Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Novak Has Died, 1931-2009

Fox News is reporting Robert Novak has died....Developing Story

Update 2: Weekly Standard-Fred Barnes

Robert Novak, 1931-2009

Robert Novak terrified Washington. Elected and appointed officials, Democrats and Republicans, lobbyists and self-styled defenders of the “public interest” -- few were comfortable when Novak had them in his sights. Nor should they have been. The reason was simple: Bob Novak didn’t play political games. He wasn’t partisan. If he came across useful information about anyone, it would appear in his syndicated column. Novak died today at 77.

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.

I was a reporter for the now-defunct Washington Evening Star newspaper when I met Bob Novak in 1973. He was already a world-famous columnist. We were both covering then-Vice President Gerald Ford. We struck up a conversation -- about basketball.

He was an astute fan of the game and we got season’s tickets together the next year -- and for 35 years after that -- for the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) NBA team. Novak rarely missed a game.

He also was a fan of the University of Maryland for reasons too obscure for me to go into. When Maryland won the NCAA basketball championship in 2002, Novak and his son Alex attended every game, home and away. Meanwhile, he kept up a heavy schedule of TV appearances, speeches, reporting trips, and heavily reported columns. Novak was the hardest working man in journalism.

Novak mixed basketball and reporting. He went to China in 1978 and made a huge splash when he visited Democracy Wall in Beijing and interviewed Chinese leader Teng Hsaio-ping. On the way home, he stopped in LA to see a Maryland basketball game, flying home to Washington on the team plane. He told me later that only one person on the plane read a book during the flight and it wasn’t the “student athletes.” It was Novak.

He wasn’t always a conservative. In the 1960s and into the 1970s, he was a moderate Republican who was legendary for punching out a Goldwater delegate who was harassing him at the 1964 Republican convention in San Francisco. And even when he became a conservative, he wasn’t a conventional one.

Novak became a champion of supply-side economics before Ronald Reagan had even heard of the newest version of free market economics. And in column after column, he wrote about the new apostle of the supply-side message, Jack Kemp. Along with Bob Bartley of the Wall Street Journal, Novak was responsible for popularizing supply-side and making it the economic policy of the Reagan administration.

President Reagan was one of Novak’s few favorites in the White House, though he knew President Johnson well and indeed married a woman, Geraldine Williams, who worked for him. And Novak split with both President Bushes on their wars in Iraq. He favored a non-interventionist foreign policy.

His last major scoop was the revelation that Valerie Plame, a CIA employe, was behind her husband’s trip to Africa and later attack on President George W. Bush. Democrats blamed the Bush White House for the leak, but it turned out Novak had heard about it from State Department deputy secretary Richard Armitage.

Born Jewish, Novak converted to Christianity at age 66 after an encounter with a young Catholic woman at Syracuse University. Her comment that he needed to make up his mind about his faith prompted him to join the Catholic church a year later.

That episode is the subject of one chapter, entitled Conversion, in his memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington. There aren’t many great books about Washington, but Novak’s is one, all 639 pages of it. The book is dedicated to his wife, “my intrepid and loving partner.”

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Syndicated columnist Robert Novak has made a living writing articles containing information from his carefully cultivated sources, and when he first became interested in Catholicism, it was, coincidentally, a former source who aided him in his conversion.

His story about a source turned priest who baptized him, as well as many other stories about his life and his work as a journalist, appear in his new book, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington.

Novak was born Jewish and attended Christian services sporadically until the mid-1960s, after which he stopped going to religious services for nearly 30 years. But Novak said the Holy Spirit began to intervene in his life.

A friend gave Novak Catholic literature after he came close to dying from spinal meningitis in the early 1980s. About a decade later, the columnist's wife, Geraldine, also not a Catholic, persuaded him to join her at Mass at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Washington. The celebrant was a former source of Novak's.

Father Peter Vaghi, now Msgr. Vaghi and pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., was a former Republican lawyer and adviser to Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. He had been a source for the Evans and Novak column that Novak wrote with Rowland Evans.

Novak started to go to Mass regularly, but it wasn't until a few years later that he decided to convert to Catholicism. The turning point, as he recounts in his book, happened when he went to Syracuse University in New York to give a lecture. Before he spoke, he was seated at a dinner table near a young woman who was wearing a necklace with a cross. Novak asked her if she was Catholic, and she posed the same question to him.

Novak replied that he had been going to Mass each Sunday for the last four years, but that he had not converted.

Her response – "Mr. Novak, life is short, but eternity is forever" – motivated him to start the process of becoming a Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. He was baptized at St. Patrick's Church in 1998. His wife was also baptized a Catholic.

Novak said he believed the Holy Spirit led him to Catholicism. He told an audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington Aug. 2 that when he was interviewed by The New York Times about his book the interviewer scoffed at his story about his source turned priest.

