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Richard Laermer

Richard Laermer

Posted: August 18, 2009 04:55 PM

Nobody Out-Novaked Novak


Robert Novak was a man.

He served this country steadfastly during the Korean War; was one hell of a journalist; and, in very many ways, was a pioneer in cable news. His six-times-weekly Evans-Novak Political Report was -- from 1963 until this year -- one of the most important and accurate political columns in America. Its forecasts of competitive Congress races were more often than not right on the money.

He joined CNN as a political "pundit" -- let's say analyst -- way back in 1980. Can you imagine: 1980! Hard to believe basic cable even existed when we look at the on-screen program guide of 10 thousand channels on our digital cable. Novak was the right wing combatant on Crossfire right up until the end. He debated Carville hundreds of times with cogent arguments that often embarrassed the seemingly unflappable Southerner. After Jon Stewart decimated the need for Crossfire during his brilliant 2004 appearance on the show, where he tossed Tucker "Bowtie" Carlson and Paul Begala into a shameful throw down, that program quietly rode off into the sunset with its Novakian glory days behind it. And then came the last six years. Novak was cast as a divisive figure in the tortuous political decade. He was a staunch public advocate for the decisions and acts of the Bush administration, and much of the last part of this man's career (and maybe all of it) will be remembered for one decision: to leak the name of a covert CIA agent in a newspaper, without reason other than political retribution. While that may have been a bad choice -- and it will prove to be even worse if someone like Billy Bob Thornton is cast to play a cartoonish Novak in the 2010 film of Plame's CIA-redacted account of the whole mess, Fair Game -- it may have been proof that Novak's sources were in the long run too good. You know that when a Deputy Secretary of State calls you to leak classified information, you got to be doing something right. Robert Novak was disliked by many -- liberals, mostly -- but he was a soldier, veteran, and a remarkable, unceasing journalist. He lived for more than one year with the worst cancer diagnosis medicine can provide, writing the whole time and trying to beat the odds. In a few respects he did. Nowadays, the existence of a reporter like Novak is rare. Today, those brethren lost a lion.

Robert Novak RIP.

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