Remembering Charles Krauthammer.

Author:Schwartz, Amy E.

I first knew Charles Krauthammer when I was a wet-behind-the-ears New Republic intern and he was a rising eminence, a scary and impressive senior editor (I think he was 34 at the time) just starting to attract national recognition. In the office, intimidated by his intellect, I barely had the nerve to speak to him. A month or so into my tenure, though, at a cocktail party thrown for the staff in editor Michael Kinsley's downtown apartment, I found myself having a mild argument with Charles about Israel. I don't remember the details, only that I proclaimed at some point with twentysomething arrogance that I would never dare opine about Israel without going there and seeing it for myself. As the words left my lips, I was overcome with embarrassment: Plainly, this man in the elaborate motorized wheelchair was not about to hop on a plane.

I saw him notice my discomfort, then politely sidestep it. But a bit later, when the party was breaking up, he came up to me and asked if I would like a ride home. I had no idea how he proposed to drive me home, but I wasn't about to commit another stupid gaffe, so I said yes. And so I got to ride in Charles's magic van, a wonder of technology that allowed him to drive it with only the movement of a few fingers of his right hand propped in a brace. I got the message: Only an idiot would think of condescending to Charles, ever, about anything; and under no circumstances would he ever be anything but gracious.

It's that graciousness, Charles's fundamental generosity of character, that emerges as a theme in all the tributes that were published after his death at age 68 from cancer and a year-long cascade of medical complications. And it is one reason why so many people who disagreed with where he ended up politically--me included--routinely and instinctively set it aside in our feelings about him, in a way that's become almost unheard of in today's tribal political culture. There were so many aspects of Charles that stood outside politics: his passions for chess and baseball, his support for Jewish music and Jewish education. He was a major backer of the text-based Hebrew high school program...

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