For nearly 30 years Charles Krauthammer has been one of the most stoic and prolific political commentators of his time. First a columnist at the New Republic and the Washington Post, later a talking head for Fox News, this conservative pundit has gained national admiration for his ability to express his opinion in an unapologetic yet dignified manner.
Unfortunately, his life is on its concluding paragraph … Krauthammer, who was thought to have beaten his bought with cancer, is on his last breath with only weeks to live.
I was a freshman in high school when I first started paying attention to cable news. I soon became aware of what most Americans have known for a while … cable news is not created equal. What I was hearing on MSNBC I was not hearing on Fox. What Larry King chose to report on was not what Sean Hannity chose to report on. Then I listened to Charles Krauthammer. Even though anyone who watched or read him could easily tell which side of the aisle he was sitting on, he had an ethical and professional manner to his work that many of his cohorts lacked. It was not until after college did I learn not from him but from my father that I shared something with Krauthammer … we both have a disability.
As a young professional with a disability I often wonder if I will be able to have the career I desire because of my disability. Krauthammer is a man who has reached the top of his profession doing what he was meant to do despite an accident while in Harvard medical school that left him paralyzed.
When I was asked to write this article I did what any writer would do … Google him. I was specifically trying to find his thoughts on his disability and it took me a while to find something. This reminded me I have never seen Krauthammer in a wheelchair. He is always at the desk or the camera would have a close up of him that cut off his lower half. Even though this is not uncommon in the world of television I wondered why. Is it Fox confirming what most of their critics believed … that they are old white conservative bigots who are resistant to change, or was it the subject’s wish
We may never know, but there are two works that each support a side. One is a quote by Krauthammer on his disability. “That was the one thing that bothered me very early on,” Krauthammer told The Washington Post. “The first week, I thought, the terrible thing is that people are going to judge me now by a different standard. If I can just muddle through life, they’ll say it was a great achievement, given this. I thought that would be the worst, that would be the greatest defeat in my life — if I allowed that. I decided if I could make people judge me by the old standard, that would be a triumph and that’s what I try to do. It seemed to me the only way to live.”
The other is an opinion piece Krauthammer penned for The Washington Post 22 years ago on the new monument for the lone president who was confined to a wheelchair and the only president to serve three terms, Franklin Roosevelt. The piece is centered around Krauthammer’s observation that the monument failed to depict him in his wheelchair. He went into great detail about FDR going out of his way, maybe even to the edge of denial, to not be photographed in a wheelchair.
“When a man has more than 35,000 pictures taken of him, of which exactly two — two! — show him in a wheelchair, you don’t need to be a psychiatrist to figure that something more than political calculation is at work here … whenever FDR himself would spot someone taking such a picture, he would direct the Secret Service to the offender, and they would expose the film.”
Krauthammer was critical of, or at least disappointed in, FDR’s attitude when it came to confronting his disability and just as disappointed in the decision not to depict him in a wheelchair for the monument. Call this ironic. Call this hypocritical. But did Krauthammer choose to not be shown in a wheelchair for the same reason as FDR Obviously putting a pundit in a wheelchair in front of the camera would have done wonders for the acceptance of people with disabilities, but as Krauthammer posed to his readers two decades ago on whether FDR should be immortalized in his wheelchair: “Does it justify violating the self-image, the pride, the intentions of the man whom we are ostensibly honoring”