Krauthammer in Der Spiegel

October 29th, 2009

Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist and conservative commentator was interviewed by Der Spiegel on a variety of political topics — the interview was published yesterday.

On Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize:

KrauthammerCharles Krauthammer: It is so comical. Absurd. Any prize that goes to Kellogg and Briand, Le Duc Tho and Arafat, and Rigoberta Menchú, and ends up with Obama, tells you all you need to know. For Obama it’s not very good because it reaffirms the stereotypes about him as the empty celebrity.

SPIEGEL: Why does it?

Krauthammer: He is a man of perpetual promise. There used to be a cruel joke that said Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be; Obama is the Brazil of today’s politicians. He has obviously achieved nothing. And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.

On Obama and the UN:

SPIEGEL: Do you really believe that Obama deliberately wants to weaken the US?

Krauthammer: The liberal vision of America is that it should be less arrogant, less unilateral, more internationalist. In Obama’s view, America would subsume itself under a fuzzy internationalism in which the international community, which I think is a fiction, governs itself through the UN.

SPIEGEL: A nightmare?

Krauthammer: Worse than that: an absurdity. I can’t even imagine serious people would believe it, but I think Obama does. There is a way America will decline — if we choose first to wreck our economy and then to constrain our freedom of action through subordinating ourselves to international institutions which are 90 percent worthless and 10 percent harmful.

SPIEGEL: And there is not even 1 percent that is constructive?

Krauthammer: No. The UN is worse than disaster. The UN creates conflicts. Look at the disgraceful UN Human Rights Council: It transmits norms which are harmful, anti-liberty, and anti-Semitic among other things. The world would be better off in its absence.

On Obama:

SPIEGEL: And Obama is, in your eyes,

Krauthammer: He’s becoming ordinary. In the course of his presidency, Obama has gone from an almost magical charismatic figure to an ordinary politician. Ordinary. Average. His approval ratings are roughly equal to what the last five presidents’ were at the same time in their first term. Other people have already said he’s done and finished because his health care plans ran into trouble; but I say they’re wrong. He’s going to come back, he will pass something on health care, there’s no question. He will have a blip, be somewhat rehabilitated politically, but he won’t be able to pass anything on climate change. He will not be the great transformer he imagines himself to be. A president like others — with successes and failures.

On Healthcare Reform:

SPIEGEL: How could Obama still win Republican support for healthcare reform?

Krauthammer: He should finally realize that we need to reform our insane malpractice system. The US is spending between $60 and $200 billion a year on protection against lawsuits. I used to be a doctor, I know how much is wasted on defensive medicine. Everybody I practiced with spends hours and enormous amounts of money on wasted tests, diagnostic and procedures — all to avoid lawsuits. The Democrats will not touch it. When Howard Dean was asked why, he said honestly and explicitly that Democrats don’t want to antagonize the trial lawyers who donate huge amounts of money to the Democrats.

SPIEGEL: What would be your solution?

Krauthammer: I would make Americans pay half a percent tax on their health insurance and create a pool to socialize the cost of medical errors. That would save hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to insure the uninsured. And second, I would abolish the absurd prohibition against buying health insurance in another state — that reduces competition and keeps health insurance rates artificially high.

The preceeding excerpts were provided in the hope that you will read the entire article — it is well worth your time.

About Charles Krauthammer:

Krauthammer has spent most of his life in a wheelchair due to a diving accident during his first year at Harvard Medical school but he would not quit; he graduated with the rest of his class in spite of a year of hospitalization. He then went on to specialize in Phychiatry and eventually became a Resident and then a Chief Resident in Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He gave up medicine to enter politics and then journalism.

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16 Responses to “Krauthammer in Der Spiegel”

  1. Tom |

    I strongly agree that everyone should read the Der Spiegel interview. I also recommend reading the Wikipedia entry on Krauthammer.

    I have a lot of respect for the thinking of people who can see both sides of an issue and sometimes adopt positions that seem outside the boundaries of their political philosophy. Camille Paglia is one of them — she’s a liberal who understands and accepts many conservative views. Krauthammer is another — mostly a conservative who supports many policy positions normally considered to be liberal. Conversely, I don’t have that much respect for those whose positions are totally predictable — you already know what Paul Krugman and Ann Coulter think on virtually any issue, so why bother reading them (except, in Coulter’s case, for the wicked humor)?

