Charles Krauthammer, America’s Greatest Tory, a Postscript
I wrote the essay that follows in Jan 2015, almost 6 months before Donald Trump announced his candidacy. So read in that context, for the conversation was more about the hard solutions being offered by radicals such as Ted Cruz than the soon to be “clown”, Donald Trump.
Who doesn’t hang on every word of Charles Krauthammer? He is conservatism’s finest wordsmith, the last word on just about every outrage of government for the past 15 years. For many, Charles has been America’s Ben Franklin on every public issue, bringing a historic scope to the sociology and psychology of government and politics unmatched by any other commentator.
There’s only one hitch. Ben Franklin went where Charles isn’t willing to go.
Last Friday, while commenting about Mitt Romney getting into the presidential race again, Charles mentioned that if Mitt jumps in, it would split moderate voters (and establishment big money), regretfully hinting that this might, in turn, hand the 2016 nomination to, well you know, one of “them”; any one of a number of wrecking-crew Sam Adams types such as Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, just to name a few. In Charles’ eyes, these are all are unsuitable for that high office, or for that matter, a good game of cribbage over a good port after dinner.
It seems the one thing that separates Dr Krauthammer from Dr Franklin was Ben’s willingness to break with the King and start up a new nation here, risking life, fortune and sacred honor in the process. For Charles, being asked to cast his lot in with common revolutionaries seems to be a bridge too far.
Consequently, we should be more careful about Charles’ strategic advice, for while the finest of analysts, it’s a dead giveaway about where he is unwilling to go, or see America taken. He is not alone, so learn to look for this status preference in other conservatives, from seniors such as George Will, to a host of newbies such as Erick Erickson. Their rice bowls and public reputations are bound up in the survival of the current King, the Washington Establishment, and can be relied on to pull their punches when the Establishment, and their place in it, are placed in jeopardy.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, class status, that special circle of friends, is always a big thing, and in an enterprise in which one may have to risk it in favor of people one is uncomfortable sharing company with, it can be a deal-breaker.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.- (Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”)
Franklin was one of those rare individuals who knew no such distinctions. When he went to France during the Revolution to enlist French support for America’s revolution, he became a star, in part because the French aristocracy was amused at how well Ben mixed with the common people of Paris; people such as the kitchen help, people the aristocrats never noticed to even exist. Franklin had a class simpatico that was genuine. But for Thomas Jefferson it was another matter. A member of the gentility in America, by his siding with the rebels, Jefferson was promptly expelled. While to be “of the common man” was a natural station for Franklin, for a man of the upper classes to cast off his rank and throw in with the commoners was a feat of extraordinary heroism. By the combination of both a new nation was born.
Our next confrontation with the new King, the Washington Establishment, will require a similar mix, if it is to succeed.
In defining Obama’s administration as liars, crooks, and incompetents, Charles’ logic has been impeccable. He hates the pretension of tyranny as much as we all do. But his in-crowd status won’t allow him to carry out his logic to a final, if-all-else-fails conclusion, for that might entail shedding the Establishment, of whose Court he is a member. In his view, only the King should be in a position to deal with this threat from the Left, and only using the same tried-and-true processes which (sadly) have led us to this decimated state in the first place. Just like many unsung famous American Tories of another era, when having to choose between the King, tyranny, and a bold new path, a do-over, the King’s court can be relied upon to cling to the devil they know.
If America can’t get to where its needs to go by a nice, congenial, process-oriented road map, it seems, by God, Charles won’t go.
Famous American Tories
Almost no one can name a famous American Tory from the Revolution, although there were many intellectual luminaries in the years leading up to Philadelphia. 20% of the colonial population sided with England, including most of its cultural elites. Wikipedia even has a list of notable Tories, A through Z, none of which, except Benedict Arnold (who really doesn’t belong on the list) you ever heard of. University presidents, mayors, including many fine thinkers who agreed with most every principle enunciated in the Declaration, EXCEPT for that part that called for breaking away from the King.
Well, the rest, as they say, is history. Most Tories simply were unable to risk what the Philadelphia gang had risked; property, family, sons being hanged. But perhaps even more, many clung to their standing among their inner circles. They are now blips in history. Whether they took a principled high-road in defense of King and England, or simply a more puerile one based on social status, is anyone’s guess.
The point is, no American cares because the winners wrote the histories and the Tories went to Nova Scotia.
But had the British won, the Philadelphia gang all hanged, including Dr Franklin, many of these Tories would now have their own stamps down at the post office, honoring the patriots who stood by God, King and Britannia in its time of peril. AND America would have been set free anyway, probably as a dominion, like Canada.
