Saturday Night Literary Fight: George Will vs. Charles Krauthammer

If forced to pick, whom do you take?

For elegance of prose style, I take George Will. For ruthless sheer rightness and cool application of reason, I take Charles Krauthammer.

As a TV presence, a tie.

Overall, I give a slight nod to Will because of the gem-like beauty of his occasional non-political columns. His writings on things like the birth of his children, his son’s Down syndrome, literature, walking–these are small masterpieces in the art of the English essay.

  1. mark alesse

    Wouldn’t it be great to have the two of them on the same show doing political commentary? 

  2. Lord Humungus

    It’s a dead heat. But the name Krauthammer tips the scale. In this corner, weighing in at 185 pounds, from parts unknown….THE KRAUTHAMMER!

  3. Larry Koler

    This is easy: Krauthammer. Here’s the test: for me, I start many columns by Will and don’t finish them. Krauthammer? I read every word.

    Will is part of the ruling elite and, I think, an example of what is wrong with the conservative movement at this time. As I have said before, Will would rather have dinner with Obama than Newt or Sarah. This is a class division and these people choose to insulate themselves from the rest of us.

    Will is a fussy aesthete. He writes well but has few new ideas. My sense over the years is that Will cannot be relied upon when things get difficult. He cherishes his elite lifestyle more than he does the ideals he writes about.

    Krauthammer isn’t perfect either but he is a more reliable conservative. Will works for ABC and Time magazine — happily — and Krauthammer works for Fox News. That’s a significant difference in itself. I doubt Will would feel comfortable at Fox.

    I won’t take away from Will what he has done while at the center of the bastions of the left. He has done yeoman’s work there. But, Will is a limousine conservative.

  4. DocJay

    Will, but I love them both.

  5. Matt Blankenship

    Oh, and I forgot to mention: even in the age of the internet, where every column ever written by anyone can be immediately called up and read for free, I still love the every 5 year publication of collections of Will’s columns.  I have every one of these going back to The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts.    (The best title is The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions.)  I wonder whether there will be any more…

    Krauthammer has a collection coming out in October.  I was a little disappointed to learn that it apparently will not be his long-awaited magnum opus on politics, but rather a collection of mostly previously published writing.  Still, I can’t wait.  I’ll buy it in hardback–he deserves a physical place on my shelf.

  6. The King Prawn

    I agree with your position for basically the same reasons. Will simply writes well. Krauthammer simply thinks well.

  7. Brandon Shafer
    KC Mulville: The vast majority of pundits are hacks, with no better ideas or style than the average rodeo clown.

    These guys are special. They’re fun to read, and say things that actually edify me. 

    What astounds me is their TV discipline. On ABC’sThis Week, George Will always waits his turn, and speaks only when called upon. He doesn’t interrupt, but when it’s his turn, he offers concise and pointed comments. He’s a producer’s dream. To use a baseball phrase, he never wastes an at-bat.

    Krauthammer is the same way. His turn to speak is always colorful. Unlike Will, he occasionally loses patience with a fellow guest and interrupts, but the result is always worth it.

    No umms, uhhhs, you knows, etc.  · 9 hours ago

    Krauthammer always seems to be out of breath, but he sure makes every use of each one.

  8. KC Mulville

    The vast majority of pundits are hacks, with no better ideas or style than the average rodeo clown.

    These guys are special. They’re fun to read, and say things that actually edify me. 

    What astounds me is their TV discipline. On ABC’s This Week, George Will always waits his turn, and speaks only when called upon. He doesn’t interrupt, but when it’s his turn, he offers concise and pointed comments. He’s a producer’s dream. To use a baseball phrase, he never wastes an at-bat.

    Krauthammer is the same way. His turn to speak is always colorful. Unlike Will, he occasionally loses patience with a fellow guest and interrupts, but the result is always worth it.

    No umms, uhhhs, you knows, etc. 

  9. kiwikit

    Your first sentence would be unacceptable by both of these, neither of whom I’ve found making grammatical errors:  WhoM do you take? As a scientist myself I find Dr K’s style more to my liking and I have noticed that Will’s ideas seem more elitist since he went from bow ties to long and from wife #1 to #2.  I assume that latter is a lefty, with much influence.

  10. Randy Webster

    I’ve bought and read several of Wills’ books.  He loses his way when he talks of his son’s down syndrome, and others’ obligation to make the family whole, and when he talks about those who gain much from society having an obligation to give much back.

