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In our opinion: Charles Krauthammer's passing leaves a deep void

Through the years, members of the Deseret News editorial staff learned to predict what would happen on those rare occasions when, for whatever reason, Charles Krauthammer's regular column did not run. The anxious phone calls would begin as if on cue.

"You haven't canceled him, have you?" readers would demand. Such was the value of his commentary, both in print and on television.

Krauthammer's death last week, at the too-young age of 68, left a void in the landscape of political discourse. He left at the exact wrong time, when his brand of reasoned, intellectual and civil analysis seems in increasingly short supply.

One attribute of a great columnist is that he or she is not predictable, that principles and facts are elevated above partisanship. Krauthammer wore the label of a conservative, but he was an independent thinker, unafraid to disagree with mainstream conservative thought when he deemed it necessary.

Other attributes a columnist should cultivate are those of an open mind and a broad worldview. Krauthammer was unafraid of the implications of new information. But then, he began his writing career as a speechwriter for Democratic senator and presidential candidate Walter Mondale. His move toward conservatism came honestly, through intellectual reasoning and adherence to what he considered core principles, but his experiences with the left informed him in ways many of today's strident voices can't appreciate.

He was informed by his own unique set of life challenges, as well. Krauthammer was a Harvard medical student in the early 1970s when a diving accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. Such a devastating turn of events would have destroyed many people, but Krauthammer didn't let it keep him from his goals. He finished medical school and completed an internship. Then, as life does for many people, events combined to set him on the completely different path of political analysis.

Lives are shaped by such experiences, combined with core values and attributes such as attitude, determination and force of will. In Krauthammer, those combined to form a personality that was unfailingly civil and reasoned, despite the recent trend toward seemingly endless crudity and nastiness in public debate.

More than just polite, well reasoned and principle-based, however, Krauthammer was an American patriot. He stood for the world order American power had forged and crafted through two world wars, and he understood that power, and its limitations, in ways many of today's leaders do not.

To our loyal readers, we regret that Charles Krauthammer's unique observations on current world events no longer will appear on these pages. However, the Washington Post Syndicate, which distributed his work, has graciously re-released a few of what it calls its most cherished of his columns, which will run on these pages in coming days.

May they serve as somber reminders of what the world has lost and inspire a pursuit of the kind of thinking the American people must find.