But, Gawd, what a difference it would be. The America-the-world-has-known-and-aspired-to-be-like for 275 years could never have been born. We would be like Canada in more ways than we could bear to endure. And the rest of the world? Well, they could be speaking German, Russian or Japanese under who-know’s flag. And you couldn’t find a mention of God in a public place with a divining rod.
The Founders and the thousands of rebels who followed them, chose rightly. Not only could the Founders not know, but latter-day historians cannot find a way for the American people to become free except in the manner they chose to do it…which, from the first box of tea tossed overboard in Boston Harbor, was totally outside the conventional notion of “process.” The King would not allow it any other way.
So it is with our modern-day King, the Establishment and its constituent parts. Even as it gorges on more and more of our hard-earned work, it dares us to curse, or even yell “Ouch” when they kick us.
Big Government has proved it cannot be rehabilitated or reformed from within. Not because it can’t, but because, like George III, it won’t allow it. Big bureaucracy won’t allow it. And quite frankly, the Washington Establishment is so beholding to the size and power of that bureaucracy, they can’t conceive of a world without it. Why win the war against the Left if, as a result, we are to see sheep grazing on the Capitol lawn once again?
Once upon a time, the Constitution had citizen-Protectors such as William F Buckley, Jr, who said he would prefer to be governed by first 200 names in the Boston Telephone Directory than the entire Harvard faculty. I don’t think Charles Krauthammer would agree. Not even Yale. Eventually every professing conservative will come to a crossroads, when he or she realizes the road back to constitutional sanity cannot be achieved by simply putting a higher-minded class of legislator into the existing power framework, especially if drawn from such a small class of available leaders. Ordinary Americans are now (Thank Heaven!) beginning to personally taste really bad government with Obamacare. Because that pain is likely to grow, while still looking for leadership from those who are willing to make the hard choices about reducing government, working Americans are daily becoming more and more in the mood to start breaking things. Justifiably so.
America continues to hobble down, only more slowly because of men like Charles. But downward, nonetheless. That trajectory is in part because the King’s Court reviles the common herd more than they do the Marxists from their own class. I can’t make it any clearer than that. They view the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections not as giant wins, but as a grievous harbingers. So when the King’s court speaks of strategy instead of analysis, I will simply tune out FoxNews and turn to more practical leaders for inspiration, men such as Franklin, Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and oh yes, Sam Adams, who was a master at breaking things and setting little fires.
As much as I will continue to hang on his every analytical word…at least until the final gauntlet is thrown down and he must choose…when that time comes, I believe Charles Krauthammer has telegraphed how he will choose. And for this I’m a little sad, for I know he will feel a little melancholy when he hears that I’ve been hung, even as I would be if I can’t find a stamp with his image on it in the post office.
That was six months before Trump, and this follow-up, (Donald Trump, Charles Krauthammer, and the Clowns) was in July, 2015, about when Donald Trump announced his candidacy, and just a few days after Charles Krauthammer had called Trump a “rodeo clown” and Fox was so besieged with angry mail that Charles had to walk it back a little.
That was then, and this is now, almost three years later.
What has changed since July 2015 is that Donald Trump is now president, and Charles Krauthammer is no longer with us. The good news for Charles’ fans, like me, he died still on his game, a magnificent Tory, and probably the one Tory that will have his image on a postage stamp, as well as several public buildings named after him.
A genuine elite, like William F Buckley, as opposed to mere elitists like George Will and Bill Kristol, and a generation of wannabes, he holstered any petty supplications of his heart (if he harbored them any longer) and judged President Trump by his product rather than his style. Character and integrity, not smarts, defined this difference between himself and his colleagues.
Being a trained psychiatrist he may even have gone to his closet and peered deeper into Trump and spied purposes there that only the curious and inquiring mind, unburdened by fear of losing peerage, could find, the sort of thing Richard Brookhiser seemed to do in his series of warts-and-all biographies of the Founders, who still came up with a miracle of a Constitution on behalf of a nation of ordinary people who are still the topic of contention 225 years later.
I wonder if any of Richard’s books were on Charles’ shelf?
Charles Krauthammer will get his stamp, and deservedly so. In many ways like Donald Trump, only over a different road, he exposed an awful lot of the popinjay swamp-dwellers as they really are, and which, because of both, will bear much fewer off-spring than their class requires in order to thrive.
Not all the swamp will be drained, it seems. It will just be sprayed with DDT.