tv Things That Matter CSPAN December 24, 2013 8:00am-9:11am EST
>> how did you come up with a title, "no better time"? >> the title, "no better time," is because the theme of time runs throughout the entire book. he lived such a short life and accomplished so much in such a short period of time. he was kind of obsessed with creating things. he created, helped set up the internet. the story was about why wait? if you have an incredible idea, even one that is audacious, even one people say could never succeed, you know, we have a short time. ..
>> we all have the ability to creae something that outlives us, and that's the beauty of the story. and that's what i hope the reader takes away. >> thank you for your time. >> thank youment. >> in "things that matter," charles krauthammer presents his writings on various political and social issues. he spoke about his book at the george w. bush presidential library and museum in dallas, texas. this is just under an hour. [applause]
>> good evening, everyone. and happy birthday, mrs. bush. [applause] this is a great personal pleasure more me, because as charles reminded me in the green room, we've known each other now for 32 years. i was briefly charles 'em employer. charles krauthammer has written a fantastic book, a compilation of his columns plus just a marvelous introduction. and as somebody who used to be in the publishing business, i know one thing which is that compilations never sell. charles' book is number one on amazon and will debut as number two in nonfiction on "the new york times" bestseller list this sunday. [applause] he's ahead of john grisham and
bill o'reilly and rush and you name it, charles. [laughter] charles krauthammer was born in new york city, he was raised in montreal. he went to mcgill, and after that was a commonwealth scholar at oxford be, then went to the harvard medical school and was a psychiatrist, practiced for three years, was the chief resident at massachusetts general hospital. then briefly went to work for president carter, was a speech writer for vice president mondale during his presidential campaign and then where with i got to meet him was when he came to "the new republic" in early 1981. and at the time the new republic, if i may say so, was, it was the golden age. charles was there and mike kingsley and rick herz berg, and what was interesting about it was you had a group of people who had different ideas and
frequently fought over them, but it wasn't a monolith. at any rate, charles won the national magazine award for commentary in 1984, a very coveted prize for anybody who's a magazine writer. and then in 1985 he went to work for "the washington post" as a columnist. and within two years he had won a pulitzer prize for commentary. since then he has continued to write for "the washington post". one of the things that charles taught me when i was an aspiring columnist was that you write one column a week. it's hard to do more than that. and even one is not so easy. joe scarborough called him the most powerful force this american conservativism, and i think that's an accurate, an accurate description. david brooks has called him the most important conservative columnist. you're going to hear from him tonight, and we will have, charles will speak. we'll hear questions from the floor, so save up your
questions. you're in for a real treat. charles krauthammer. [applause] >> thank you, james. i'm very honored to be here. thank you for being here, mr. president, mrs. bush. there are nice introductions, and there are kind introductions. a nice introduction is where they say all the nice stuff about you, they list your achievements. they have it transcribed and notarized, and they send your mother a copy. [laughter] a kind introduction is where they leave stuff out. [laughter] now, despite your intentions, that was a distinctly unkind introduction, because you included two things which i now have to explain. [laughter] first, there's the mondale thing. [laughter] yes, it's true, i was a speech writer for walter mondale, and people ask me, as you can imagine, how do you go from walter mondale to fox news.
the answer's simple, i was young once. [laughter] and then there's the psychiatry part, got to explain that too. yes, it is true that i once was a psychiatrist. actually, technically speaking i still am. but in reality i'm a psychiatrist in remission doing very well, thank you. [laughter] haven't had a relapse in 25 years. [laughter] and, of course, i'm asked to compare what i do today as a political analyst in washington with what i used to do as a psychiatrist in boston, and i tell people it really isn't that different, in both lines of work i deal every day with people who suffer from paranoia and delusions of grandeur. [laughter] the only difference is that the paranoids in washington have access to nuclear weapon. [laughter] present company excluded. [laughter] which makes the stakes a little higher and the work a little her interesting. i am really honored and delighted to be here at the bush library, to have seen the
bushes. i'm happy to be among you, but truth be told, i'm happy to be anywhere where juan williams can't interrupt me. [laughter] [applause] i'll be sure to tell him how you feel. [laughter] i want to begin by saying how much i appreciate, mr. president, what you did for the nation at a moment of maximal danger, how you were clear-eyed, straightforward and courageous against rallying the nation, and you were never afraid to use that word and that a idea, managing to recognize islam as a great religion while at the same time seeing no contradiction in denouncing, opposing and rallying the nation to fight the perverted branch of islam which attacked us so wantonly on 9/11. i wrote at the time and i believe to this day that history
will treat you like harry truman, recognizing the depths of your achievement in creating the very infrastructure that will carry us through i this war on barbarism. we're already seeing this today in a kind of backhanded tribute to you as those who so criticized you during those eight years, the very people who did criticize you in those eight years, when they came to power, they adopted the very same tools that you bequeathed to them and that you and your administration had created ex nihilo in a moment of national confusion and danger. just as truman did in his day, providing the infrastructure, the tools and the institutions that carried us through the cold war in those days and will carry us through this war. in this generation. and if i can just repeat what i
said to you in private, but i'd like to say it in public that i spoke to my wife earlier today. she asked me to convey to you her admiration and respect for what you did for our country, the steadiness of your voice, the depth of your devotion to country and your determination to see things through even when you were nearly alone. now, i know i'm supposed to be selling books, but i just had to say that first. especially -- [applause] especially the wife part. [laughter] otherwise when i get home tomorrow night, i'll with sleeping on the couch. [laughter] and now about the book. it's called "things that matter: 30 years of passions, pastimes and politics." and it's very good. [laughter] you should buy it, you should buy lots of copies especially
for your liberal friends, if you have any left. i don't. [laughter] so in conclusion -- [laughter] no, that was just a test. i wanted to see whether i'd get the kind of applause that clinton got at the '88 convention when after 50 minutes he used those words, and and the place erupted not just in applause, but in celebration. [laughter] but i digress. [laughter] about the book. the book is several things. the first thing, because it does span my career as a journalist going all the way back to, as jim said, 1981, in fact, i started on the day that ronald reagan was sworn into the presidency. it's a chronicle of the last three decades. and those three decades are historically a time of enormous
fascination which it was my privilege to witness and to comment on. the '80s, the reagan revolution and the last days of the cold war, the '90s, our holiday from history. the 2000s, the beginning of the age of holy terror. and for the last half decade, this week is the fifth anniversary of the winning of the presidency by barack obama. barack obama and the rise of a new kind, a new, more ambitious -- and i might even say radical -- kind of american liberalism. regarding the '80s, i think the one column that sort of captures it the best is the one in which bill clinton says during his presidency when we look back on that era -- he meant the cold war era -- and we long for a, i made a crack the other day. i said, gosh, i miss the cold war. it was a joke. i mean, i didn't want really miss it -- i didn't really miss it, but you get the joke.
