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(Illustration by Michael Daley)



This summer has taken a heavy toll of American writers and thinkers. First the nation’s leading novelists, Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth; then, within a week of each other, the greatest living scholars of, respectively, Russia and the Muslim world: Richard Pipes and Bernard Lewis. All these men lived on into ripe old age; Lewis was even a centenarian. Now, though, comes more tragic news: Charles Krauthammer has died aged just 68.

For more than three decades, Kraut-hammer has been the best American pundit of his generation. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and commentator for Fox News, he is more than a household name — he is a giant of journalism. As a psychiatrist, he has made major contributions, in particular to our knowledge of bipolar disorder. And he has done all this despite being paralysed since a diving accident in his first year at Harvard Medical School. He spent four decades refusing to be defined by his disability: “It seemed to me the only way to live.”

Yet on this side of the Atlantic, Krauthammer is underrated. That is because he belongs to the select band  known as neoconservatives: in Irving Kristol’s words, liberals mugged by reality. Neocons will always be sneered at in Europe. Their uncompromising patriotism is unnerving for “post-national” devotees of the European Union. Their cosmopolitanism challenges the stereotype of the parochial American conservative. And their commitment to the promotion of democracy is unsettling for Europeans, to whom collaboration with or appeasement of tyrants is second nature. In particular, the role of Israel as an oasis of democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East commands American neoconservatives’ allegiance, whereas Europeans across the political spectrum tend to support the corrupt, autocratic and openly anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that it spends some $360 million a year — nearly half of the foreign aid it receives — sponsoring terrorists.

Krauthammer has been a Democrat as well as a democrat. Yet after writing speeches for Vice President Walter Mondale in 1980, he turned to Ronald Reagan and ever since he has given qualified support to Republican administrations. The only one he refused to vote for was Donald Trump. At the time of the election in 2016, he had grave doubts about Trump’s fitness for office. Though too ill to write or appear on TV in recent months, he would probably have supported most of the foreign policy decisions that the President has made. His worst fears about Trump have not been realised — so far.
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