A sad thing happened yesterday. The Washington Post’s Thursday edition didn’t have Robert Novak’s column on the op-ed page. And it won’t ever again.
Reading that column on Thursday mornings was a ritual of mine ever since I picked up the habit of reading the Post. I sometimes missed the Monday column because that’s a hectic day and the Post — for whatever reason — never carried his Sunday column.
But Thursdays I never missed. Hot coffee in one hand and smudgy newsprint in the other, I’d read the front page and flip through the rest to find out what had happened. Then I’d skip to Novak’s column to find out why it had happened.
Well, no longer. Novak abruptly retired his column Monday in the same press release that he announced that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The prognosis? “Dire,” according to the Chicago-Sun Times.
His column had been around for so long — 45 years! — and was such an institution that I, like others, had simply assumed that the “Prince of Darkness” really was immortal. Like the Washington Monument, he’d always be there.
Instead, Thursday morning was a painful reminder that even institutions can end.
NOVAK RARELY disappointed. His greatness came from the fact that he remained a journalist.
He was not into spin, parroting a party line or sharing his innermost thoughts and gripes with us. Every column was based on actual shoe leather reporting. He worked sources, tracked down leads, dug up documents, and reported what he found.
Looking back on it, you wonder how the man managed to do it. He put out three columns a week, not counting magazine articles, books, and regular appearances on CNN, Meet the Press, etc. It’s a grueling pace for anyone, and he kept it up well into his seventies.
Despite that long history in D.C., he rarely lapsed into nostalgia. His columns were about what was going on here and now, not how great things used to be. At 77, he was still breaking news.
If the people mentioned in the column did not like what he reported, well, they could go pound sand. Novak didn’t care. The Prince of Darkness did what he did; you had to deal with it, not him.
That extended to his fellow conservatives. To my mind, Novak did some of his finest reporting on the GOP’s 1994 revolution. He saw that revolution was going off the rails before anyone else.
It was from reading Novak’s columns that you realized that while Newt Gingrich was a great revolutionary, he was not a great parliamentary leader. More than a decade later, Gingrich was still fuming over Novak’s reporting.
To take another example: Did you know that Richard Nixon hatched a secret plot to take the GOP nomination away from Barry Goldwater in 1964?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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