The great reporter and conservative commentator, Robert Novak, died today at the age of 78. His journalism career spanned 60 years, during which time Novak became known for his skill at reporting on inside politics in Washington, D.C. He also became known as a columnist when he teamed with Rowland Evans in 1963 in editing The Evans-Novak Report. After the death of Evans in 2001, Novak continued the column, syndicated by the Chicago Sun-Times, until this year, making it the longest-running syndicated political column in the United States. His columns were filled with nuggets of political reporting.
From 1980 to 2005, Novak was the host of CNN’s Crossfire and other various other somewhat similar shows. Crossfire featured two hosts, one representing the left and one representing the right, who cross-examined guests from both the left and the right. Novak represented the right, which thereby made him one of the few voices for limited government in the media at the time. He reliably represented conservative thought on that show, as well as on programs on other networks on which he appeared as a guest.
Novak steadfastly maintained that government should focus on what it was supposed to do (protecting the rights of its citizens), while keeping spending and taxes down, instead of spending taxpayer money ineffectively on other things like good works. His pessimism about government served as a counterpoint to the liberal “progressive” faith in government as a power to do good, which earned him the nickname “The Prince of Darkness.” Novak proudly accepted the moniker and took all the good-natured ribbing from his liberal colleagues in stride.
Novak was a staunch Cold Warrior, but his independence led him to diverge from conservatives on some policies, such as in regards to the Middle East in particular.
Novak was brought up in the Jewish faith, but he became agnostic for many years until his conversion to Catholicism at the age of 67.
May the soul of Robert Novak rest in peace and may his legacy of outstanding journalism continue to inspire journalists, and may his wisdom on the limits of government be heeded in politics.