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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

George Will and Charles Krauthammer

The two smartest guys in Washington DC are now both on Fox News, and sometimes you can see them together on the 6 PM show.

George Will and Charles Krauthammer are both extremely analytical, commonsensical, eloquent, and incisive. Both have original insights. And maybe most impressively, both express those insights not just in complete sentences, but in complete paragraphs.

It just hit me last night what I love about listening to them most: both men speak more eloquently than I write.

I think I sound fairly smart on paper -- but there are many people, who, when given ample time for rewrites, can manage to do so. If you meet me in person, you won't be impressed -- I can pretty much guarantee that. I sound just like everyone else. And by "everyone else" I mean like half the teenage girls you know. I pepper my speech liberally with "like's" and "you know's" and plenty of swears.

So, maybe a teenage girl crossed with a truck driver.

On top of that, I'm just not quick on my feet. Give me ten minutes and I can come up with the perfect one line response. (If you want two lines, I'll need twenty minutes.) But I can almost never come up with the perfect response on the spur of the moment.

But Will and Krauthammer speak in polished essays. I can only hope -- after numerous revisions -- to write a sentence as well-constructed as the sentences they utter. (Will actually sounds as if he's reading one of his own essays when he speaks.)

I went to Harvard and worked at Goldman Sachs, so I've met a fair number of smart people in my life. And I've met far, far many more arrogant types who merely think they're smart. (As I said, I went to Harvard and worked at Goldman.)

But none of them, not even the few who actually were really smart, spoke in polished essay form.

There are no other talking heads who do it, not on Fox, nor on any of the other news channels. Not even Megyn Kelly, Fox's newest prime time host, who comes across smarter than O'Reilly and Hannity, does it. Only Will and Krauthammer can do it.

Both men are undoubtedly given the topics to be discussed ahead of time, and thus have some time to prepare their comments beforehand, which helps. Still, the other members of the panels are also afforded that opportunity, yet none come across nearly as eloquent as Will and Krauthammer. And many of Will and Krauthammer's comments are responses to the other panelists, which are by necessity ad libbed.

It's humbling to listen to them. My usual reaction: "That's so true….why couldn't I think of that?" (A rhetorical question.)

Let me put it as I would if I were speaking to you in person: Will and Krauthammer are just, like, you know, fucking geniuses! I mean, shit!


Glen Filthie said...

Well now these men are prepped before they go on the air, John. They've spent their lives speaking in public, and they are not intimidated by the spotlight. That is an acquired skill. With prep you would do well too. It's just practice.

I remember (hork, spit)Phil Donahue. That man could reduce most conservatives to raging chimps with his provocative idiocy. But he actually created an historical high point for talk show television when he made the mistake of inviting Milton Friedman on his show.

It's on Youtube somewhere, but Milt was actually so adroit a speaker that he made Phil look like a complete idiot without calling him one - and Phil was so devastated that all he could do was gawp and fume. Even the crowd - which was usually infested with leftwing howler monkeys on that chit show - went silent as Milt explained the intuitively obvious to a mob of stupid people who weren't fit to shine his shoes.

That must have been 20 years ago...I wonder how Milt would do today in this age of "gotcha" journalism, social justice and free bread and circuses...

We need men like these now more than ever before.

John Craig said...

Glen --
You're absolutely right that these guys are prepped, but so is everyone else on the talk shows, and none of them come across nearly as articulate. Plus, it's obvious when someone is just parroting their party
s talking points, vs. when someone is really thinking about an issue and being incisive. Will and Krauthammer do the latter. I've never heard either man just lazily repeat what the conventional wisdom is; they almost always have something original to say.

I saw Donahue a couple times, though I didn't see the Milt Friedman episode. Donahue specialized in relating to female audiences, in making all of his arguments emotion-based, and in always seeming to take the moral high ground. Will or Krauthammer would both have carved him up nicely as well.

Spychiatrist said...

Craig, you are a good writer and I'm sure that you're pretty articulate on the street as well.

BTW, how long have you been writing? Did you take journalism courses, if not, that would explain why you're a good writer.

John Craig said...

Spychiatrist --
You're very kind. I my be exaggerating how badly I come across in person, but there's always been a gap between how I write (especially after some careful editing) and how I speak. I'm not lying about that.

Never took any journalism classes, nor did I major in English, but i've always been a would-be writer. I wrote a book at age 28 which was published when I was 40, and tried to get several more published after that, with no luck.

bluffcreek1967 said...

Glen, you're absolutely right about Milton Friedman making Phil Donahue seem not too bright when he was on his show in the late 70s. Milton had an incredible ability to take complex financial subjects and make them understandable for the average person. He was truly a genius and a great teacher!

Phil Donahue is a bright man, but he's not very deep. His Leftist ideology can only take him so far, and when pressed by someone who truly understand economics like MIlton Friedman, the differences become very apparent.

bluffcreek1967 said...

John, I've noticed that sometimes the brightest people are not always the most articulate. In many cases, they're not always the quickest to reply because they really do think through things.

On the other hand, sometimes when someone's quick to answer and even when they're verbose and skilled in speaking, this doesn't mean they understand the subject as well as it appears. They're able to baffle people with bullshit and flowery words. Sort of like politicians.

So, while you might be slower and less articulate or less sophisticated intellectually than Will or Krauthammer (and which of isn't?), it's apparent that you're extremely bright - more so than most! Besides, that's all those two talking heads do and they're paid big bucks for it too.

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
Thank you very much.

Will and Krauthammer also write quite a bit; I've actually linked a few of Will's articles on this blog. One of the most impressive things about Will is his vast knowledge of history and his ability to relate, say, a 1923 Supreme Court decision to what's going on today. Even if I read a lot of history, I wouldn't be able to pull that stuff from out of the blue the way he is always able to do.

Spychiatrist said...

What do you think of Pat Buchanan?

I've always considered him to be a very bright man in the arena of writing and speaking. He seems to have a good grasp on cultural issues and things political. Would you put him in the same category as Will and Krauthammer, Craig?

Just wondering.

John Craig said...

Spychiatrist --
I am a huge fan of Pat Buchanan, in fact he's the only Presidential candidate I ever donated money to (back in '92). He's both brilliant and intellectually courageous, and I've actually linked several of his articles in this blog.

But the point of this post was that both Will and Krauthammer sound as if they're reading polished speeches when they talk, which Buchanan doesn't quite do.

That said, by the wary, I agree with Buchanan's stance on the Middle East much more than I do with Krauthammer's. (Krauthammer leans towards hawkishness, whereas Buchanan advocates less US involvement.)

Anonymous said...

John, Last night (Saturday night) on Fox News there was a program called "Charles Krauthammer: A Life that Matters" (or something very close to that). Did you catch it by chance? Interesting story of how Krauthammer came to be disabled and eventually came to be a journalist. It was mentioned that the first time Sean Hannity met him in person, he asked, "What happened?" Few people realize that he is disabled. He really is unflappable. Julie

John Craig said...

Julie --
Long time no hear from.

No, I didn't catch it; you should have told me YESTERDAY, I would have enjoyed seeing it.

I was surprised when I first heard he was paralyzed; I hadn't realized it until I looked him up on Wikipedia. I sometimes wonder how much longer he has to go, because of that. Sometimes he seems to get a little short of breath, but he always recovers and goes on. I hope he continues for a long time.