Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Creator's Sydicates Pay Tribute -- Robert Novak -- RIP

Columnist Robert Novak passed away today, ending an era of political journalism that spanned five decades. Novak rose from a $42.50 a week staff reporter at the Joliet, Illinois Herald News in 1948 to become one of the most influential political reporters of his time, a constant presence in print and television journalism. He was 78 years old.

Novak was the confidant of presidents and politicians of all stripes. (One of his favorite stories was of the wedding reception thrown for him and his new bride Geraldine by her old boss: then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson.)

Most recently, Novak was at the center of the political firestorm resulting from his disclosure, in a July 2003 column, of the CIA employment of Valerie Plame, the wife of former Amb. Joe Wilson, who was deeply embroiled in an apparently contrived controversy surrounding the pre-2003 Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Bob, as he always had before, kept his source’s confidence regardless of the pressure put upon him.

A long life of informing dopes like me. RIP Novak.

Creators Syndicate's columnists pay tribute to Robert Novak:

PAT BUCHANAN: Bob Novak was the finest reporter-columnist of his generation. Often, I have said that, were I an editor of a newspaper and could carry but one column, it would be Novak's. He was a reporter's reporter whose column invariably carried information no one else had gotten. He was passionate about his craft, about his convictions and, following his conversion to Catholicism, about his Church. While I have known Bob for more than 40 years, ever since our days together on "The McLaughlin Group" and CNN's "Crossfire" -- both of which began in 1982 -- and later, "Capitol Gang," we have been good friends. And a more reliable friend in time of need one could not find. About Novak there was nothing artificial or synthetic. His death leaves a hole in our lives and our hearts. My wife Shelley and I will miss our dinners at Bethany and Fenwick Island with Bob and Geraldine. May he rest in peace.

MARK SHIELDS: As a political reporter, Bob Novak had few equals and no superiors. He was tireless, he was fearless, and he had sources that nobody else did. Bob Novak loved his country, he loved his family, and he loved what he did. He was first and foremost a reporter. He hated to lose and was fiercely competitive, whether it was politics, sports or an argument. But what probably is most misunderstood about Bob Novak was that beneath that gruff, sometimes menacing exterior, there was a generous and open heart. If you were Bob Novak's friend, you were always Bob Novak's friend — even long after you had lost your power or your position or your status in Washington. He never decided his guest lists based on who was on the weekend's network talk shows. He embodied and personified loyalty.

WALTER WILLIAMS: I can't think of a more honorable and decent person than Bob Novak.

BILL O'REILLY: Robert Novak was called The Prince of Darkness because he told the truth, and honesty can sometimes be bleak. His legacy will be of a hard-hitting, honest reporter who served his country well.

MICHELLE MALKIN: Robert Novak has had a huge influence on my career. During a college conservative journalists’ confab, he urged us to seek metro newspaper jobs, pay our dues, and try to stay out of Washington for as long as possible. I took the advice to heart and left D.C. after a year as an intern at NBC to take my first newspaper job at the L.A. Daily News and then the Seattle Times. “Pundits” and “strategists” come and go, but Novak’s longevity is a tribute to — and result of — his newspaperman sensibilities and investigative chops.

R. EMMETT TYRRELL JR.: It took five cancers throughout his adult life to kill Bob Novak. He was one of the toughest men I have ever known. He was also one of the most intelligent, energetic, cheerful and kindest. Ignore that sobriquet, "Prince of Darkness." He was an eminently decent man, and as a member of the Board of Directors of The American Spectator during the days when the Clinton administration hauled us before a grand jury, he stood with us foursquare. Though a daily journalist, he was a man of great depths, widely read and deeply thoughtful beneath his gruff veneer. Late in life, he became a person of faith, converting to Catholicism because, as he said in his wonderfully informative memoir, he was jolted by the thought that "life is short but eternity is forever."

L. BRENT BOZELL: Bob Novak possessed all the qualities of an exemplary journalist. During his storied career, Bob produced some of the finest work of anyone in the business of gathering and reporting news. He was hardworking, accurate and independent.

Above all, Bob was tough and fair. Politicians and bureaucrats feared him for what his well placed sources revealed. Rival reporters envied him for the many exclusives he delivered over the years. We will always admire his lifelong devotion to journalism, which produced a standard that few reporters could hope to replicate.

Bob lent years of support to the Media Research Center and was also a personal friend. All of us at the MRC will miss Bob for his accuracy, integrity and his work ethic.

SUSAN ESTRICH: I discovered Bob Novak when I was in college. My political science teacher assigned us Rowland Evans and Robert Novak's classic tomes: "Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power" (1966) and "Nixon in the White House: The Frustration of Power" (1971).

It was like giving the Bible on baseball to a kid who'd watched the game all her life without ever really knowing what all those signals mean. This is how power works. This is how Washington operates. This is how you get someone to do something he doesn't want to do. This is what happens when people get in the room with the president.

