Friday, August 03, 2007

The Prince of Darkness

I'm in Los Angeles at the moment and on the way over (and a little bit since), I've been reading the memoirs of Robert Novak, one of the most interesting figures in Washington for the past several decades. The Prince of Darkness has lots of interesting minutae (Did you know Bob Novak is Chris Caldwell's father-in-law? Me either, though I'm sure it isn't any kind of state secret.) But the overall portrait of the author is most compelling.

First of all, to me Novak has come across as the paleoconservative who didn't fit. He agrees with them about most on most of the controversial things, but somehow it's difficult to see him taking the career track of E. Michael Jones or Joseph Sobran. The reason why is because Mr. Novak represents not the Eastern Establishment exactly, but the mainstream of the American press, and comfortable in it. He worked in the vineyards as a correspondent in Nebraska and Indiana before establishing his Capitol-based franchises. This is a far cry from the let's-return-to-the-soil tradition of the paleocons.

Second, there is distinct lack of sentimentality of warmth in his personality. This is especially apparent in his writing regarding his partnership with Rowly Evans, who always seemed to me to be a gregarious good egg when I saw him on television. In this way, I guess his reputation is well-deserved.

But in spite of this, I still have to commend Mr. Novak for his ability to tell a straight story, in my view the prime reason why he has had a successful career as he had. This extends even to his own failures of character. In one anecdote, he admits that he softpedaled James Baker as chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan as a silent quid pro quo for Mr. Baker ceasing to badmouth Novak in the President's name. It's the sort of thing that any profession person with a substantial career has done that he is not proud of. I give quite a bit of credit to Mr. Novak for owning up to it.

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