But Novak said he told her he believed the Holy Spirit was behind the coincidences.

"I consider this the only one true faith, so I believe the Holy Spirit led me to it," Novak said. "Then the next day Pope Benedict (XVI) said the same thing."

Novak, referring to a Vatican document released in July reaffirming that the Catholic Church is the one true church, quipped that he must have been right.

The rest of Novak's 600-page book describes a life spent developing sources close to some of the most powerful people in American political life. He said he hopes his work has done a service for his country.

"I am proud of my journalistic philosophy to tell the world things people do not want them to hear," he said.

At the end of his book, and at the end of his talk, Novak likened himself in some ways to Bertrans de Born, a medieval nobleman who stirred up strife and wreaked havoc by destroying castles and ravishing women. In Dante's "Inferno," this stirrer of strife is resigned to hold his head in his hands for the rest of his days.

Novak joked that he had not destroyed castles or ravished women, but said he hoped that, in his career, he had succeeded in "stirring up strife but not in wreaking havoc, so that I will avoid an eternity in purgatory with my head in my hands."
Hat Tip: Opinionated Catholic where you can find a variety of links.

Update 1:
The Other McCain:
WASHINGTON — Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, one of the nation’s most influential journalists, who relished his “Prince of Darkness” public persona, died at home here early Tuesday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

“He was someone who loved being a journalist, loved journalism and loved his country and loved his family, Novak’s wife, Geraldine, told the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

Robert David Sanders Novak, 78, was born and raised in Joliet and his first newspaper jobs were with the Joliet Herald-News. He passed away at 4:30 a.m., returning home after being hospitalized between July 10 and July 24.

Robert Novak dead at 78.

On May 15, 1963, Novak teamed up with the late Rowland Evans Jr. to create the “Inside Report” political column, which became the must-read syndicated column. Evans tapped Novak, then a 31-year old correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to help with the workload of a six-day-a-week column.

Evans and Novak were the odd couple: Evans a Philadelphia blue blood and Yale graduate; Novak from Joliet, Ill. who attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus.

Novak handled the column solo after Evans retired in 1993. The Chicago Sun-Times has been Novak’s home paper since 1966.

Robert David Sanders Novak, 78, was born and raised in Joliet and his first newspaper jobs were with the Joliet Herald-News and, while a student at the University of Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana Courier. Novak maintained a lifelong tie to the University of Illinois with the school creating the Robert D. Novak chair of Western Civilization and Culture in 2001.

Mrs. Novak said that her husband passed away at 4:30 a.m., returning home after being hospitalized between July 10 and July 24. Novak’s malignant brain tumor was discovered July 27, 2008.

"Bob was always the pro," Sun-Times editor in chief Don Hayner said. "No matter what he had going on, he was always at the ready to help out on stories, and he broke more than his share. Even as he became a national figure, he was always proud to be part of the Sun-Times. And we were proud of him."

Besides Mrs. Novak, survivors include a son Alex, 41, who's a marketing executive for Eagle Publishing, and a daughter Zelda, 44, who is married to the journalist Christopher Caldwell. Novak is the grandfather of Jane, Philip, Eliza and George Caldwell, and Max, Sam, Gloria and Joseph Novak.

Visitation will take place at St. Patrick's in the City Catholic Church, 619 Tenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Patrick's in the City, 619 Tenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Interment will be private.

The family asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Youth Leadership Foundation, 4101 Yuma Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20016 or the Children's Charities Foundation, 3000 K Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, DC 20007-5109.
Journalist Robert Novak has died, FOX News confirms.

He was 78. He died in his home after a battle with brain cancer, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Novak had been a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for decades.

In recent years, he was perhaps best-known for being the first to publish the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. He came under criticism from many for that column, which Novak says began "a long and difficult episode" in his career.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July 2008.
Novak was an unapologetic warrior for his beliefs as a pundit, having spent decades building his credibility as a journalist. Nicknamed “the Prince of Darkness”, a title he proudly used for his memoirs, Novak did not mince words or suffer fools lightly. He became one of the premier conservative pundits in the US, but did not hesitate to criticize the Right — or to do so with brutal honesty — when he felt it was running off the rails.

He blasted the McCain campaign for misleading him on the running-mate selection process last summer, for instance. A couple of months before that, he ripped the GOP for feeding at the public trough on ag subsidies while claiming the mantle of fiscal discipline.

It was just a little over a year ago that Novak announced that he had inoperable and terminal brain cancer. He retired from most of his work, but that lasted only a few weeks before he began penning columns once again. Novak had an indefatigable spirit and a drive that would have shamed men in perfect health half his age. Unfortunately, Novak didn’t have much time left.

RIP, Mr. Novak, and thank you.

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