August 18, 2009


Robert Novak, Pugnacious Columnist, Dies at 78 (DOUGLAS MARTIN and JACQUES STEINBERG, 8/18/09, NY Times)

Mr. Novak rose from a $68-a-week cub reporter to become the wealthy proprietor of almost a cottage industry, achieving prominence and celebrity as an influential Washington pundit whose views leaned decidedly to the right and parlaying that renown into books, newsletters and political seminars he organized.

At one point his column appeared in as many as 300 newspapers, and he was one of the first personalities to emerge on all-news cable television. CNN put him on the air its first weekend.

He first drew attention as an old-fashioned, notebook-and-shoe-leather newspaperman. For three decades his was the second byline with “Inside Report,” a syndicated column, written with Rowland Evans, that became a must-read for many both inside and outside Washington.

After Mr. Evans retired in 1993, Mr. Novak continued the column alone, writing as recently as last September about the tumor that ultimately took his life. Mr. Evans died in 2001. [...]

Morton Kondracke, a colleague on the syndicated talk program “The McLaughlin Group,” once characterized the role Mr. Novak played so enthusiastically as “the troll under the bridge of American journalism.” [...]

[M]r. Novak did not rely solely on senior officials. “Bob Novak was always a human Electrolux, in terms of pulling information from every corner and nook,” Mr. Shields said. “He may be the only major syndicated columnist in Washington who regularly had a meal with the assistant minority staff director of House subcommittees. His sources weren’t status sources.” [...]

[W]hen Mr. Novak became embroiled in perhaps the messiest story of his career, Americans had a face on which to focus. The episode began on July 14, 2003, when Mr. Novak published the name of a C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson. Her husband, the former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, had made public assertions that the Bush administration had justified the invasion of Iraq by distorting intelligence about Iraqi efforts to acquire unconventional weapons. Referring to Ms. Wilson by her maiden name, Plame, Mr. Novak disclosed her identity as “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”

Once BDS dies down in a few years, that revelation, that an anti-Bush functionary at CIA sent her own husband on a supposed fact-finding trip for the Agency is likely to be seen as the pinnacle of his career. The intelligence services running a black op against the president is a tough scoop to top.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 18, 2009 7:08 PM
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