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Poorly organized, but good insight on politics
on November 9, 2013
An irritating book, for those who love Charles Krauthammer. Let me list the problems. The first half of the book is fluff -- essays on border collies, the Fermat Theorem, chess and the Washington Nationals. Are these really the "Things That Matter"? This skewed arrangement of the book (fluff first) also leaves the reader unprepared for the later essays which require more thought. Advice: read the introduction (good) first, then when you reach the hagiographic essay on his brother skip to the last chapter and read the essays from the back forwards. Save the fluff for later, so it won't be so irritating. Another problem is that many of the essays are seriously out-of-date, going back as far as the early 1980's. And the title is poorly chosen. "Things That Matter" actually refers to politics, although Krauthammer needs to tell you that (on p.2) and the book's arrangement doesn't reflect it.
On the positive side, this book is the only way to examine the political thought of Krauthammer at length. That opportunity is welcome, even if the book is poorly organized to accomplish it. And even the early "fluff" parts of the book contain gems. The "Mirror Image Fallacy" examines the American tendency to assume that other peoples are "just like us" and all want the same things as us, which leaves Americans struggling to understand why Saddam Hussein or Ayatollah Khomeini may NOT want the same things as we do. Or "The Central Axiom of American Politics," namely, according to Krauthammer, that "Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil." Much, much good stuff to ponder in the book as a whole. But, if you -- like most fans of Krauthammer -- are interested in his views on politics, you probably need to re-arrange the order in which you read the essays. [Added comment: Book deserves a 4 or 5 for political essays, but not for the fluff.]