Book Monitor

Things That Matter:
Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics 

Charles Krauthammer

Political science student, turned psychiatrist, turned Mondale speech writer, Charles Krauthammer became a journalist at The New Republic on the same day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. Things That Matter is a compilation of columns and magazine articles he's written over the ensuing decades. The superbly intelligent, witty, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and political commentator shares with readers his musings about dogs, baseball, parenting, art, chess, history, and, of course, politics.

Krauthammer writes: "We grow justly weary of our politics. But . . . Politics -- in all its grubby, grasping, corrupt, contemptible manifestations -- is sovereign in human affairs. Everything ultimately rests upon it." Seeing evidence of damage done by progressive programs like the War on Poverty, Krauthammer evolved from a self-described "Great Society liberal" to a free-thinking conservative.

In a 1999 column, Krauthammer describes Winston Churchill as an "indispensable man," without whom the world today would be very different. The author implores us to judge any public figure by what he has done, not what he professes to believe, stating: "Know what they do and judge them by their works."

Krauthammer is frank about his views. He writes, "Even a mandatory Ponzi scheme such as Social Security can fail if it cannot rustle up enough new entrants."

About ending NASA's space shuttle program, Krauthammer writes: "We lament the decline of American manufacturing, yet we stop production of the most complex machine ever made by man -- and cancel the successor meant to return us to orbit," resulting in the "abolition of thousands of the most highly advanced aerospace jobs anywhere."

Krauthammer points out the folly of comparing "Israel with a secure and peaceful America" because "Israel is in a constant state of war." He writes: "The conscious deployment of a double standard directed at the Jewish state and at no other state in the world, the willingness systematically to condemn the Jewish state for things others are not condemned for -- this is not a higher standard. It is a discriminatory standard. And discrimination against Jews has a name too. The word for it is antisemitism."

The Things That Matter to Krauthammer range from the amusing to the foreboding. Krauthammer predicts, "The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery will constitute the greatest single threat to world security for the rest of our lives."

(Crown Forum, 2013, 387 pp., $28.00)