Back in January I reviewed a posthumous collection from the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer.
I find Krauthammer frustrating, a smart man and expert craftsman who lacked the intellectual grit to push at, or through, his own defenses and premises. He was forgiving of the flaws of ideological allies but too often dismissive of the intellects and motives of the people with whom he disagreed. He was a close and thoughtful reader within a narrow field but indifferent to the point of ignorance when it came to many of the major intellectual figures and movements of the modern era. He practiced as a psychiatrist for seven years before becoming a full-time writer, but he wasn’t interested in the nuances of human psychology. He was a facile writer of sentences, an excellent summarizer of ideas and a master architect of the op-ed, which is a notoriously difficult form.
But he was a complacent thinker. Krauthammer stopped at the point when things threatened to become too complex or messy. Even his contempt for Donald Trump, which he was admirably willing to bear with him into the lion’s den (i.e. Fox News), ran up against hard limits. Trump, for Krauthammer, wasn’t symptomatic of deeper flaws in our country or the conservative movement. He was an aberration.
For Kirkus Reviews I interviewed NYU prof Susie Linfield about her new book, Into The Lion’s Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky. It’s a much better book than the Krauthammer. Someone should excerpt, in particular, her pages on Noam Chomsky’s delusions about Israel and Palestine. It’s fascinating. I write:
If there’s a villain in the book, it is Noam Chomsky. Linfield gives Chomsky his due; in the early years of his writing on the conflict, she writes, he wasprescient in many ways. After about 1980, however, she sees him descending into a flight of wishful thinking from which he has yet to emerge. The forensic analysis that Linfield conducts of this descent is devastating.