    Here are two more quotes from the Spiegel interview relating to issues Obama is wrestling with — Afghanistan, the hottest issue at the moment, and global warming, the belief that drives the probably ill-fated cap-and-trade legislation:

    General Stanley McCrystal is the world expert on counterterrorism. For five years he ran the most successful counterterrorism operation probably in the history of the world…. And now this same general tells Obama that the counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan will fail, you have to do counterinsurgency, population protection. That would seem an extremely persuasive case that counterterrorism would not work. …

    My own view is that there is man-made [global] warming. On several occasions I have written that I don’t think you can pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere indefinitely and not have a reaction. But there are great scientists such as Freeman Dyson, one of the greatest physicists of the last hundred years, who has studied the question, who believes quite the opposite. The reason transnational action is so difficult is because the major problem with climate change is, A, that there is no consensus, and, B, that the economic cost is simply staggering. Reversing it completely might mean undoing the modern industrial economy.

  2. Kevin |

    Krauthammer: It is so comical. Absurd. Any prize that goes to Kellogg and Briand, Le Duc Tho and Arafat, and Rigoberta Menchú, and ends up with Obama, tells you all you need to know. For Obama it’s not very good because it reaffirms the stereotypes about him as the empty celebrity.

    Yes, any prize that goes to Teddy Roosevelt, the International Committee of the Red Cross (multiple recipient), George C. Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry Kissinger, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Menachem Begin is clearly a farce premised upon “empty celebrity”.

    Krauthammer: And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.

    LOL – why let the truth get in the way of a highly biased rant? Least of all the fact that committee member Kaci Kullmann Five is a member and past chairperson of the Conservative Party of Norway known for its “leftist” free-market, tax cutting and smaller government (in the economy) advocacy positions.

    As for what is or is not “politically positive” here in “the American context,” I would point out to Krauthammer that recent polling indicates that an outright majority of Americans (53%) have a favorable view of the Democratic Party while less than 37% have a favorable view of the Republican Party. So, it appears that he’s not a reliable authority on what is or is not politically positive in the American context.

  3. Tom |

    Come on, Kevin, be honest. Your very first reaction — the very first thing you thought — when you heard that Obama had one the Nobel Peace Prize was, “Huh? What for?” It was, wasn’t it?

    The Peace Prize has obviously been given to very deserving people in the past. It’s also been given to kooks and virtual nobodies who’ve done very little. It’s a political prize, moreso in some years than others. The best example was when they gave it to Jimmy Carter (more than 20 years late) and said that it was given to him as a kick in the leg to Bush. Under the heading of “enough said,” they also gave it to Al Gore. I’m glad Obama won it; better him than someone who plants trees in Africa or whatever. But even Obama knows he hasn’t done anything to deserve it — yet. Why don’t you?

    Stats, stats, we all got stats! Right now, about 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservatives, about 20 percent as liberals. So there!

  4. Kevin |

    So in other words you agree with me that Krauthammer’s maligning of the Nobel Prize with his cherry-picked list is intellectually dishonest and doesn’t support his conclussion.

    What I think of this particular selection by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, or anything else for that matter, isn’t logically relevant to this post or my previous comment. I critiqued Krauthammer’s assertions. That critique stands or falls on it’s own merits.

    BTW, I can’t help but notice that you avoided the issue of the committee allegedly being “five Norwegian leftists”. Does that mean that you agree with him? That the former Chair of the Conservative Party of Norway is in fact a lefist? Or is my view of whether Obama deserves this prize more relevant than the subject of the post?

  5. Tom |

    Well, an argument that says the Nobel Peace Prize is less than serious is strongly supported by the fact that some or many recipients have been patently undeserving. To then respond that, yeah, well, some of them have been deserving, too, is kind of beside the point.

    I don’t know the biographies of the folks who decided to give Obama the Prize. I do know that in recent history the award has been highly political and leftist-oriented, and this award is consistent with that history. As to the subject of the post, well, Krauthammer answered a question about the Nobel, so I suppose our opinions of it are relevant.

