Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer made a rare appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday to promote his new book “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics.”
In his appearance on “Morning Joe,” Krauthammer explained why he had waited to publish the book, which is a compilation of his columns going back for 30 years. He revealed how people’s views toward government have changed in that time, from former President Ronald Reagan through President Barack Obama.
Much of how Obama wants the view of government changed in the United States depends on how his signature health-care law turns out, he said.
“One of the reasons I decided to wait all these years to collect my columns is I didn’t think there was enough history in it,” Krauthammer said. “Well, right now it stretches all the way back to the first day I started in journalism which was the day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in in his first term. So, there’s this 30-year arc from the presidents I’ve known. Reagan was, of course, I think the most successful, we would all agree. And this arc goes through 30 years, the end of the cold war, the ’90s, which I call the holiday from history, 9/11, the age of terror, bringing us up to this remarkable president today. And what I find the most remarkable about him isn’t only his intelligence but his ideological ambition. He said something very interesting in 2008. He said Ronald Reagan was historically consequential in a way that a Clinton was not. And what Obama meant was Reagan changed the ideological trajectory of a country, which for 60 years since FDR had been dominated by a liberal zeitgeist.”
“And here comes Reagan, and he changes it,” he continued. “He doesn’t succeed in all the things he wants to do. He isn’t able to cut the government, but he changes the way we look at the government. Obama has always seen himself — and it is remarkable because he did this as an outsider, somebody who really had a long shot at the White House, but he saw himself long ago as world historical, as a figure who would change that trajectory, end the 30-year conservative ascendancy ushered in by Reagan and begin a new liberal ascendancy. The irony is that his signature achievement, Obamacare, is the test of this new liberalism, and today it hangs in the balance of a website or a promise here and there. So there’s kind of a practical reality check on his ambitions. If he does not succeed with Obamacare, the cause of the kind of expansive liberalism, the kind of entitlement state he’s been looking for I think will be set back a full generation.”
Krauthammer was later asked by fellow Post columnist Eugene Robinson to explain the expanse political divisions in the country.
“I do think the reason that we are polarized, the reason we have this ideological division is because — and I write about this in the book in talking act the new constitutionalism of the right,” Krauthammer said. “We are at a crisis of the welfare state. It was constructed half a century ago. And the demographics and the technology of our age are completely different. And there’s a sense in the country that we have to radically change that. We cannot sustain what we have constructed. And there’s a party on the right that says you’ve got to radically reform. And there’s a party on the left, as you hear Nancy Pelosi and others say, I don’t want to — you know, I will not tolerate a single reduction in Social Security. And that I think is the reason why we are polarized. We cannot split the differences very much longer. We’re going to have to make a decision whether to go right or left, reconstruct the welfare state or expand it as liberals are arguing. And that’s why I think you’ve got such divisions left and right. One other reason which I write about in the book is that there’s an axiom in politics, conservatives think that liberals are dumb, but liberals think that conservatives are evil, which makes for a lot of interesting interpretations. Of course I don’t include you, Gene, in that category.”