Author One-on-One: Charles Krauthammer and Dana Perino
Dana Perino Charles Krauthammer In this Amazon One-to-One,
Charles Krauthammer and Dana Perino discuss Dr. Krauthammer’s new
book Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and
Politics. Charles Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning
syndicated columnist, political commentator and physician. Dana
Perino is a Former White House Press Secretary who worked with
President George W. Bush, contributor and co-host of The Five on
FOX News. She is a long-time friend and fan of Charles
Dana Perino: Your new book covers three decades of your
writings, divided into 16 chapters, and grouped into categories
of the things that have mattered to you in your life. As you
reviewed your body of work, were you surprised by anything that
you had written? Did you ever think, “I can’t believe I ever
Charles Krauthammer: No real surprises—I find that I agree with
myself a lot—except for my enthusiastic review of Independence
Day. Though I might've been unduly swayed by seeing the premiere
with my son, then ten, who announced after the showing that he
would see the movie every week for the rest of his life.
DP: The thing that has mattered most to you is your family.
Your book opens with a column that could be called “a two-hankie
job.” How hard is it to write about the people that you love, to
give people a glimpse into your personal life?
CK: I didn’t become a writer to write about myself. In fact, I
don't even like using the word "I" in writing an opinion column,
let alone a personal one. The only times I really have written
about my own life is when it had a purpose outside myself, such
as honoring a person, perhaps a friend or mentor, of
DP: As a long-time fan of yours, there are some of your columns
that I remember reading, and where I was when I read it, and how
I said to my husband, “That’s exactly what I was thinking!” Do
you know when a column is going to be a hit?
CK: Quite the opposite. I'm always amazed how wrong I am. A
column that I think will sink like a stone might catch on like
wildfire. Others that I'm proud and smug about as I submit for
publication, leave no trace. Which is why I'm a writer, not a
publisher. I wasn't made for marketing.
DP: The original essay you penned for Things That Matter is
like an award-winning exhibit of your heart and mind. What will
readers learn about you that they may not have known?
CK: How improbable my life story is. I still wake up simply
amazed how I've ended up where I am, mostly by serendipity and
sheer blind luck. I started out as a doctor. I ended as a writer.
And that's the least of the stunning twists and turns that have
defined my life—which I write about, for the first time, in the
introductory essay to Things That Matter.
DP: You have become a must-read and a must-see on television
news programs. Parents shush their children when you’re about to
speak. On the rare Friday when you don’t have a column or when
you’re not on Special Report with Bret Baier, your mom gets calls
of “Where is Charles?” Disappointment hangs heavy over your fans.
But who are your weekly must-reads?
CK: George Will. David Brooks. Mickey Kaus. And for that happy
half of every year—April through October—the (daily) box score of
the Washington Nationals.
DP: Do you think that your training as a psychiatrist has given
you an advantage when observing people in politics?
CK: Actually, no. Psychiatry has everything to say about mental
illness, very little to say about ordinary life. It offers no
magical formulas for understanding human behavior beyond what any
lay person can see. Although I do like to joke that there's not
much difference in what I do today as a political analyst in
Washington from what I used to do as a psychiatrist in Boston—in
both lines of work, I deal every day with people who suffer from
paranoia and delusions of grandeur. The only difference is that
the paranoids in Washington have access to nuclear weapons.
DP: You wrote a column on September 12, 2001 that is included
in Things That Matter. How difficult was that to write under the
time pressure of the day, and to keep your commentary to standard
CK: Like the whole country, I was on fire with fury. I felt I
simply had to write. The difficulty was less time pressure than
emotional pressure—trying to suppress my feelings so I could be
as analytical as possible. Sometimes that kind of writing can be
disastrous. I think this one came out right.
DP: Given the mention in your essay, and because I have a gut
feeling that we’re on the same page, what is your preferred style
on serial commas?
CK: With commas the rule should always be: the fewer the
better. They are a scourge, a pestilence upon the land. They must
be given no quarter. When you list three things, it should be
written: a, b and c. If you see a comma after the "b"—call 911
DP: Many readers may not realize that you once were a Democrat?
Was it a gradual or a spectacular breakup?
CK: Like most breakups, gradual. Like few breakups, however,
DP: You have covered politics and government since the Carter
administration. Do you believe that America’s politics are too
strained, too partisan, and too deranged to make meaningful
CK: Not at all. What we need is not a new politics but a new
DP: What do you think will be the things that matter 20–30
years from now?
CK: The things that really matter, as I try to explain in the
introductory essay—the cosmic questions of origins and meaning,
the great achievements of science and art, the great mysteries of
creation and consciousness—shall always be with us. Thirty years
from now, 300 years from now. I hope that one contribution of
this book will be to provide some illumination on these wondrous
mysteries and achievements.
DP: If you had a magic wand and could get the U.S. federal
government to do three things, what would be your top priorities?
CK: Abolish the income tax code with its staggeringly intrusive
and impenetrable provisions and replace it with a clean
Get out of the race business and return the country to the
colorblind vision of Martin Luther King.
Kill the penny.