The Shadow Knows: Robert Novak (1931-2009)

Conservative circles are dismayed by the news of Robert Novak?s succumbing to a brain tumor first diagnosed last year which forced him out of the full glare of the public spotlight.? Novak seemed, to this young conservative, like the kind of man one could ask a question of and truly expect an honest answer.? I remember reading his memoires, The Prince of Darkness, in which he recounts his five decades as the man lurking in the shadows of DC?s cavernous hallways.? He was a bad ass.? HuffingtonPost has a video clip of Novak after a brief skirmish with James Carville in which he storms off the set.? When someone is interested in politics during the years of their youth, they pursue politics with a significant amount of thumos that explains the swagger of so many Legislative Aids on the hill (deserving or not; and a majority tend to occupy the latter).? Prince of Darkness was an expose of a flawed individual who knew the secrets, knew the people, and attended those notorious ?cocktail parties? without remorse; a sort of Maltese Falcon-esque Humphrey Bogart.? I wonder if I would be labeled a ?cocktail elitist? for having drinks in DC with friends of mine in attempts to rub elbows with influential people like David Frum, Christopher Hitchens, Ann Coulter, or whoever else First Fridays invites out.? I?ve realized, any place (like my favorite stomping ground, Union Pub) that shows Chicago Bears and Nebraska Cornhusker football games cannot be ?elitist.??

There are myriad obituaries and tributes dotting the internet; and what is interesting is seeing how the two sides of the Conservative Movement are treating his death.? John Podhoretz?s piece seems rather curt to the average reader, while more ?Paleoconservative? periodicals are treating the event with a little more somber reflection on the man?s contributions to political life.? I did not agree with a great many of Novak?s positions, especially regarding the two recent wars in the Middle East, of which he stood against from the standpoint of a prudent conservative.? This leads to what I believe to be one of the most interesting takes on Robert Novak?s death: Stacy McCain?s article.?

David Frum?s attack on anti-War conservatives established an irreconcilable schism in the Conservative movement.? Novak was lumped in with the anti-war ?paleocon? faction, with good reason mind you; but ?unpatriotic? was a terrible charge to levy against him and many of the others.? I don?t believe that Novak took too seriously David Frum?s charge.? I don?t know for sure, but I imagine if he had been asked what he thinks of anyone who considers him ?unpatriotic,? I imagine he might respond much as he did when asked about the Valerie Plame affair:? ?The hell with you!??

-rj

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