Robert Novak, RIP (1931-2009)

posted at 12:15 pm on August 18, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Robert Novak, a giant in political reporting and punditry who crossed swords with people across the entire political spectrum, has passed away today at 78.  Kenneth Tomlinson eulogizes his former colleague at Human Events this morning, in a column that must be read in full:

Throughout my life, I followed Bob Novak journalism like I followed the careers of my favorite sports figures. Later, as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, I would become one of Novak’s nominal bosses, though the fact was that every time I worked with him or was associated with him in any way, it was I who felt privileged. Few journalists have ever affected this country like Bob Novak. …

The fact is that Novak, as he would disclose in his autobiography, actually admired very few politicians. He wrote that he found the first politicians he covered less impressive than the athletic coaches he had covered as a young reporter — “an impression of the political class that did not change appreciably in a half-century of sustained contact.”

But then, many big-time politicians didn’t like Novak. Pat Buchanan relates a priceless story of being with Richard Nixon in the mid-’60s in a high-school gym in Indiana. Nixon peeked through the stage curtain, finding Novak in the first row of the press section. “Look at him,” Nixon commanded. “That’s Bob Novak. That’s the enemy.”

One of the few exceptions would be New York Congressman Jack Kemp, a close relationship that would grow from Novak’s magnificent obsession about supply-side economics that one day would have profound influence on the American economy. They genuinely liked each other.

Novak was the journalistic godfather of the supply-side movement, and his columns gave political legitimacy to Kemp’s 30% tax-rate cut proposal that would, at the 11th hour, make it into Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign offerings.

Novak was an unapologetic warrior for his beliefs as a pundit, having spent decades building his credibility as a journalist.  Nicknamed “the Prince of Darkness”, a title he proudly used for his memoirs, Novak did not mince words or suffer fools lightly.  He became one of the premier conservative pundits in the US, but did not hesitate to criticize the Right — or to do so with brutal honesty — when he felt it was running off the rails.  He blasted the McCain campaign for misleading him on the running-mate selection process last summer, for instance.  A couple of months before that, he ripped the GOP for feeding at the public trough on ag subsidies while claiming the mantle of fiscal discipline.

It was just a little over a year ago that Novak announced that he had inoperable and terminal brain cancer.  He retired from most of his work, but that lasted only a few weeks before he began penning columns once again.  Novak had an indefatigable spirit and a drive that would have shamed men in perfect health half his age.  Unfortunately, Novak didn’t have much time left.

RIP, Mr. Novak, and thank you.

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Oh yeah, about that evidence. Read this.

Andy in Agoura Hills on August 18, 2009 at 6:54 PM

He was a complicated piece of work.

I can still hear him saying “Crossfire” at the end of each show with that shit eating grin. Love him or hate him he will be missed.

I look forward to reading his autobiography as a time capsule.

patrick neid on August 18, 2009 at 6:54 PM

Really? So the liberals who hated the U.S. policies in Iraq from 2003 to 2008 still like the people of America

I hate the policies of the Cuban government.

But I don’t hate the Cuban people who oppose those policies.

We (probably) both hate the policies of the Obama Administration and US government (broadly speaking).

Neither of us hate the American people.

If you can’t see the difference between the government of a country and the people of the country I’m not sure there’s more to say.

SteveMG on August 18, 2009 at 6:59 PM

RIP Mr. Novak.
For those who haven’t read his book “Prince of Darkness” I highly recommend it – fascinating look at what a real journalist used to do.

Bradky on August 18, 2009 at 7:36 PM

Andy in Agoura Hills on August 18, 2009 at 6:54 PM

wasn’t she banned from HA?

mmnowakjr85 on August 18, 2009 at 7:58 PM

R.I.P. Mr Novak.
I didn’t always agree with you, but your writing was always thought provoking. Godspeed ‘Prince Of Darkness’.

alohapundit on August 18, 2009 at 8:03 PM

The Museum of Broadcast Communications just published a notice on Facebook on Novak’s passing.

Here is one of the first 4 comments:

He committed treason. He should have been executed. And I no qualms about saying it. He wasn’t a journalist, he was a columnist who did the bidding of the military-industrial complex.

Bring on the hate mail.

Notice the literacy? “I no qualms”.

If Chimpy Bush had said it that way, he would have been called “stupid”.

Del Dolemonte on August 18, 2009 at 9:21 PM

More than 20 columnists – mostly on the right – remember Mr. Novak: Link.

Oliver North, Brent Bozell, Michell Malkin, O’Reilly, Walter Williams….

My guess is that they understand that human beings are a bit more complicated than cartoon characters.

SteveMG on August 18, 2009 at 10:41 PM

Novak was a pretty straight shooter. As a lib I liked him along with Buckley. When he was on crossfire my friends nickname for him was “Dr. Loveless”. He nicknamed Novak’s opponent, Carvelle, “Inbred Fred”.

RIP Mr. Novak

Bill Blizzard on August 18, 2009 at 11:26 PM

ChickaBOOMer: R. Novak Has Exited The Planet

StewartIII on August 18, 2009 at 11:50 PM

Embrace his conservatism.
Disgrace his antisemitism.

Hell, if we all had force ourselves to not use or endorse products that fund anything bad, we’d have to throw out a third of our computers because AMD processors are funded by Abu Dhabi which funds Palestine.

andrewtf on August 24, 2009 at 5:39 PM