Things That Matter
Charles Krauthammer
Contributed by Nina Calhoun
Chapter 3
Summary

Krauthammer starts this chapter by talking about his love for chess in the article named “The Pariah Chess Club.” The Pariah Chess Club is a place where he played chess every Monday night and does not admit people in pants. Even the youngest member wears a trouser. To show the extent to which he loves the game, Krauthammer explains that they once drove from Washington to New York to see Garry Kasparov play a game (Krauthammer 46). He explains that when playing chess, they “do not sit in overstuffed chairs smoking pipes in five-hour games” (Krauthammer 47). They neither take alcohol nor beer during this time. The reason for this is aesthetic and not ascetic. In the next article “OF Dogs and Men,” Krauthammer fondly remembers Chester, whom he says was described by his young friend as the “sweetest creature, the only dog he ever saw kiss a cat,” (Krauthammer 49). Because we live in a world with so much suffering, some people may find it eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. To Krauthammer however, it is perfectly reasonable, and indeed, deeply human to be moved by the purest sweetness of a creature (Krauthammer 49).

The next article in this chapter addresses a more controversial subject, the use of the F-word. Krauthammer defends Cheney’s use of the F-word on the floor of the Senate, utterances that made people accuse Cheney of breaching the civil, political discourse. The author, however, finds this odd because before the first reports of Cheney’s alleged indiscretion, Al Gore, Cheney’s democratic predecessor, had compared Bush to Hitler and Stalin in his speech and no nary complaint was heard about a breach of civility following this speech. The author suspects that this selective indignation was partisan, and concludes that in the face of Gore’s real breach of civility, the true corrective was to “do a Cheney” (use the F-word), and go for the deuce. Within the next article, “the central axiom of partisan politics,” the author introduces the fundamental law that all people need to know to understand the workings of American politics: “Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil” (Krauthammer 52). Being a conservative, Krauthammer goes on to give the characteristics of liberals, describing them as nice people. They also hold the belief that human nature is fundamentally good. Liberals are also not quite as reciprocally as charitable and believe that conservatives have no heart. Some people, however, have “two faces.” In the final column in the chapter, Krauthammer states his law that “everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise” (Krauthammer 54). If “everyone” means anyone in the public life, this law applies due to two main reasons. First, since the Jews were allowed into the European society at the dawning of the Enlightenment, they have occupied politics and history, as well as arts and sciences in astonishing disproportion to their numbers (Krauthammer 54). Second, even though they occupy a small percentage of the world’s population, 20% of the Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, and this is true for numerous other “everyones” including household names in finance, politics, mathematics, and literature among other areas.

Analysis

In this chapter, Krauthammer initiates some extremely thought-provoking arguments. He starts most of the articles with a light-hearted tone before making very serious points. This strategy helps grab the attention of the audience, making want to read the article to the end to understand the author’s arguments while agreeing with them or refuting them and coming up with their own. For instance, in the article dubbed “Krauthammer’s first law,” the author begins with an interesting description of George Allen before he claims that everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise. In “In Defense of the F-word,” he begins with a humorous sentence and explains the circumstances under which it was used. Later in the article, he claims that it was odd to criticize Cheney whereas Al Gore was not criticized for his remarks about Bush. He suggests that the primary cause of this prejudice is partisan politics, bringing in a picture the overall theme of the book. He suggests that the right corrective for Gore’s behavior is calling him the F-word; hence indirectly defending or even justifying Cheney’s use of the word on the floor of the Senate. One may disagree with this, however, since it might send a wrong message to American youths who look up to Cheney as a role model.

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