Robert Novak, 1931-2009


Although he relished the moniker --and as the photo at right shows, milked it-- I've always thought it said something about Washington culture that its most fearless seeker after truth was called a prince of darkness rather than a bringer of light. Plus, although he was the most brutal skeptic of government power and bureaucratic motives, Robert Novak was a noble soul and a generous supporter of newcomers to the field of journalism. In collaboration with Stan Evans' National Journalism Center, he personally mentored a whole troup of younger journalists. For my fellow grads of that internship program, Novak will be the guy who taught us all
There are two kinds of people in this world: sources and targets.
This nice remembrance from Fred Barnes captures his importance as a reporter, and the WSJ calls him Prince of Light.
One irony of Robert Novak's long and admirable career as a journalist is that he wasn't a curmudgeon, though he played one on TV. In person, he was warm, loyal to friends and especially generous to young writers
I think my favorite piece so far, however, has been this one from Jeff Bell, which captures his unyielding quest for the truth. Describing his personal evolution from a country-club Republican to a Conservative, Bell writes:
Bob Novak had changed, and the single biggest reason he had changed is that he stayed engaged with the campaign and the issue mix. As a reporter he never wrote anyone off. He listened closely and was fully alive to argument and debate—and he was capable of changing his mind. Reagan had persuaded him, but it could never have happened if Bob had not been so conscientious a reporter.
Much later, this same instinct led him to convert to Catholicism:
The same elements of Bob Novak's character were also at work in his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1998. He was as willing to open a new door in religion as in politics or economics. But once he had walked through that door, he brought eloquence and loyalty to the cause. In his first years as a Catholic he was reluctant to speak about his faith. But once he began to do so his story, and the way he told it, moved more than a few other hearts.

Growing up I remember my own father being a great admirer of Novak's because his column wasn't a simple spewing of opinion, but always had "facts." Information you could get nowhere else. Which was the result of his being engaged with the world --truly engaged with it-- as few in the field are.