Robert Novak dead at 78

Rick Moran
He was, in some ways, the classic Washington insider. His sources were legendary for giving him scoops for more than 40 years, which made his column one of the most influential in the country.

He was also an inconoclastic thinker and a sounding board for several generations of conservative politicians. An intimate of Buckley, Buchanan, and many other movers and shakers, he helped define a kind of pugnacious conservatism and battled the liberalism of Washington for 5 decades.

But Robert Novak, dead at 78 from cancer, was not someone to sacrifice principles for the career of any politician. He opposed the Iraq War, didn't like George Bush (either one) very much, and took great pleasure in the give and take of TV shoutfests like Cross Fire and The Capitol Gang.

It was his column - written with the urbane Rowland Evans - that was the essence of his character. Appearing three times a week in the Washington Post, Novak's insights were always fresh, penetrating, and invigorating. He skewered Democrat and Republican alike - but never gratuitously. And as Fred Barnes, writing in the Weekly Standard points out, he had official Washington scared to death of him:

It's not too much to call Novak journalism's last honest man in Washington. Ideologically, he was conservative, the more so the older he grew. He was quite up front about this. But he didn't cover for his allies or mistreat his adversaries. If a conservative Republican disappointed him, Novak would let you know. He was unique in another way: his reporting. His column, which he wrote for four decades with Rowland Evans, had a slant and plenty of analysis. Its strength, however, consisted of big scoops or nuggets of fresh reporting. No other columnist could match this. Appearing three days a week in the Washington Post, it was a column that couldn't be ignored.

The relentless, remorseless reporter -- the Prince of Darkness, as he fashioned himself publicly -- was only one side of Bob Novak. The other was a kind man, a patriot, a doting grandfather, a pal of liberal and conservative journalists alike, and a mentor to many younger men in the media, including me.

Another important conservative voice has been lost. I am beginning to wonder where the next generation of Buckley's Novaks, and others will emerge from.






He was, in some ways, the classic Washington insider. His sources were legendary for giving him scoops for more than 40 years, which made his column one of the most influential in the country.

He was also an inconoclastic thinker and a sounding board for several generations of conservative politicians. An intimate of Buckley, Buchanan, and many other movers and shakers, he helped define a kind of pugnacious conservatism and battled the liberalism of Washington for 5 decades.

But Robert Novak, dead at 78 from cancer, was not someone to sacrifice principles for the career of any politician. He opposed the Iraq War, didn't like George Bush (either one) very much, and took great pleasure in the give and take of TV shoutfests like Cross Fire and The Capitol Gang.

It was his column - written with the urbane Rowland Evans - that was the essence of his character. Appearing three times a week in the Washington Post, Novak's insights were always fresh, penetrating, and invigorating. He skewered Democrat and Republican alike - but never gratuitously. And as Fred Barnes, writing in the Weekly Standard points out, he had official Washington scared to death of him:

It's not too much to call Novak journalism's last honest man in Washington. Ideologically, he was conservative, the more so the older he grew. He was quite up front about this. But he didn't cover for his allies or mistreat his adversaries. If a conservative Republican disappointed him, Novak would let you know. He was unique in another way: his reporting. His column, which he wrote for four decades with Rowland Evans, had a slant and plenty of analysis. Its strength, however, consisted of big scoops or nuggets of fresh reporting. No other columnist could match this. Appearing three days a week in the Washington Post, it was a column that couldn't be ignored.

The relentless, remorseless reporter -- the Prince of Darkness, as he fashioned himself publicly -- was only one side of Bob Novak. The other was a kind man, a patriot, a doting grandfather, a pal of liberal and conservative journalists alike, and a mentor to many younger men in the media, including me.

Another important conservative voice has been lost. I am beginning to wonder where the next generation of Buckley's Novaks, and others will emerge from.