  11. Steve MacDonald

    both are terrific. i agree/disagree about the same % & almost always because their perspective is Washington and mine is not. Vote goes ever so slightly to Will because of his baseball passion. I enjoy them both.

  12. She

    Krauthammer.

    I completely agree with Larry Koler’s analysis (#7) of the two of them.  They are both a pleasure to read and watch, but I mistrust George Will a bit.

    I also love that Krauthammer is not so good at concealing his reactions to others on the Fox panel.  (Disclaimer:  I’m fond of Juan Williams because I think he’s a really good guy, and right more often than he’s wrong.  But when he’s wrong, he’s really, really wrong).

    When Juan is speaking nonsense, and CK is rolling his eyes and fidgeting, I find it hard to wait for the gentle but devastating putdown that I know is coming.

  13. Matt Blankenship
    kiwikit: Your first sentence would be unacceptable by both of these, neither of whom I’ve found making grammatical errors:  WhoM do you take? As a scientist myself I find Dr K’s style more to my liking and I have noticed that Will’s ideas seem more elitist since he went from bow ties to long and from wife #1 to #2.  I assume that latter is a lefty, with much influence. · 2 hours ago

    You are right.  Thanks for the correction.  I will edit the post.  I should have been more careful–it is always dangerous to write about writing.  

    BTW I would probably have said, “unacceptable TO both of these,” and I would have put a comma after “to my liking”–compound sentence and all.  Those are minor things though.  You are absolutely correct.

    To correct or not to correct another adult’s grammar?  That might make a good Ricochet post sometime…

    EDIT: My wife says my post “screamed” for correction, and I know that she is right.  So thanks again–now it will not have to live forever in the Ricochet archive, a neon sign proclaiming my carelessness.

  14. Chris Campion

    Krauthammer is a boxer, Will is a chess player.  Krauthammer’s willing to get hurt to win, Will is simply playing the game.

    And I like George Will’s stuff.  But if I was interested in putting somebody up who could make the argument, Krauthammer wins – he cuts through the bull succinctly and wish punishing effect.  Will can’t seem to muster the gumption to body-slam the idiocy through the mat, hard, so it doesn’t get back up again.

    We’re in a fight.  You want fighters in your fight, not the towel boys.

  15. Steven Jones
    Randy Webster: I’ve bought and read several of Wills’ books.  He loses his way when he talks of his son’s down syndrome, and others’ obligation to make the family whole, and when he talks about those who gain much from society having an obligation to give much back. · 15 hours ago

    I have a quibble with this analysis. I do believe that society has an obligation to look after the weaker members. Our problem today is that too many have conflated government with society, and expect government to do all the little tasks which hold society together. Government is ill suited to this work; it’s hidebound bureaucratic rules dispense benevolence at a glacial pace, and rob the needy of any obligation turn from destructive behavior, or even show the slightest gratitude.

  16. Dean Murphy

    I have to vote for Krauthammer.  Plus I love the non-PC-ness of his name.  It also reminds me of Malleum Malificarum.  Malleum Sinistrum?

  17. Jojo
    Larry Koler: I won’t take away from Will what he has done while at the center of the bastions of the left. He has done yeoman’s work there. But, Will is a limousine conservative. · 23 hours ago

    Yes.  George Will wrote possibly the stupidest column I have ever read, and I sometimes even read Mother Jones.  It was about how wrong it is for men to wear jeans in public. I searched for the tongue in cheek aspect but it was not really there; he meant it. As the wife of a man who wears nothing but jeans, ever, because he is doing physical work 90% of  his waking hours so that’s what he owns and finds comfortable, I could only conclude George Will was a jerk.   He really seemed not to believe there are people out there still doing physical work…..or if there are, they don’t count in his world. 

  18. Howellis

    I’m more impressed by Krauthammer’s ability to see through the web of complexity on almost any issue than Will’s prose style.

  19. Nanda Panjandrum

    Got to go with Dr. K.  His life story heartens (dare I say inspires?) me, his reasoning is crystal clear and his self-deprecating humor is an object lesson to me…True grace under pressure.  Mr. Will often seems as though he wants to have his cake and eat it, too. [Self-edit: Fyi,  Dr. K. has been a quadriplegic since an accident in his 20s, this might be the reason for seeming "out of breath", as an earlier commentor mentioned.] 

  20. 9thDistrictNeighbor

    George Will on baseball…no contest.

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