Conservative commentator, public intellectual, and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer died Thursday at the age of 68 from cancer of the small intestine. The conservative thinker’s health troubles were not new and earlier this month Krauthammer penned a goodbye letter in the Washington Post where he was an influential conservative thinker and columnist for decades. “I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months,” Krauthammer wrote. “I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.”
In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health. However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.
“A star of page and screen, Dr. Krauthammer was one of the highest-profile commentators of his generation,” the Washington Post wrote of Krauthammer’s professional life. “In addition to his syndicated weekly column in The Post, which garnered him a Pulitzer in 1987, he was a marquee essayist for magazines across the political spectrum, including Time, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard and the National Interest foreign policy journal. He also was a near-ubiquitous presence on cable news, particularly Fox.”
Krauthammer, a paraplegic from a diving accident, graduated from Harvard Medical School and practiced psychiatry before changing careers, entering the world of politics. As a commentator, Krauthammer was lionized by the right and vilified by the left for his views, particularly his outspoken hawkish foreign policy. Krauthammer was a pivotal intellectual figure in the neoconservative moment during the George W. Bush years that embraced preemptive conflicts in defense of democracy, but quickly faded from view and now feels downright quaint in the era of Donald Trump.
“Aligning himself with most conservatives, Mr. Krauthammer was gung-ho about going to war with Iraq in 2003, arguing for replacing Saddam Hussein with a democratic government, and he expressed few compunctions about torturing suspected terrorists,” the New York Times said in its obituary. “But he also took a more liberal line in favoring the continued legalization of abortion, looser restrictions on stem cell research, abolition of the death penalty and, as an avowed Zionist, a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”