and the point was that we have this myth created after conservativism in the decade of the '80s, utterly destroyed and undid what was left of the soviet empire of communism. this myth that there was a great national consensus on how to confront the soviets. now, there was in the '50s and the '60s, but it dissolved after the vietnam era, and there was a great division this the country. and the '80s were distinguished by the fact that there was a total breakdown of that consensus. and i write about that in the column because jim had mentioned in the introduction that the new republic, this was a little magazine, it was the bone of contention between me and, well, essentially everybody else on the magazine was i began to support publicly and the writing many of the things that reagan did, essentially, the things he did that won the cold war. and we had these huge arguments internally, but i ended up
writing a lot of the unsigned editorials that began with the democrats falling and swooning for this hysteria over the nuclear freeze. and i wrote the unsigned editorial attacking the freeze rather mercilessly. and what i like the best about it is that i found out at the next editorial meeting that it caused the largest number of cancellations in the history of the magazine. [laughter] jim will remember that. [laughter] which i was rather proud. you may also remember, jim, that at that very same session the bitterness and the anger and the volume of the letters that came in attacking us and me in particular, that we should choose someone to read all the letters every week to choose the worst, most vitriolic one and to cancel that person's subscription. [laughter] i wanted to do it without a refund, but the business side was not very happy about that idea. but the point was, and this helped to move me from left to
right, was the fact that the democrats vociferously opposed every step in the reagan foreign policy agenda that we now know empirically helped to bring down the soviet union. and that was both the issue of the nuclear -- resisting the freeze, the demonstrations in the streets, the deployment of missiles to counter the soviet missiles that they had imposed this eastern europe, the reagan doctrine which helped reverse the terms of the cold war and, finally, the idea of the missile do defense be which -- defense which has one great advantage to us today and at the time so scared the soviets that it really led to their giving up on the race with us in the cold war. and realizing they had no chance to of winning. which led to the most remarkable event of our lifetime, an event of biblical proto portions -- proportions which was the collapse of the soviet union and the conquest of communism
without a shot fired. and that was sort of the core of the 1980s, that is what history will remember the '80s for. and again, as i say, i write in the introduction of the book in trying to trace my evolution from left to right, that was the essence of my leaving the democratic party. because you remember a lot of young people today do not. but in the 1970s there was a very strong conservative element in the democratic party. they were known as national security democrats or cold war liberals in the tradition of of truman, kennedy, humphrey and scoop jackson who happened to have been my great political hero in my 20s, in my youth. in fact, when scoop ran for the nomination in 1976, i -- he ran in the massachusetts democratic primary. i was a doctor at the time at mass general, and i handed out leaflets. now, jackson won the
massachusetts primary. i handed out a lot of leaflets. [laughter] but as you know, of course, he didn't win the nomination. and that was because despite the fact that he was a wonderful human being, very smart and had the right policies, i hate to say this, but he was exceedingly dull. [laughter] and it was said of scoop jackson that if he ever gave a fireside chat, the fire would go out. [laughter] i sure knew how to pick winners back then. [laughter] the other -- i go on in the book to talk about the '90s, of course, to write about the '90s, and here's what was the most remarkable thing about the '90s: nothing happened. nothing world historical happened. i was aware of the absence of things happening. in a way that almost scared me. what i mean to say is the great
ideological struggles, existential struggles of the century stopped overnight. christmas 1991, there is no soviet union. i never imagined that i would live to see the end of the is soviet union. and here it happened overnight, quietly in the night. and we have a decade of unrivaled prosperity and peace, and i was acutely aware that this is not normal this history. i wrote about it, there's a column in the book called "the golden age." i gave a speech to my son's high school in 1997, and i tried to explain to them that we were living in an incredibly anomalous and magnificent time of profound peace and prosperity, of no existential threat at all around the world. and i tried to impress upon them how unusual this was. of course, i failed utterly.
