But in the end, Krauthammer turns out to be a wizard creating illusions of wisdom from behind a curtain of questionable premises and inconclusive facts.

Among the columns included in this latest book is a 1990 essay, “The Real Message of Creationism,” in which Krauthammer acknowledges that creationism “which presents Genesis as literally true, is not science,” and that the teaching of creationism “has no part in the science curriculum of any serious country.” Having thrown a sop to advocates of the scientific method, he then changes course, condoning the decision of the Kansas Board of Education to eliminate the teaching of evolution from the state science curriculum.  This decision, he explains, was based not on ignorance, but on resentment at the absence of religious values in the schools.  Hence, creationist lobbyists are understandable in seeking a ban on evolution because they are using that approach as a back door to restoring religion to its rightful place in the curriculum.

Krauthammer concludes that “a healthy country would teach its students about both evolution and the Ten Commandments.”  One could almost allow him that, but then comes the clincher:  Values eroded in the first place, he opines, because secularists used biology as a back door to inculcating their anti-American values, specifically by deceptively pushing for sex education classes.  In the blink of an eye Krauthammer has moved from rejecting creationism as bad science to empathizing with Kansas anti-evolutionists for waging the good fight against the forces of darkness.   The ends justify the means, and, anyway, nyah-nyah-nyah, they cheated first!

Another example of Krauthammer’s sleight of hand can be seen in “Decline Is a Choice,” a column that first appeared in 2009.  Again, first comes the nod to those critical of capitalism as a distribution system:  “There’s much to be said for the decency and relative equality of social democracy.”  Then it’s down to business.  The cost of some sort of social democracy — that is, greater focus on the needs of the poor — is too dear, he insists, because we live in a Hobbesian state of nature, a world of continual war and violence.  Social democratic programs, however desirable they may be, exact too high a price “on our primacy in space, on missile defense, on energy security, and on our military capacities and future power projection.”  Moreover, “at a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen.”

And so, by an act of legerdemain, Krauthammer shows us the needs of the poor and then makes them disappear.  Military expenditures must not be curtailed if we wish to preserve our benign hegemon which keeps the international community stable. An expanded domestic agenda is not a “peace dividend”; in a world without peace, it is “a retreat dividend.”  And “if we choose the life of ease [his phrase, apparently, for greater economic equality], who stands guard for us?”

 In short, poverty is lamentable, but the poor simply have to be sacrificed to keep us safe.

Krauthammer is not without compassion, though.  One of his essays laments the genetic ruin of border collies and another celebrates the miraculous resurrection of the baseball career of Rick Ankiel, the failed pitcher who reinvented himself as a successful outfielder.

Launching into a recent column entitled “Massacre at Newtown,” Krauthammer tells us he supported the 1994 Congressional ban on assault weapons. Then comes the switcheroo. Turns out that unless “you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry, and repeal the Second Amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.” He explains that the problem with gun control is not just NRA opposition.  Equally, if not more, at fault are groups like the ACLU whose objections to censorship legitimized glamorized violence in the world of entertainment.  Hence, the NRA and the entertainment industry bear similar responsibility for gun violence.

But has anyone ever been shot by a movie?

Throughout his essays, Krauthammer repeatedly misinterprets facts or clings to falsities despite clear evidence to the contrary. Just a few more brief examples:

             * George W. Bush allowed only 22 lines of existing stem cells, many of them contaminated, to be used in research, yet Krauthammer considers Bush to be a generous promoter of federal funding for stem cell research, a conclusion at odds with the judgment of all experts in the field.

              * Despite later revelations that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Krauthammer continues to believe in the wisdo m of the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam, who, in his words, held “the threat of mass death on a scale never before seen in the hands of a madman.”

* “Whatever their misgivings about the cost and wisdom of these wars (Iraq and Afghanistan),” he asserts, “the American people know how deep and authentic is the American devotion to liberty.”  Well, sure, but should devotion to liberty trump all costs and wisdom?

 I don’t think Krauthammer is being cynical in putting forth his arguments.  I think he believes he sees all sides clearly and draws the “right” conclusions.  (Pun intended.)  And although the Wizard of Oz was eventually revealed to be a small man behind a curtain, he was still the one and only Wizard of Oz.  By the same token, in no way are my observations meant to challenge Charles Krauthammer’s title as “the sharpest conservative mind in politics today.”

 Consider the competition.




Leave a Comment
  1. Fred Bortz, author of science books for young readers / Jan 13 2014 3:07 pm

    Posted for my Facebook friends with this comment:

    • Sandy Asher / Jan 13 2014 10:04 pm

      Hi, Fred —

      Thank you for reposting, though we don’t see the “this comment” in your message. Please make sure your FB friends know that HARVEY ASHER wrote the essay, not me. In adding my new website to the account, I seem to have taken over his position as owner. I do administer both sites, but I did not willingly add that by-line to the essay. It simply appeared in the email version. It’s not even visible anywhere else. I’m confused and embarrassed!

  2. Patrick Murphy / Jan 13 2014 3:37 pm

    Well done, Sandy. Loved your zinger at the end.


    • Sandy Asher / Jan 13 2014 10:06 pm

      Hello, Patrick —

      So glad you liked the essay, but it’s HARVEY’S work, not mine. I’ve posted a disclaimer, which you may have received by now. Just when one thinks one has figured out these things, another glitch occurs!

  3. Ted Vaggalis / Jan 13 2014 4:45 pm


    What a great review! It does a good job of unmasking the hidden agenda behind what Krauthammer does. Keep up this good stuff. I may use this in my freshman class to show how to read closely and carefully, thinking through the implications of what is said, as well as the consequences.

    I miss you guys. I am jealous of Pennsylvania that you and Harvey are there.

    • Sandy Asher / Jan 13 2014 10:08 pm

      Hello, Ted —

      Thank you for your kind words, but please make sure your students know that HARVEY WROTE THE REVIEW, not me. In adding my new website to this account, I’ve obviously messed up, though I have no idea where that by-line came from. It’s not on anything I can see other than the e-mail that goes out automatically to followers. Agh!

      Regards to all at Drury!

  4. mercyn / Jan 21 2014 9:02 pm

    Sandy –
    Tell Harvey he crafted a great essay. Readers should carefully examine opinion pieces. Unfortunately many cannot and most do not take the time. Miss you!

    • Sandy Asher / Jan 22 2014 12:40 pm

      Message delivered, Meryl. Harvey says “Thank you. And even those who do sometimes miss the hidden agenda.” We both miss you, too!

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