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Pulitzer-winning commentator Charles Krauthammer, now a Fox News analyst, says he started out as a Democrat, but then realized the “Great Society” actually hurt the nation.

Now his most admired president is Ronald Reagan and he calls himself a psychiatrist in remission.

The comments come in Krauthammer’s interview with author Burt Prelutsky for Prelutsky’s new book, “Portraits of Success: Candid Conversations with 60 Over-Achievers.”

“If I’m not mistaken, you started out as a Democrat,” suggests Prelutsky.

“True,” says Krauthammer. “I’d always been a Democrat. I was a Great Society liberal on
domestic issues. I even worked in the Carter administration and did
some speech writing for Walter Mondale. But my evolution came in
the 1980s when the Democrats were talking about a nuclear freeze.
The Great Society, I came to see, did far more harm than good. I
became a free market conservative. So far as I’m concerned, Ronald
Reagan was the best president. Nixon was the worst. Some of his policies
were okay, but he disgraced the office.”

“Charles Krauthammer is one of the truly brilliant columnists in
America,” explains Prelutsky. “He is amazing for several reasons, not the least of which is that
he was a psychiatrist before he took up writing, going on to win a Pulitzer
Prize in just his second year on the job.

“What makes the man extraordinary is that he carries on as a writer, TV
commentator, and lecturer, in spite of the fact that he is a quadriplegic. In
fact, a couple of years ago, when I attended one of his lectures and saw him
enter the stage in an electric wheelchair, I assumed he had been in a recent
accident. Although I had seen him innumerable times on TV, I had simply
assumed the man had really excellent posture,” he said.

Krauthammer also explains how he’d enjoy dinner, if he could pick any guests from history, with Einstein, Newton, Jefferson,
Maimonides, Plato, Aristotle, and John Stuart Mill.

“The eighth
chair would be hard to fill, but I would like to have a conversation
with Bar Kokhba, who led the second rebellion against the Romans in
132 A.D. He’s not as intelligent as the others, but I think he’d be very
interesting,” he said.

He also said he sees himself “as a psychiatrist in remission.”

Others interviewed include Walter Williams, Karl Malden, Joseph Farah, Pat Boone, Ambassador John Bolton, John Stossel, Carl Reiner, Pat Sajak, Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, Charles Krauthammer, Gary Sinise and John Zogby.

Prelutsky, a humor columnist and TV screenwriter, has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, “Dragnet,” “M*A*S*H,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Bob Newhart” and “Dr. Quinn.” He also has written or co-authored nine books.

Here is Burt Prelutsky’s interview with Charles Krauthammer:

Q. Did you ever think you would follow in your father’s footsteps?

A. My father was a businessman, and he would take me to his office
occasionally, but I had no interest in business.

Q. If you could have snapped your fingers as a youngster and grown up
to be anything in the world, what would it have been?

A. Centerfielder for the New York Yankees.

Q. Still a fan?

A. I go to about ten games a year to watch the Washington Nationals.
And when I’m on the road giving lectures during baseball season, I always check to see if the home team is in town. However, I must
confess that I lost interest in baseball for a while when I discovered
girls.

Q. When did you realize that you could write so well?

A. I didn’t particularly like writing in college. It was actually my interest
in politics that led to writing.

Q. If I’m not mistaken, you started out as a Democrat.

A. True. I’d always been a Democrat. I was a Great Society liberal on
domestic issues. I even worked in the Carter administration and did
some speech writing for Walter Mondale. But my evolution came in
the 1980s when the Democrats were talking about a nuclear freeze.
The Great Society, I came to see, did far more harm than good. I
became a free market conservative. So far as I’m concerned, Ronald
Reagan was the best president. Nixon was the worst. Some of his policies
were okay, but he disgraced the office.

Q. How did you make the transition from psychiatry to writing?

A. I answered an ad. The New Republic was looking for a copy editor. I
replied, but I knew I didn’t want to be an editor. I wanted to write. So
when I was interviewed, the editor asked me why I wanted to write.
My answer was that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I guess he found the
answer intriguing. In any case, the first piece I did for them wound up
getting reprinted in the Washington Post.

Q. Have you ever considered running for office?

A. No. The worst thing about running for office is running for office.
Having a role in creating policy would have appealed to me when I
was young, but now I like my life the way it is.


Charles Krauthammer

Q. What sort of accident caused your paralysis?

A. I was twenty years old. I dove into a swimming pool and broke my
neck on the bottom.

Q. Did you know immediately how serious it was?

A. Oh, yes, I knew.

Q. What book or books have most influenced you?

A. Probably Charles Murray’s “Losing Ground.” Also Isaiah Berlin’s “Openness
and Opposition” and John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty.” Norman Cohn’s
“Pursuit of the Millennium” was also very influential on my thinking. It
helped make me immune to the more messianic influences in the
world.