they had never experienced anything other than that, can they thought this was as natural as the air you breathe. but i had this terrible sense -- it's a wonderful sense, but a terrible sense at the same time -- that this golden age couldn't last. they never do. you go back to all the golden ages back to the greeks, they're always short. and i was seized with this intense feeling that it had to end, and is we should enjoy it, but that we should not expect it. because this is not what history normally is. so even though i didn't tell the class that it was going to end, after all, that would have been child abuse -- [laughter] you guys are having a good time, i'm not going to tell you -- but i wrote, because i write for adults, that this had to. i wrote in the column called "the golden age," and the only question was how soon would it come, the end. and would it end by fire or by ice? and we know how it ended, it ended in tire on 9/11.
in fire on 9/11. and that signaled to us that something had happened, something new, something terrible. another column that's in the book is the column i wrote that afternoon. it was in the post the next morning, and the problem i had writing it was not pressure of time, but the pressure of rage. i was trying to write in a way where i would be able to contain it to actually write coherent sentences one after the other. and the point i tried to make in that column and i put it in the book for that reason is that i could feel the historic paradigm changing. this was history returning. returning with a vengeance. and what i mean by history is the kind of existential struggle that is the norm in history. not the 1990s which were the exception. that we had now returned overnight, in a flash without asking for it, without inviting
it similarly because we were the great power that we were. we had returned to the time of the great existential struggles. this was the new face of what was once fascism, naziism and communism. and that because of that, everything had to change. and that sort of was the essence of the decade. and as i said earlier in my talk, i think that we were lucky to have a president who understood that and courageously explained that to us and took us into that fight. finally, there's the last half decade which is of equal historic fascination. and that is the age of barack obama. obama is interesting because he's not just a liberal. you know what a liberal is, a liberal is somebody who doesn't care what you do as long as it's mandatory. [laughter]
which until thursday was a joke when jay carney tried to explain why when your health insurance is taken away from you, this is actually a good thing. [laughter] and he actually said that you can choose any health plan you want so long as it's the health plan that the government has mandated. which is the joke in real life. there is no way to make this stuff up so that it exceeds irony. [laughter] but obama isn't even a liberal, he's a social democrat. and this i argued from -- he gave a speech to a joint session of congress a month after his inauguration in which he explained who he was, he dropped the mask. he'd been in the '08 election, he was a rorschach test. but now he explained exactly who he was. he'd been in office for a month, there was no need for the veil, and he basically said i'm not a clinton, i'm not a tinkerer, i'm
here to change america, and he went ahead and explained how he's going to do it, health care, education and energy. trillion dollar stimulus, the largest spending bill in galactic history, and then he followed it with obamacare which is a revolution in one-sixth and takeover of a sixth of the american economy which to me, and i wrote at the time before he enacted all this, made him a social democrat on the european model. very unusual for the united states. people ask me, well, what's a social democrat? the only way to explain it, i think, is with the famous anecdote about winston churchill. this is after he loses the election at the end of the second world war. the labour party leader, the socialist, becomes prime minister. churchill's leader of the opposition. one day he goes down to the men's room, and there standing alone at one of urinals is actually. don't worry, that's as weird as it gets. [laughter] churchill goes all the way to the other end of the men's room to a urinal 15 stalls over, and
atly is puzzled. he looks over and says feeling a bit stand offish, are we, winston? churchill says, not at all, my dear clement, it's just that every time you see something large, you want to nationalize it. [laughter] i kind of like that one too. [laughter] you know, i'm not even sure true, it could be apock rah fall. but i don't care. [laughter] as we say in the column-writing business, that story is too good to check. [laughter] it remains unchecked. but it's in the book, probably the only item that's unchecked. now, so i try to write about obama in that vein trying to understand him as a social democrat, and the essence of the political half of the book is that obama represents this kind
of, i would say, aggressive american liberalism and that in some way the debate that we've had over the last five years between left and right since obama came into office is, essentially, a debate over the classic, the fundamental issue of our democracy and all the debates, obamacare, cap and trailed, the stimulus, all of these things are subsidiary to the central question that has been at the heart of our politics ever since he is sworn in in the. and that is what is the proper size and scope and reach and province of government. or to put it slightly more grandly, what's the nature of the american experiment, and to put it in its brandest terms, we've been arguing about the relationship between citizen and state. and the one column that sort of addresses that the most directly is a column called "did the state make you great?" and remember, that came right after
obama made the famous statement if you have a business and you've had success, you didn't build that. somebody else made it happen. i mean, that's a crystallization of the great argument between left and right. and i try to point out in the column obama said what was almost a platitude, you know? you didn't -- you don't operate alone, there are other people around. there's roads and bridges. the mistake that liberalism makes, and here is the core, and it came out exactly in his explanation of this, is that he identified society, what's outside of the individual, as government rather than recognizing that what really shapes the individual is what we call civil society. the independent, autonomous elements of society outside of government that have the most influence in the shaping you. that is the family, that's the church, that's the community, that's the pta, that's all the
