Also necessary had been the decencies Charles was ready to defend, and the dangers he was ready to run — not least to his personal recognition along with his personal facet. That brings to thoughts considered one of his final columns, about Donald Trump Jr.’s assembly with a Russian lawyer: “Bungled collusion is still collusion.”
“It turned out to be incompetent collusion, amateur collusion, comically failed collusion,” he wrote. “That does not erase the fact that three top Trump campaign officials were ready to play.”
This could appear self-evident to many readers, however given Charles’s place within the conservative world it was some much-needed and even gutsy reality telling. Too dangerous the identical can’t be mentioned of most right-wing pundits whose former convictions have gone the way in which of Groucho Marx: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”
Finally there’s the query of tone. The dominant mode of social-media political opinion is snark. Of cable TV: sneering. Of discuss radio: shouting. A great deal of opinion writing right this moment appears to contain no effort at persuasion, however merely the uninteresting repetition of a political catechism comforting to the already transformed. Trump voters are all racists! Conservatives are all dishonest! Liberals hate America!
Charles by no means wrote that manner. Beliefs firmly held in his thoughts appeared to mingle with bemusement tickling his intestine. If the nice theme of his work is the protection of what we proudly used to name Western civilization, the nice theme of his life is the cultivation of a civilized thoughts. With each commentary, he taught us how such a thoughts labored.
Charles’s parting letter is, appropriately, about gratitude. “I am grateful,” he writes, “to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”
Not so small, Charles. To those that learn, watched, knew, or felt they knew you — we’re speaking about thousands and thousands of Americans right here — you confirmed what it means to be a person of unbiased thoughts and sound judgment, up for the protection of the issues we maintain dearest, the issues that matter. It’s what you would possibly name the democratic vocation.
Lowercase “d,” in fact, Charles, and thanks.