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Robert Novak, R.I.P.

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 18, 2009 01:52 PM

Conservative journalist, author, and Washington institution Robert Novak has died.

R.I.P.

He will be deeply missed.

From the WaPo:

Bruised feelings, Mr. Novak wrote in his memoir, were often soothed over many cocktails. He added that his healthy ego was useful in handling inevitable complaints from powerful people.

When he printed an accurate tip that Alexander M. Haig Jr., President Gerald R. Ford’s chief of staff, was out of favor with the president and would soon lose his job, Mr. Novak said he received an irate call from Haig, who threatened to sue for $5 million.

“Al,” he replied, “you’re out of luck. I don’t have $5 million.”

Mr. Novak wrote several books about Republican politics, but he said it was his skill at wooing members of both major parties that led to newsmaking exclusives.

A few months before he became presidential candidate George McGovern’s running mate in 1972, Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) had confided to Mr. Novak, “McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot. Once middle America — Catholic middle America, in particular — finds this out, he’s dead.”

Eagleton insisted his name not be linked to the quote, and Mr. Novak reported at the time that the quotation came from “one liberal senator.” The column caused a political furor.

Mr. Novak said he faced enormous pressure by Democrats to reveal his source, and some accused him of making up the quotation. Mr. Novak kept his promise to Eagleton and did not name him as the source until after Eagleton died in 2007.

A similar high-profile debate arose over Mr. Novak’s refusal to name his source for the Plame column. After the column appeared, Mr. Novak endured threats to his family and attributed the loss of his work at CNN to the ordeal. He also amassed legal fees of $160,000.

In his memoir, Mr. Novak said he would not have used Plame’s name if the CIA director or the agency’s spokesman told him it would have endangered national security or Plame’s life. A CIA spokesman had twice warned Mr. Novak not to print Plame’s name but could not reveal why to Mr. Novak because her status was classified.

Mr. Novak told Washingtonian magazine in November that he would not hesitate to run the column again. “I’d go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me,” he said.

“My response now is this: The hell with you. They didn’t ruin me. I have my faith, my family and a good life. A lot of people love me — or like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I don’t think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever.”

***

As I wrote when Novak was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year:

Novak has had a huge influence on my career. During a college conservative journalists’ confab, he urged us to seek metro newspaper jobs, pay our dues, and try to stay out of Washington for as long as possible. I took the advice to heart and left D.C. after a year as an intern at NBC to take my first newspaper job at the L.A. Daily News and then the Seattle Times. “Pundits” and “strategists” come and go, but Novak’s longevity is a tribute to–and result of–his newspaperman sensibilities and investigative chops. The MSM has always shortchanged the journalistic accomplishments of those on the Right. See, for example, how the AP sums up Novak’s career–mentioning only his role in the Valerie Plame case and the traffic accident he was involved in last week. Typical.

There will, of course, be gloating and death wishes on the nutroots side of the Internet aisle. Ignore it all.

Instead, I recommend Novak’s fascinating memoir of his 50 years of reporting in Washington. Get the story straight from the source. That’s Novak’s way.

***

The Examiner’s obituary is here.

From the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board:

Most people know the late Sun-Times columnist Robert D. Novak, who died this morning [Tuesday] from complications of a brain tumor, as a journalist. And indeed he was among the best this country has produced. Simply stated, Bob was a relentless reporter. His political columns were marked by his determination to dig out new information, behind-the-scenes anecdotes and Washington secrets to tell us something we didn’t know. He combined that with sharp analysis, insightful commentary and passion about the issues facing the nation to emerge as a brawling contestant in the great national debates of his era.

Firmly planted in the print world with his widely read syndicated thrice-a-week column, Bob also was an innovator in the electronic media. With the CNN programs “Capital Gang” and “Crossfire,” Bob pioneered the brash, no-holds-barred public affairs programming so familiar to viewers of cable news television today.

But more than that, his contributions to the great debates of the day demonstrated that Bob was someone who thought deeply about his country, its system of government and the challenges both faced

***

My colleagues at Creators Syndicate pay tribute.

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