things that were talked about as the glory of america, the little platoons that others have talked about. and that is the essence and the glory and the protection of american liberty. because these institutions, civil society are what stand between the citizen and the state. a totalitarian society is one where they deliberately try to destroy all the intermediate institutions so that the individual is naked before the state and can be utterly controlled and manipulated. the stories of, you know, in stalinist russia how the child would tell on the parents, turn them in because he loved stalin, and he became a child of the state. well, liberalism doesn't attempt to do that deliberately. its intentions, i believe, are honorable and good and very humane. but it does not understand that by increasing the scope and the reach and the power and the authority of the central state,
it inevitably squeezes and come presses and marginal uses all those elements in civil society, particular wily the family -- particularly the family and then the church. you look at the side effects that obama's having on the relationship to people with their churches. you look at the effect that welfare had on the family. one of the reasons i moved from left to right, and i write about this in the introduction, is that i had been a great society liberal. i believed in the intentions of the war on poverty. and be then one day in the beginning of the middle of the 1980s, the empirical evidence started to come in, real facts. and as a physician, as a scientist trained, i'm open to empirical evidence. if i give a patient a drug and it kills the patient, i stop giving the drug. and it turned out from charles murray and james q. wilson and researchers with very hard science behind them that the war on poverty not only did not help
the people it was intending to help, but it undermined them and destroyed the communities. and then ironically, of course, the abolition of welfare in 1996 led to the quickest drop in child poverty in modern, in modern history. so that was sort of the event that had its greatest effect on me in moving left to to right. but the point i want to make in the book and that i make in these essays, particularly the one about obama and did the state make you great, is that they do not understand how their administrations have these effects on civil society and ultimately leave the individual naked before the state. doesn't only harm the individual, but actually diminishes the liberty and the autonomy of the individual. because he has no other autonomous institutions on which to attach himself up and against the state. so i write about this, and i try to explain how i moved left to
right. and i do that in the introduction. identify never done that -- i've never done that before in my writing. because i don't think i'm a particularly interesting subject. i try to avoid the use of the word i. it's so lazy and easy, i use it a lot. the the ideal column is one in which you never use the word i, and the argument will carry right through. nonetheless, i do belief people have a right to change politically. but i also believe that if you're in public life and you do change, you have an obligation to explain how it happened and why. and that's what i tried to do in the book. and so the long answer for the question where i said about walter mondale being young, the long answer's in the book, and i try to explain these influences that had me move from left to right. of course; it wasn't an original path. it was well trodden by ronald reagan among others. so that's sort of the heart of
the book, the politics and a little bit of the biographical introduction. but there's one more thing that the book is about, and it accounts for the title. and it accounts for the spirit of the book, if i can be so immodest as to talk about it. and that is the book is in some ways a kind of ode, muted but spirited, to politics itself. this isn't a really good time in history to be championing politics. particularly over the last six weeks or so, i won't go into detail about that. but it hasn't been a pretty picture. but i, i write about this in the introduction, i try to explain why the book is corrupted the way -- constructed the way it is. because i've been fascinated by the paradox of our public life. it consists of this. what i believe is that the things that really matter are the things that are elegant and
beautiful, hard and demanding, things that are testimonies to the flourishing of the human spirit. and i write about this at the very beginning of the introduction, and i'll read just a little piece of it. what matters, what are the things that i really believe are important in human development and in our lives? what matters, lives of the good and the great, the innocence of dogs, the cunning of cats, the elegance of nature, the wonders of space, the perfectly-thrown outfield assist, the difference between historical guilt and historical responsibility, homage and sacrilege and monumental architecture, fashions and the follies and the finer uses of the f-word. [laughter] which was the column i wanted to start the book with, but for some odd reason my publisher thought it would be a bad idea. [laughter] if -- and i love this column. if i remember, it begins like this: i'm sure there's a special place in heaven more those who have never used the f-word.
i are never get near that place. [laughter] nor will dick cheney. [laughter] as i say, actually he liked it too. what matters, manners and habits, curiosities and conundrums. is a there ever permitted to kill a patient willing to die? why in the age of feminism do we still use the phrase women and children? i have a column on that, and i seem to be the only person in the country disturbed by its continued use, and i'm not even a feminist. how many lies can one tell, is one allowed to tell to advance stem cell research, something also i write about in the book and in which i talk about what president bush did in elevating the national debate on bioethics in a way that has never been done in american history and for
which history will be very grateful as will our progeny. what matters, the fermi paradox in which the great man asked why with so many habitable planets out there, why in god's name have we never heard a word from a single one of those civilizations? these are the things that most engage me. they give me pause, pleasure and wonder. they make me grateful for the gift of consciousness. and for three decades, they have occupied my mind and commanded my pen. this book was originally going to be a collection of those essays and is columns. it was going to be about everything but politics, things beautiful, mysterious, profound or just odd. the working title was "there's more to life than politics." but in the end, i couldn't. and this is where i get to the theme of the book.
