The dinner guest that night at George Will’s house in Chevy Chase was intellectually nimble, personally formidable and completely baffling, recalled columnist Charles Krauthammer – who was getting his first up-close look at President-elect Barack Obama.
“We sat around and said, ‘Does anybody really know who he is and what he wants to do, now that we’ve had this?'” Krauthammer recalled of Obama’s January sit-down with conservative columnists. “And the answer was no. We don’t know.”
By Ben Smith
“I didn’t understand what he was up to until he just unveiled it openly, boldly, unapologetically and very clearly within two weeks of his inauguration,” Krauthammer told POLITICO in an interview in his corner office off Dupont Circle. “That’s what was so stunning.”
Since then, Krauthammer has emerged in the Age of Obama as a central conservative voice, the kind of leader of the opposition that that economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman represented for the left during the Bush years: A coherent, sophisticated, and implacable critic of the new president.
Obama, he has written in his syndicated Washington Post column, is committed to “radical health-care, energy and education reforms,” central to a “social democratic agenda” that promises deep – and ominous – transformations to American life. The columnist has offered, in five installments, a “unified theory of Obamaism.”
At a moment when the right is decimated and divided, and unsure what to think of the new administration, Krauthammer’s confidence is much in demand. His columns circulate widely on conservative e-mail lists and blogs, and even his utterances on Fox News are received as gospel: National Review Online’s group blog, The Corner, posts long transcripts of his remarks without comment, under the heading, “Krauthammer’s Take.”
“He’s the most important conservative columnist right now,” said Times columnist David Brooks.