If you wondered why Pulitzer prize winning journalist Charles Krauthammer quit his medical career to write a political column for the Washington Post newspaper, you’ll learn the answer in his newest and sadly last book. He explained
“I left psychiatry to start writing…because I felt history happening outside the examining room door. I wanted to…because some things matter, some things need to be said, some things need to be defended.”
Dr. Charles Krauthammer died in 2018. In 2016 he started a new book but in 2017 was diagnosed with cancer. Treatment was initially successful, but multiple serious complications kept him hospitalized for many months during which he continued writing with his son Daniel’s and his wife Robyn’s help.
But the cancer recurred and this time further treatment would not be successful. We can thank Daniel for honoring his father’s dying wishes and finishing the book and facilitating the publication of The Point of It All.
Daniel wrote a helpful introduction to the book, explaining how it was put together. He also offered some personal reflections about his relationship with his father, and some insight into Dr. Krauthammer’s character and personality that he tended to keep private.
“My father’s writing…is not just thought-provoking but also feeling-provoking. His writing opens the mind, combining passion with intelligence, beauty with concreteness. “
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The book collects some of Dr. Krauthammer’s Washington Post columns, transcripts of speeches he gave, and text of a book on foreign policy that he was writing but had not published.
Most casual readers of Krauthammer will want to read Part I-People, where he discusses such diverse topics as
- Ronald Reagan
- Thomas Jefferson
- Chess and Sports
- The space program
- Part II -Man and Society
- Part III-Politics, Foreign and Domestic
- Part IV-Competing Visions-America’s Role and the Course of World History
- Part V-Speaking in the First Person
You can read the book straight through, or skip around, reading whatever chapter titles catch your attention. It was hard for me to pass up titles like
- Why I love Australia
- Man vs. Computer:Still a Match
- Pluto and Us
- They Die with Their Right On
- Thought Police on Patrol
- Just Leave Christmas Alone
- The Climate Pact Swindle
- Beauty and Soul
My favorite part of this book was the shortest-Part V, the few essays he wrote about himself, something Daniel said he didn’t like to do and would not have included.
“I’ve never wanted to make myself the focus of my career.”
And so in Beauty and Soul, he credits his wife of over 40 years with his success.
As a physician, I am intrigued and inspired knowing Dr. Krauthammer completed medical school and residency after and despite sustaining a spinal cord injury which caused quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down, preventing use of his arms and legs). (This no doubt made his treatment and recovery from cancer surgery all the more difficult.)
According to his son Daniel, his father also did not like to publicize or dwell on his or anyone else’s disability. He preferred to focus on what he could do, not on what he couldn’t do.
This excerpt is from a Washington Post column that is included in this book.
After watching videos in which The price of fetal parts was discussed over lunch, Dr. Krauthammer wrote
“Abortion critics have long warned that the problem is not only the obvious — what abortion does to the fetus — but also what it does to us.
It’s the same kind of desensitization that has occurred in the Netherlands with another mass exercise in life termination: assisted suicide. It began as a way to prevent the suffering of the terminally ill. It has now become so widespread and wanton that one-fifth of all Dutch assisted-suicide patients are euthanized without their explicit consent.
There is more division about the first trimester because one’s views of the early embryo are largely a matter of belief, often religious belief.
One’s view of the later-term fetus, however, is more a matter of what might be called sympathetic identification — seeing the image of a recognizable human infant and, now, hearing from the experts exactly what it takes to “terminate” its existence.
The role of democratic politics is to turn such moral sensibilities into law. This is a moment to press relentlessly for a national ban on late-term abortions.”
I enjoyed listening to Dr. Krauthammer’s memoir THINGS THAT MATTER: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics
This book is a collection of his more memorable opinion pieces as well as a memoir of his life, including medical school, his life-changing injury, psychiatric medical practice, his journalism career, hobbies (chess and baseball) and life with his family.
A life with no regrets
Dr. Krauthammer wrote his last piece for The Washington Post barely two weeks before his death and that post concludes his final book. Dr. Krauthammer wrote,
“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. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”
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