i couldn't for a simple reason, for the same reason i left psychiatry for journalism, because while science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sport, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate. in the end, they must all bow to the sovereignty of politics. politics, the crooked timber of our communal lives dominates everything, because in the end everything lives or dies by politics. you can have the most advanced of civilizations. get the politic bs wrong, and everything stands to be swept away. this isn't ancient history, this is germany 1933. this is china during five years of the cultural revolution when they sat out because they got their politics so wrong to destroy 5,000 years of one of
the most glorious civilizations on earth. and it isn't even ancient history. this is north korea today, a place in the grip of a mad politics, a mad stalinism that has produced an enslaved people and the utter decemberlation -- desolation of an entire land. in the end, everything depends on getting the politics right. and here's the paradox. politics in daily practice is grubby and grasp ping and cynical and manipulative and in some ways quite appalling as we have seen recently. or think of disraeli describing his ride to the prime ministership as climbing the greasy pole. not exactly a romantic idea. politics has none of the elegance and the beauty of art and music, poetry and science. but think of how in places where they get the politics wrong not
just art and poetry, but even science is corrupted. remember in the late 1940s stalin decided that the genetics really means the transmission of inherited characteristics which had been proven a hundred years earlier to be untrue. but stalin insisted on a new soviet genetics. he found the scientists who would do it and produced it, lie seven coeism. which is the ultimate expression of the power of a corrupted politics to corrupt and destroy and undermine and ruin everything that is hard and beautiful and elegant. that's why politics, of which so many want the wash their hands of today and understandably so, in thened is sovereign and must be sovereign. it's why i left medicine, a life of unquestionable humanity and
nobility, to enter a life of politics. because in the end, everything depends on getting the politics right. and that's why the book could not just be about the things that i cherish and love, the things that i think in the end kind of matter most, because in the end they don't. in the end, politics is sovereign. i end the book with one of the columns at the end of the book about hyperproliferation. about the age we are about to enter into. and i will not see, but the age that my son will live in. and it begins with a story about richard feinman, the great physicist. feinman, as you know was a man who in the challenger disaster, he was able to crack it brilliantly in a way that explained everything. he was actually one of the youngest scientists at loss alamos. he -- los alamos. he actually would amuse himself
in the spare hours by breaking into the safes of the other scientists and leaving little notes behind. [laughter] got that love the guy. -- gotta love the guy with. he actually spent a year later on when he was at cornell, he took a year off to learn the bongos in brazil. the reason i tell you this isn't just to apiewz you, but to give you the idea that this was a very energetic and driven guy not given to melancholy. and yet there is a point in his biography where he writes when he came back from los alamos after he had witnessed trinity and the era, the new era of the atomic allege, he writes he was on his way to cornell, and he saw people working on a bridge. and he thought to himself, why are they doing this? don't they understand? this is all useless. and again, he was not a guy who dwelt on that, and he went on to do these wonderful things in his life. but that brought home to me the
fact that everything is going to hinge in the future on how we deal with that problem among all the great problems of our time. our species has been around for 200,000 years. of we acquire knowledge of the bomb, and within 17 years the cuban missile crisis, we come within a hair breadth of self-of destruction. in this does not bode well. but this tells you how utterly important it is particularly as we enter an age of hyperproliferation where it's not going to be a one-on-one game of deterrence, where it's going to be three-dimensional chess. we are going to have to develop the politics interim and external, the policies and the diplomacy and the military and all the contingencies that are going to have to understand and deal with this. this is the overriding question. now, i wring this up as a way -- i bring this up as a way simply to make the point of why these two elements are in the book,
the beautiful stuff that i like to write about -- and that's the first half of the book -- but then the politics in the end that are going to have to preserve and protect the beautiful side. and lest i leave you all melancholic and depressed, let me end by saying two things. i have two ways of curing you of this. number one is i'm still licensed. laugh -- [laughter] and i'm quite prepared the write for anybody who with needs a prescription for antidepressants. [laughter] for those of you less pharmacologically inclined, i will leave you with the notion that i've always had about the providential nature of american politics, how it seems as if we always end up finding the right way. we're a little colony on the outskirts of western civilization, and we produced in the 18th century the greatest generation of political geniuses ever assembled on earth to produce a constitution that has given us a republic that has
endured longer than any in the history of man kind. in the 19th century, we are a country that needs a lincoln and a lincoln arises. in the 20th during the depression and to lead us in the second world war, we find our fdr. and in the second half we find our reagan. this is not to say that we will always be able to find our way. but there is something about the american spirit, about the bedrock decency and common sense of the american that seems to help us find our way, and we do. and if that isn't enough to cheer you up, i will leave you with a remark, a comment of my favorite pundit, otto von bismarck. not generally known for punditry, generally known for invading other countries. [laughter] successfully. [laughter] who once actually said god looks
after children, fools, drunkards and the united states of america. [laughter] he said that in 1890, and i hope to god he still does. thank you very much. [applause] >> so are there any questions? i think we have -- do we have microphones? i'm told? microphones are all around. okay. just raise your hand. yes, sir. >> dr. krauthammer, who is your very best friend? >> my very best friend? hhm.