    I know this will fly in the face of the absolute necessity to get everyone into one of the two correct two pigeon holes, but I’m not anti-Obama. However, I agree with him that he hasn’t done anything to deserve it — even though I can accept that he may, in time.

    And what about all the Americans who are so obviously more deserving at this point in time — George Mitchell, Bill Clinton, Richard Holbrooke, Christopher Hill, et al. have done more to further the pursuit of peace than Obama at this point. If fact, you don’t have to have done a lot to be in that category, although all of these have. The one thing you must be to receive the Nobel Peace Prize is a liberal.

    And this will make you choke: By any fair assessment, George W. Bush protected the U.S. against another terrorist attack on our home soil for over seven years, despite a determined enemy and many plots. Even he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize more than Obama — at this point.

  6. Harvey |

    Tom, Kevin:

    Re: the Nobel Prize, I’ll have to agree that Krauthammer’s rant is certainly biased (he IS a political commentator with a point of view) but the most salient point is that the award, at least in this day and age, is, as Tom said, highly political and leftist-oriented. It might have been different in the past but recently it has come ‘out of the closet.’

    Why did Obama “deserve” the award? I guess it’s obvious; it’s because what he has said indicates that he is at least pointing in the direction the Nobel Committee wants him to go — and the prize is the carrot at the end of the stick.

  7. Kevin |


    You are exactly right. In fact the Nobel Peace Prize committee has been fairly blunt about the fact that they consider hoped for future progress to be a legit reason to award the prize. And if I may be so bold, I would just observe that it seems like the bulk of the 20-20 hindsight questionable winners of past years were exactly of that future-looking criteria. Arafat, Perez and Rabin seemingly being a perfect example of it.

    But here’s what I don’t understand: Why do conservatives even care whom “five Norwegian leftists” choose as their “hero” in the first place?

    There are any number of leftist awarding entities whose awards/awardees the likes of Krauthammer don’t burn a single gram of carbohydrates complaining about.

    Why complain about this one?

    I mean, does this really boil down to nothing more than an attempt to undercut an award, based not on it’s alleged ideological bias, but rather on the basis of it’s perceived gravitas here and around the world? And if so then doesn’t it follow that the real point of the exercise is simply partisan politics?

    How else do we explain all the fuss over this particular group of “leftists” while so many others are glibly ignored?

  8. Brian |

    Why? Because the political bias was obvious enough for a blind man to see. Obama had been president all of 12 days when nominations were due. Before then, he was a junior senator from Illinois with absolutely no legislation under his belt. Before that, he was a community organizer. He had no record upon which to base this decision (and still doesn’t).

  9. Kevin |

    Really, Brian?

    That’s the best you can do?

    A vapid lie about his legislative record in Illinois?

    The truth about Obama’s record in Illinois for those interested in the truth:

  10. Harvey |


    The answer to “Why do conservatives even care whom ‘five Norwegian leftists’ choose as their ‘hero’ in the first place?” is easy!

    It’s our job as social/political commentators to 1) identify the “other side” and 2) Complain about everything they do! LOL!

  11. Kevin |

    Touche, Harvey.

    I look forward to the critique of my blog having won the David Niewert Award 4 years after the fact.

    I assume that the secretary who currently has PepsiCo owing a massive court award because she misplaced the legal notice that they were being sued used to do the same job for conservatives… which is why all these years have gone by with nary a peep about the uber-leftist Niewert award.

  12. doris |

    Bush, really, Tom, Nobel Peace Prize, opperative word being Peace. Bush
    started these two stupid wars we are bogged down in now. Plus, he was in office when we were hit by terrorists on our home soil and really did nothing about that particular terrorist. He deserves the ultimate war award.

  13. Kevin |

    “The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.” — George W. Bush, Sept. 13, 2001


    “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” — George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

  14. doris |

    nuff said.

  15. Harvey |

    But lets not loose sight of George Bush’s record of keeping America safe from another terrorist attack — he did that by using common sense and practical measures — not “politically correct” or “humanitarian” measures.

  16. Brian Bagent |

    Let me see if I have this straight, Kevin. You’re suggesting that Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize because of his record as a state senator from Illinois, for “work” done prior to his election to the US Senate in 2004? Yes, I’m certain that the committee must have weighted his time in the Illinois senate quite heavily.

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