Susan Estrich's complete column will be available Wednesday, August 19.

MICHAEL BARONE: Robert Novak, who died today, wrote thousands of news stories and columns in his 50-plus years as a Washington journalist. In each one, he said, he broke news. That is a staggering achievement. But journalism can be ephemeral and books, even in the digital age, live on. And here Novak also made a singular contribution.

His best known book to today’s readers is his 2007 autobiography The Prince of Darkness, which I had the honor to review in the Weekly Standard. It’s a superb and unflinchingly self-revealing piece of work. ...

Bob Novak, as he reveals in The Prince of Darkness, was a very smart man, a conservative by conviction and a pessimist by temperament. Like so many of his generation, coming of age in the conformist America of the 1950s, he wanted to be thought of as a regular guy—a sports fan, a heavy drinker and smoker (until he quit both), a caustic realist. But he was also an idealist with a fine appreciation for the few people he encountered who he thought were really smart.

Read Michael Barone's full commentary.

COL. OLIVER NORTH: Journalism lost a giant this week when my friend Robert Novak was called home to be with our Lord. I first met "the Prince of Darkness" while I was serving on Ronald Reagan's National Security Council staff.

Rather than accepting and repeating the second-hand misinformation about the Nicaraguan resistance that appeared in most of the mainstream media, Novak wanted to meet and talk to the freedom fighters in Nicaragua. He mentioned this to someone at the White House, and I was told "go down Pennsylvania Avenue and have a private, off-the-record meeting with Bob Novak." I did as ordered, put him in touch with the resistance political and military leaders, and the rest is history. Within days, Bob Novak was in Central America, risking his life, accompanying those who were fighting for their liberty against the Soviet-supported, communist Sandinista government.

Read the complete commentary from Oliver North.

AUSTIN BAY: Mr. Novak was inspiring. Blessed with superior communications skills, both in print and on video, Robert Novak's commentaries were always considered opinion laced with analysis and solid reporting. He will be missed.

JACKIE GINGRICH CUSHMAN: Robert D. Novak was fearless in his writings and television appearances. His approach of providing investigative reporting in addition to opining on political topics resulted in captivating and often controversial columns. The “Prince of Darkness” cast a long shadow while following his “journalistic philosophy — to tell the world things people do not want me to reveal, to advocate limited government, economic freedom, and a strong, prudent America — and to have fun doing it.”

Robert Novak may have reveled in his designation as the "Prince of Darkness," yet he was anything but. He was unfailingly generous on a personal level, even kind. I got to know Bob in the early '80s, first as a subject of his reporting. In my early years in public life in the Reagan administration and as a Senate candidate, Bob wrote several columns in which I figured. I always found them to be meticulously researched, fair and well-crafted. Unlike so many in the opinion world today, Bob grounded his columns in reporting. He searched out the facts before he ventured an opinion. He was one-of-a-kind and will be sorely missed, but his legacy will continue to inspire all of us in the commentary business.

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: Bob Novak was an honest reporter who consistently exposed the truth about politics, policy, and political personnel. He will be sorely missed.

TONY BLANKLEY: Bob’s sheer journalistic integrity was a thing to behold. When I served as Speaker Newt Gingrich’s press secretary, we never got a single break from Bob — nor a single inaccurate word of reporting or analysis. How much Washington reporting today could use Bob Novak’s impeccable integrity and diligent reporting. What a loss to the public debate.

ROGER SIMON: When I first went on the presidential campaign trail as a young reporter from Chicago, Bob Novak was one of the only people who would talk to me. In those days, if you weren't from Washington, you didn't cover national politics -- and it could be very lonely on the bus. But Novak sat down next to me one day and said he knew what I was going through and that I shouldn't worry, that I would be fine. He told me how on his first campaign he was away from home for several months and worried about how he was going to pay his electric and water and phone bill from the road. I told him that was my precise worry, but I had been too embarrassed to ask anybody else on the bus what to do. "It's nothing to worry about!" Novak said. "When I got home, my electricity and phone and water had all been turned off!" Then he laughed uproariously. Beneath what some considered a daunting exterior, he actually could be a very warm and funny guy.

DEBRA SAUNDERS: Robert Novak set the standard for combining relentless reportage with informed opinion. He was a journalist first and foremost. He had the pulse of Washington, and that made him a must-read writer.

LAWRENCE KUDLOW: Now we say goodbye to Robert Novak, who passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 78. Yet another conservative icon has left us. He was a good friend and an amazing reporter. In fact, I believe he was the best reporter of his generation, which spans all the way back to the Dwight D. Eisenhower years.

Bob had a lot of opinions -- conservative opinions; Reaganesque opinions. But his pursuit of journalistic detail, facts, scoops and stories that no one else got was remarkable. He was "old school" in this respect, which is why he was so esteemed by political allies and critics alike.