before i give you the answer, i'll remind you what harry truman once said. if you want a friend in washington, get a dog. [laughter] the krauthammers have improved on that. we have two dogs in case one turns on us. [laughter] so the correct answer is maggie and willie, but i'm not sure which one it really is. >> so we actually have a microphone over there. right, cindy? and there's one over here. i don't know why i can't see these. so if you have a question, go to the microphone, how's that? >> a very -- >> so, charles, explain the razor. >> it's the principle in science by which when faced with a
choice of explanations for any natural phenomenon, you always choose the simplest on the assumption that nature's cunning, and nature is very concise. and parsimonious. so if you have a very elaborate explanation for evolution or you have a very clean one like darwin, you would accept the more precise and concise one on the assumption finish it isn't always true, but it is a rule of thumb that always prevails, almost always prevails. einstein, for example, was able to reduce everything into one -- everything, but, i mean, the major achievement of his jump this physics in 19, in the early 900s was e equals mc squared. now, if you have seen the solution to fermat's last theorum, it's about 200 pages of
hieroglyphics that only ten people on earth can understand. einstein did it in half a line. now, that is the perfect example of what i refer to when i talk about the elegance of nature, and that's what einstein worshiped. he assumed that god is parsimonious, concise, and he once said in his opposition to quantum mechanics that -- which involves a lot of chance in its calculations -- god does not play dice with the universe. so that's the razor. >> thank you. >> sorry that i just dropped it in there without explanation. >> no, it was important -- >> figured it would make you purchase the book. [laughter] and the crowd people are sitting right there from crown books, and they're checking on me. how many references i make per hour. flash. [laughter] >> yes. >> dr. krauthammer, you mentioned earlier in your
remarks about how i the obama administration has continued many and, in fact, even kind of doubled down on many of the national security policies of the bush administration in prosecuting the war on terror and how president obama certainly has not shied away from an aggressive prosecution of war on terror. and you also mentioned later the at least former existence of a national security wing of the democratic party. given that, would you see president obama in some sense as a kind of reincarnation of the national security democrat, or if not be, what's the distinction? >> the answer to that is, god, no. [laughter] and the reason is that he is totally reluctant to engage in all of this. i think he's deeply philosophically opposed, and he keeps telling us that. i mean, he does the drone warfare, he does the rendition, he duds all the things that -- he does all the things that president bush instituted, and the reason he does it is that he knows that he has to do it as
commander in chief. but then he goes ahead and he gives a speech, what was it, two months ago, three months ago. this war on terror has to end. this has gone on long -- and he goes on and he elaborates how it's undermining our lives and our democracy and our privacy. i mean, that's pretty ironicking isn't it? he's running the largest snooping operation in the history of the species, and he's deploying -- deploring how the war on terror is undermining our privacy. as the commander in chief, he has to do this. but every time he opens his mouth, you hear him telling us i don't really want to do it. in fact, i want the war to pped. i'm going to declare the war -- i'm going to unilaterally, and when he talks about unilaterally ending wars. he thought he did that in iraq, he didn't. he pulled out at the point where we had won the war and undermined all our successes. he wants to unilaterally end the war on terror. there's a problem with that.
there's another guy on the other side. and until he decides the war over, the war is not over. so he gives speeches in which he, i would say you morally disarm your own people by telling them, basically, the ill legitimacy of the war and how much it's harming the core of americanism. so how do you expect to get popular support? and then he's all, you know, at that a point, oh, we're going of to pull out of afghanistan because there is no popular support. well, if you don't give a speech in six years to explain why you're doing it, you're not going to get any popular support. the point i want to make is that his rhetoric undermines the war that as commander in chief he actually has to carry out. and at least philosophical incoherence. he rails against guantanamo. he hasn't even stopped railing against it after he's kept it open for half a decade. that's a bit odd, isn't it? you're keeping it open because you know you have to, and yet you're denouncing it every day
even this that speech. he said what a potential thing guantanamo be was. so i don't agree with that at all. i think if anything, he's the most anti-national security as a democrat, as a thinker, as somebody who influences his side of the aisle, if you like. and all -- and the reason there's so much unrest in the country is because you need a president to explain why he's doing it and to explain the virtues of the policies he's carrying out rather than undermining them even as he carries them out in a way that he tries to coffer up, for example -- cover up, for example. i was sort of shocked to discover all this nsa stuff after he gave a speech talking about how all this national security state stuff was undermining us. so, i mean, i think that's the problem with the kind of presidency he's carried out in national security. and he's going to leave a party behind him that will continue what i think was the
philosophical element of his foreign policy. >> nextment -- next. >> dr. krauthammer, thank you for being here. you've talked a lot about the importance of politics, and i'm wondering if you know if there's any candidates you see currently or potential candidates that you think can win in 2016 and simultaneously enact a strong reform conservative agenda. >> yes. i think we're going to have a good shot in 2016. i think we're going to have a very strong field as opposed to 2012. which, if you could say as an aside, was a quite winnable election. and romney, who i think was an honorable man who i liked, i supported, i voted for him, and i would have liked to see him, i think he would have been a good president. unfortunately, he had a slight handicap, that he spoke conservativism as a second language. and that was evident in one of the e debates when he was asked by newt what were you doing in the early '90s when our revolution was being carried out, and he said, you know, i was a businessman, it's an
honorable profession. but, you know, i came to politics late, and it shows. because in one of the debates when he was trying to show, you know, how reliable he would be ideologically, he said, you know, in massachusetts i had a severely conservative administration. now, think about that word. severe is a word you generally use in association with head wounds finish. [laughter] and tropical storms. [laughter] i have never heard it associated with governance. but now that he was the pest of the field, but it was a weak field. we have excellent candidates. we have governors who i think are going to be helped by the fact that they're outside of washington, and washington is now in good favor. and i see, you know, christie of new jersey, jindal of louisiana, susana martinez in new mexico, scott walker of wisconsin as very strong. and then in the congress you've