Q. You won your Pulitzer Prize for commentary over twenty years ago.
Things have changed radically over those years. There’s been increasing
polarity between the left and the right, and I was wondering if you
thought you could win another Pulitzer in the prevailing climate.

A. I’m not sure I could win today. Fortunately, they tend to only let you
win once for commentary, and so I don’t have to worry about it. But
the nice thing is that I won it so early, in just my second year on the
job. My father had really wanted me to be a doctor and was disappointed
when I gave up that career. But when I won the Pulitzer, he
was in the hospital dying, and I gave him the plaque. And it made him
very proud to show it to all the nurses. That was the best thing about
winning it.

Q. Have you any hobbies?

A. Chess. It’s like alcohol. It’s a drug. I have to control it, or it could overwhelm
me. I have a regular Monday night game at my home, and I do
play a little online.

Q. What is the best advice you ever received?

A. My father told me to always try and be your own boss.

Q. Did you take it?

A. Eventually. Marty Peretz at the New Republic was a great boss, but I
was glad I struck out on my own.

Q. What was the worst advice you ever got, and did you take it?

A. I was injured during my first year in college, and I was encouraged to
get into rehabilitation medicine. I had already decided to pursue psychiatry,
and that’s what I stayed with. I was very proud that I graduated
with my class. I didn’t want to be defeated by fate.

Q. Do people often have the same reaction I had when I saw you in person
for the first time and discovered that you’re paralyzed?

A. Yes. On TV, you can’t always see that I’m seated in a wheelchair. In
fact, in 2004, I was at the GOP convention in Madison, Wisconsin. At
one point, Sean Hannity, who’d been a colleague for a few years by
then, noticed me in the wheelchair and asked me what had happened.
He thought I must have been in a recent accident.

Q. What are your all-time favorite movies?

A. “Casablanca” because Rick was the perfect model of a man. He was cynical
on the outside and noble on the inside. But the greatest movie
ever made in terms of script, cast, subject matter was “Lawrence of
Arabia.”

Q. What or who makes you laugh?

A. Dave Barry is a genius. I don’t know how he churns the work out so
consistently. I may write one parody a year, and then I’m exhausted
for a month.

Q. How important is money to you?

A. I only need a sufficient amount. Donald Regan used to say that everyone
needs to have “f— you” money so that he can afford to quit a job
if he wants to. I don’t wish to be crude about it, but that’s how I feel
about it. I always wanted my family to be comfortable. I’d say we have
enough.

Q. You write, you lecture, and you appear on TV with some regularity.
Which gives you the greatest satisfaction?

A. Writing is the most satisfying. When you’re speaking, you can’t edit
and rewrite yourself. The French have an expression, “the spirit of the
staircase.” They mean that as you walk down the staircase, leaving a
dinner party, you suddenly realize what you should have said half an
hour ago. Writing gives you that opportunity.

Q. Does writing come easily for you?

A. No. I dictate my first draft into a tape recorder. Then I transcribe it
and edit the copy. When I’m dictating, I do it as if I’m speaking to a
very bright college student. I envy people who write easily. I enjoy the
process, but it’s not easeful for me.

Q. Who are the other columnists you enjoy?

A. I like William Safire, David Brooks, and George Wills.

Q. How do you react to criticism?

A. My first question is, are they right? Sometimes, you feel as if you’re
papering over the fallacies in your own logic, and that definitely gives
people the chance to find the soft underbelly in your argument. But
fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. Of course, it probably
helps that I don’t write very often. When I was approached by a syndicate,
I told them I could and would only write one piece a week
because I only get one idea a week. Sometimes not even that many.

Q. Has it become any easier after twenty-odd years?

A. I write my column on Wednesday, and I used to start worrying about
it on Sunday. Now I don’t start worrying until Tuesday night. I suppose
that’s an improvement. But I’ve always said that writing a column
is like being married to a nymphomaniac. As soon as you finish,
you have to start all over again.

Q. Are you religious?

A. I’m Jewish, but I’m not terribly observant. I attend synagogue on the
High Holidays, and I light yartzite candles for my parents.

Q. If you could invite any eight people who have ever lived to a dinner
party, who would they be?

A. Einstein and Newton would sit at the ends of the table. Then Jefferson,
Maimonides, Plato, Aristotle, and John Stuart Mill. The eighth
chair would be hard to fill, but I would like to have a conversation
with Bar Kokhba, who led the second rebellion against the Romans in
132 A.D. He’s not as intelligent as the others, but I think he’d be very
interesting.

Q. How do you see yourself?

A. It’s funny. When I was a psychiatrist, I used to end my interviews with
prospective clients with that question. I would say I see myself as a
psychiatrist in remission.

Read other interviews with
Walter Williams,
Karl Malden, Joseph Farah, Pat Boone, John Stossel, Michele Bachmann, and John Bolton.


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