Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Robert Novak, R.I.P.

Nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak died Tuesday, August 18,2009. He wrote his last column in late 2008, in which he said that he was afflicted with a terminal illness and could not continue. Novak's column, when coupled with his writings in partnership with Roland Evans (the "Evans-Novak Political Report")became one of the longest running nationally syndicated columns in American History.

As chronicled in his memoir,THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS,Novak appeared on CNN's "Crossfire" and "The Capitol Gang". He later became a central figure in the Valarie Plamne CIA leak case, when he was the first to publish the name of the CIA employee in his column.

According to Bob Novak, he began his jounalistic career as a political moderate but became more conservative as time passed by. Although his column was not carried in our local newspapers in recent years, I was able to read it in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which also served our community. As I read the news daily, I increasingly found that I would instinctively look for the Novak column to find out what was really going on in Washington. He was hard on liberals and conservatives alike and had a dislike for "hypocritical, posturing politicians". Still, he had a special respect for Ronald Reagan. In his book he stated: "Although I was no lapdog for Ronald Reagan, I applauded much in his Presidency - far more than any other President in my twenty-four years in Washington".

I met Bob Novak twice, once when he appeared with the Capital Gang at a party in New York honoring Clarke Reed, one of the founders of the modern Mississippi Republican Party; and then again when he spoke to a breakfast for Mississippians in Washington when George W. Bush was inaugerated President for his second term of office. His wife joined him on that occasion - again at the invitation of Clarke Reed, his longtime friend.

As much as I enjoyed reading Robert Novak's columns, I never really had any affection for the man until I read his Introduction to a re-published edition of WITNESS, by Whittaker Chambers, a non-herioc figure and an admitted member of the Communist Party in the first half of the twentieth century. Chambers eventually turned away from the Communist Party and exposed, in public hearings, the urbane and sophisticated Alger Hiss as a high-ranking employee of the State Department in Washington who was also clandestinely an active Communist.

In his Introduction to WITNESS, Novak stated that the struggles of Chambers, as written in that book, changed his life forever. In displaying his sympathy and respect for Chambers, who endured long and loud public denunciations throughout the public hearings in Hiss affair from many in Washington, Robert Novak revealed himself to be an American Patriot. R.I.P.

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