got, you know, seem who i think can carry their weight. you've got a marco rubio and others. so i think we're going to have a very strong -- we're going to have fewer debates which was a catastrophe. 21 debates and the words 9/9/9 repeated 90,000 times, that didn't help us very much. fewer debates, strong candidates, and we are going to have the wreckage of the obama administration as the backdrop, particularly obamacare which is unraveling as we speak. so i think it's not going to be the caulk walk people imagine -- the cake walk people imagine that hillary will have. and for the people who have asked me in the past about my own presidential intentions -- [laughter] [applause] thank you, but i'm not fishing for compliments. [laughter] i'm just headed for a really good line. [laughter]
which is, i want to declare right here that if mom nailed, i will not run -- nominated, i will not run. [laughter] but if elected, i'll serve. [laughter] [applause] i'm just terminally lazy, and i don't want to go to the iowa state fair. [laughter] no disrespect to iowa, but -- where were we? i digress again. >> you know, actually, i thought you were born in canada until i read your bio. >> oh, no. >> so you are, you could run for president. >> that is a malicious lie spread by the -- [laughter] vast left-wing constituency. let me state right here. i am not now, or have i ever been a member of the canadian citizenry. [laughter] >> okay. question over here. >> doctor, there are international critics that say our drone program is terrorism
in itself on a grand scale. lots of innocent people are getting killed, and president obama admits that he makes the final call on who lives and who diesment and i -- dies. and i was just wondering what you thought about the paradox that we're claiming to fight terrorism, but we're actually creating more animosity in the communities that we're attacking. >> all due respect -- with all due respect, this is the opposite of terrorism. terrorism is a deliberate attack on innocent people to achieve a political end. what we are doing in the drone strikes is a deliberate attack on people who do that for a living and for a life and for a mission and for a religion. we deliberately attack them trying to take all the care that we cannot to hurt innocent
civilians. it is the polar opposite, it is the mirror image, it is the exact antithesis of terrorism, and we need it as we need a lot of other tools if we are going to defend ourselves. we are facing, as president bush explained from day one, a new kind of barbarism. ask i'll give you one with example of this. in the last few weeks, we've been hearing about the assassination in pakistan by the taliban of people who are distributing a vaccine to prevent polio to chirp. to children. now, there is no greater depravity than that kind of activity. the killing of people who are risking their lives to prevent the spread of poll -- poll owe. and yet this is part of the ideology of the barbarians that we are facing. in the face of that, we fight as we can with all the tools available, and if we have a way to use a drone to attack a
specific individual and we always try to minimize the damage, that under any criterion of just war theory would fit well, and it absolutely has to be continued. [applause] >> dr. krauthammer, thank you again for being here as well. i was wondering if you could comment on the arab spring, two questions as well, and how long you think that will be an impact that it will have as well as, you know, often i've heard romneycare and obamacare compared, and he's actually a close friend of the family, and from what i understand, romneycare is not a federalized program. in fact, it was in massachusetts it was an option and what the people wanted. but it wasn't federalized or --
do you -- b does that explain what i -- >> sure. well, let me take them one at a time. on the arab spring, i think what's happening the arab world has come to the end of an era. it started out that the decolonization lasted for about half a century, and when they emerged, they fell quickly from a die nastic series of countries run by be monarchs. they were swept away beginning in the early 1950s by nasser who championed this kind of arab socialism, arab nationalism, pan-arabbism which was of a mixture of socialism and militarism with a heavy bureaucracy. it was said, i think by pat moynihan, where they learned all these things, the third world leaders who came to to powerful power after they were decolonized, all of them became socialists. he said that the london school of economics had done more dang
to the third world -- damage to the third world than any imear y'all power -- imperial power in history. so 50 years of the military dictatorships were the example of nasser and saddam, the baathists in syria and elsewhere. that is being swept away even though it's come back to some extent in egypt. the problem is that, you know, i don't -- i'm not sure whether the arab political culture is going to get directly to democracy. it looks as if particularly the example of egypt where they've swung to the muslim brotherhood and then back to military dictatorship, that they may have to be a phase, it could last a decade or two or longer before -- and i think in the end they will be as amenable to democratic outcomes as you've seen in eastern europe, as you've seen in the pacific rim countries, as you've seen in latin america and that is developing in africa. i don't believe that there's an arab exceptionalism where they're immune to this.
but we'll have to, it will take a long time because as, for example, in iraq these dictators managed to destroy so much of civil society, those institutions that preserve the autonomy and the liberty of the individual. there's going to be a lot of rebuilding to do, and as i was saying to the president a little earlier when we spoke, it's a pity that we had to leave iraq at a time when the war had been won and where the civil war had been suppressed and where al-qaeda had been defeated. because it really did have a chance in the near term to get to that perhaps not a jeffersonian democracy by any means, but some approximation of it that could have been an example to the rest of the arab world. so on that score, i think it's going to be a long time. and it's going to be a dangerous one. and we can't afford the kind of random zigzag foreign policy that was carried, that has been carried out by this administration in the muddle east.
middle east. on romneycare, all i would say is there are differences with obamacare, but, you know, it wasn't exactly very wise of the republican party to choose as its standard bearer in a election where the size and scope and reach of government, the liberal overreach that had occurred in the first two years of the obama administration and that had sparked that crushing defeat for the democrats in 2010. a friend of mine said that was an election, that was a restraining order. [laughter] after the lesson of that which was if we make the case against this liberal overreach and we make the case as i try to do in the book for limitedded government, we're going to win every time. but, and the centerpiece of that, of course, was obamacare. but it's hard when you choose as your nominee somebody who had
instituted something rather similar and parallel in massachusetts. and i say in tribute to romney he didn't run away from that. he was proud of that achievement. and he department renounce it -- he didn't renounce it as a way to get ahead politically. but it made it very hard in that particular election which was a very winnable election to make the case with obamacare as the centerpiece of it as it had been in the 2010 midterm. and i think that will not be a problem for our nominee in 2016 because they will have the wreckage of obamacare to campaign on, and you can already see democrats in the senate who are up for re-election running away, and it's going to become a sprint within a few weeks. .. weeks. >> thank you. let's hope we have another president like president bush otherwise i'm going to lose a lot of faith. the mac well, i am for changing.
