FRIDAY HAS always been Charles’s day. Since long ago, before digital news, when space meant just a strip across the top of a printed page, we knew to save space on Friday’s page for Charles Krauthammer. Charles always filled the space, with just the right number of words, and the most acute words, too. Our copy editors knew to check any change with Charles, because he cared about every word. There was never much to change.
Now Charles has told us, along with all of you, his readers, to expect no more copy. After a final, months-long, unimaginably courageous battle, the columnist has been informed by his doctors that he won’t live much longer. Charles, a physician by training, tells all of us, in a statement we publish on the facing page , that he accepts their verdict and will depart sadly but without regrets. He also asks us, and his friends at Fox News, not to embarrass him with flowery tributes. With difficulty, we will respect his request.
We know we speak for many of you when we say that nothing and no one can replace him. Charles wrote for the right reasons. Lord knows — and presidents, from right to left, can attest — he didn’t seek invitations to White House dinners or other badges of approval from the powerful. He sought, rather, to provoke us to think, to enlarge our understanding, at times to make us laugh. Like few others, he succeeded, week after week, Friday after Friday, year after year. His unsparing judgments were cheered by some readers while angering others. But few could disagree that he wrote a column of breathtaking range and intelligence and integrity.
In the introduction to his best-selling 2013 book, “Things That Matter,” Charles mused about what humans should send into space as evidence, to any other species that might be out there, of our existence. He noted that what we had chosen to send were words from a U.N. secretary general, Kurt Waldheim — who later was discovered to have played a part in Hitler’s armed forces. “A minor one, mind you,” Charles wrote. “Just a small willing cog in the machine. Makes you wish that we’d immediately sent out a Voyager 3 beeping frantically: Please disregard all previous messages.”
We could start rattling off the Krauthammer columns that they should have put on Voyagers 1 and 2 as more genuine evidence of the worth of humanity. Columns about chess, and baseball, and astronomy, and philosophy and war and peace and, always, about politics — what he called “the crooked timber of our communal lives.” Everything else depends, he knew, on getting the politics right.
In deference to Charles’s request, we will hold off on that reading list for extraterrestrials. But we will say this much, and we know many readers will agree: Friday will always be Charles’s day.