EDITOR'S NOTE: Gazette Editorial Page Editor Wayne Laugesen and columnist Daniel Cole met up for a question and answer session with Dr. Charles Krauthammer - a psychiatrist, renowned columnist and TV commentator - at the Weekly Standard's Broadmoor Symposium. Below is a sample of the conversation.
Question: What are your views on legalization of marijuana in Colorado?
Answer: I tend to think, if you were starting a society from scratch, and you had to choose the intoxicant of choice, I would definitely choose marijuana over alcohol. There is no question the medical effects of marijuana are incredibly benign compared to alcohol. But we're not starting a new society. We've had alcohol for 50,000 years. The question is, do you want a second intoxicant on top of that? I remember the '60s fondly... so it would be a bit hypocritical to say, 'nobody should ever use this.' But you do worry. It's not a gateway drug, but it sets you up for other intoxicants. And the other problem you're having here right now is the driving issues. Marijuana would be a perfectly personal thing except for the fact that people drive. And there isn't even a good way to measure, so that's something you have to work out. What I like about the federal system is that when there are no good answers, let a state or two try something out. It's not going to be the end of the world one way or the other. In 10 years, we'll look back and see whether there was an increase in hard drugs or not. We'll have an experiment, data.
Q: The left would like to export the assault on gun rights, which we saw out of the Colorado Legislature this year, to other states. Do you think that will backfire on Democrats?
A: If you live in Washington, it's pretty strange to hear that Colorado went for these strict gun control measures. This is what we imagine as the frontier, the West. I know that you obviously have a very strong urban population, but you'd expect that from Connecticut. So I'd be quite amenable to a theory that said to me that liberals overshot. That they picked the wrong place, and I can imagine that there would be a lot of resistance. So I would guess that it would cause a counter reaction.
A: And nationally, could it cause a counter reaction?
Q: Yes. It already has. Membership for NRA has skyrocketed. People are buying guns like they're never going to be available, which is sort of what's motivating people. And look what happened in Congress. They couldn't even get through the universal registration, which is the weakest of all the provisions, so that's your backlash right there. And the other reason is it was a non sequitur. You could have passed all those laws with zero effect on Aurora. Zero effect. So you're solving a problem with something that is completely irrelevant. And it looks like exploitation.
Q: You're a member of the Chess Journalists of America. Just how good at chess are you?
A: Well, like psychiatry, I'm in retirement. I tend to overdose when I get back into chess and I find myself playing online at ungodly hours, speed chess. And then I go cold turkey. I haven't played in three years. It's the equivalent of finding yourself alone in a motel room, drinking Aqua Velva. Then you know it's time for an intervention. I've only entered one tournament in my life, the Atlantic Open. I was unrated, so I entered the unrated, and I won the division. I tied with three others. I got a winner's check for a 150 bucks that I never cashed because I framed it.
Q: You used to be a liberal. What was the turning point?
A: On foreign affairs, I never changed. The party changed. I was always a hard-line Cold War liberal, like Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson. After 1981, when they lost power, Democrats went so far to the left - on the nuclear freeze, on Nicaragua, on the Reagan Doctrine, on missile defenses. Every issue they got wrong, every single one. So I gave up. There is no more of that hard-line wing among Democrats. That's gone. Lieberman (former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn) was the last one, and he sort of wandered out homeless. So the party left me. On domestic issues, I left the party. I was a Great Society liberal. I thought it was a good thing to do. The government ought to help people, if it can, and it turns out, the empirical evidence began to come in and I began to look at the results and it turned out the Great Society and the war on poverty were hurting the very people they was trying to help. It was undermining all the structures of civil society - the family, churches, charities, all the institutions that hold people together. It was all unintended, they're not bad people. But then I came more around to looking at the market and more targeted supports to civil society as the way to help people. So there I changed, and I don't claim the party did. They stayed where they were.
Q: Considering coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial and Benghazi, is there anything to this notion that the media have a left-leaning bias?
A: It's not a notion. It's the sun rising in the East. And like the sun rising in the East, you get used to it. The view I have is a lousy one: lighten up. Conservatives have to get over it. It is important to hammer them (the media), to embarrass them, to make them show up at a Gosnell trial. But you don't decry it.