Posted on August 18, 2009
When I was in high school and college, I used to love to watch Bob Novak and Pat Buchanan battle it out against the forces of evil on Crossfire and the McLaughlin Group. Novak wasn’t the most polished performer, but he spoke truth to power and I was inspired by his courage.
When I moved to Washington in 1989, one of the my professional goals was not only to meet Bob Novak, but to actually debate with him against the bad guys on television on Crossfire. That never happened, because, well, Crossfire was cancelled before I ever got the chance to appear on it. But I did get to know Mr. Novak when I served in the Congressional leadership.
Critics used to call Bob Novak “No Facts” when they didn’t like what he wrote. But he had great sources and, obviously he had a long history in Washington, so he knew how this town worked better than just about anybody.
When he invited me to lunch at the Army-Navy Club, I felt that I had finally made it in Washington. He cultivated me as a source, and I tried to help him out with whenever he needed information.
My philosophy with Novak was simple: He won’t bite the hand that feeds him, so when I ever I had any tidbit that I thought he could use, I tried to give it to him. It was always better to be on Bob Novak’s good side.
Novak was from my home state of Illinois, and like David Broder and so many others, it just seems that folks from the Midwest make better reporters. Novak was from the Joliet area (not far from my hometown of Homewood), and he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times. Novak didn’t lose that Illinois sensibility, but he had the proper amount of cynicism for politicians and the laws that they passed onto the rest of America that comes by spending a lot of time in the nation’s capitol.
Some called him the Prince of Darkness, but in my dealings with him, he was never dark. He was realistic. He thought government was too big, that it taxed too much, that it claimed too much power over the lives of the governed. He was against the folly of war, and he didn’t like entangling alliances that sucked us into armed conflict. He was not quite an isolationist, but he was no neo-conservative either.
Novak spoke the truth in the face of enormous power, he had the courage of a lion and the passion of a true patriot. He will be missed by all who needed him to keep them apprised of all the shenanigans that go on in this city.