the man is enjoying his life. the bracket. last question. >> thank you for your time tonight. my question is regarding an article that do not integer wrote for the journal maybe a a month ago. he basically said that the strategy that republicans should employ is to not tackle obamacare and would eventually fall under way. this seems more realistic today than it did then. i was curious what you thought about that. personally i'm skeptical because i've never seen an entitlement be taken away. he meant that argument. i don't know if you're familiar with him, but i thought you might have an opinion. >> actually, i concur with him. an entitlement to be resistant to be taken awa has tactuly >> it has to actually be instituted and it has to have some success being implanted and this could
survive. it's not definitive, but it is more likely than not that it would collapse under its own weight and that's been what was advocated during the shutdown. i thought that tactically it was a mistake. there was no reason to call for the overthrow of obamacare in legislation when there was not a chance in hell that you could do that. under our system you cannot undo the wall from one house and congress. there was no way it was going to be undone and where we're heading into october 1st when the shutdown began and was also the day when obamacare, this brand new website was going to revolutionize the healthcare sign that exactly six people. that isn't even enough to to fill a baseball team.
[laughter] i think that is an old adage and i mentioned earlier when the other guy is committing suicide, get out of the room, you know clacks hand him a pistol to maybe make it a little easier and a cleaner for the sesir who are coming in leader. [laughter] but there was no reason to get in the way and i think republicans ought to do right now is they sincerely believe as i did that obamacare is going to hurt the country and it isn't the way to go about attacking one or two very specific and important problems about the uninsured, which i think one could have attacked very narrow in a way that would redo the entire one-sixth of the economy. and adding to the essence of liberal overreach it is what rahm emanuel said is a crisis to waste when he basically said we are going to use this opportunity when we have control of the congress to institute a
liberal dream of 100 years naturalizing health care. there was no reason to redo and reshape one sixth of the economy as a way to attack the uninjured. so i think this will in the end -- it is very likely to collapse under its own weight and then the gop has to be ready and conservatives to address the moral issue and it's a serious one of the uninsured. we want to make sure all americans have access, but there are ways to do it. there are conservative and honest ways to give it in which you are not hiding the costs and the lobbying about what you are going to do with your policy. and i think that would be the essence of a conservative approach. so i would say that in the end, that is going to be the outcome, very likely to be the outcome. and we ought to be prepared to watch it is all and then have an alternative and that will be a relative victory. if we can do this in 2016.
[applause] >> i can't let you leave without asking a question about a pastime that you love which is chess. thus chess fit into the beautiful or does it fit into the political? >> it's a beautiful and the soft and the eloquent and i know a lot of people consider it eccentric eye once drove from washington to new york to watch a chess game. actually, i did that twice, and people just shake their heads when they hear that. i have a part in the book called the paray a chess club where a group of us played on monday night at my house, speed chess which is a different game racing across the clock.
it's great fun. we would call the pariah chess club. charles murray wasn't able to safely appeared on campus and have a similar problem and the fourth of the founders was a perfectly respectable music critic for "the washington post" that thought he was grandfathered as a pariah because he associated with the three of us. [laughter] and chess is a very elegant game and there's a lot of music which is i try to describe a lot of fun. but i have to admit that i gave it up a couple years ago, he and i gave up cold turkey. i was asked why and i said because it's an addiction, it's a poison. you find yourself plating speed chess on the internet at two in the morning and realize that for the equivalent of an alcoholic alone in a motel room drinking a
club all -- aquavelva. [laughter] so i'm either off the wagon, i've never been able to finish figure out which is which but i'm able to enjoy. [applause] >> thank you, charles krauthammer for giving us a memorable evening and i think we should leave on that wonderful phrase in your talk things elegant and beautiful, hard and demanding. that's what life is all about. this has been a memorable evening for all of us. thank you for being here and happy birthday mrs. boesh and thank you again, charles krauthammer. [applause] thank you very much.
now on your screen is the cover of a new book by john shaw to jfk and the senate pathway to the presidency. first of all mr. shaw and is the anniversary of the kennedy assassination. was it a benefit to publish your book at this time or did it hurt? >> i think it was a mixed blessing. on the other hand, there is a tidal wave if interest in candidates that came out on the 50th anniversary.
and because of that there is an avalanche many of which deal with the assassination, so it is a very crowded feeling to answer. in a perfect world i might have come at this at a different time, but the book was ready to go and of my publisher wanted to go with it now so i feel good about it coming out now. the thing about kennedy is that he seems to be interesting at all claims. he is one of these characters that is a public figure that a year from now, five years from now there are so many unanswered questions about his presidency, about his political career that i think he's always going to be a popular person to write about. >> we don't think about him as a senator very often. give a snapshot of his career. >> that is what brought me to him. we think of him as president kennedy. he was in the senate for 80 years, six years in the house. and he was an interesting consequential senator.