Bob Novak Dies of Brain Cancer
Dying of any form of cancer is very painful and is a hateful, lingering way for anyone to go and brain cancer is certainly no exception. Depending on the type, it can result in disturbing personality reversals that can be wrenching for one's friends and loved ones. Robert Novak, conservative icon, died of brain cancer earlier today at age 78 and I'd like to think that those of us on both sides of the Great Divide will extend their heartfelt condolences to Mr. Novak's widow and surviving relatives.
Yet death does not retroactively transform a sinner into a saint. And what will be regarded as the exclamation point on a long and remarkable career in the media will be Novak's role in outing Valerie Plame as a covert agent, in doing Karl Rove's, Dick Cheney's and Scooter Libby's bidding in getting back at Plame's husband Joe Wilson.
After giving very limited testimony at one of Patrick Fitzgerald's two grand juries regarding the Plame outing, Novak walked away with complete impunity despite being the man who first broke the news in the pages of his Chicago Sun Times. In compromising national security by exposing the identity of a covert agent, the 90+ agents working under her, plus rendering obsolete the CIA front company under which they worked on their portfolios and took years to set up, Novak rewrote the rules and proved to the American people that any high crime or misdemeanor could be carried out (and for purely personal, petty spite) at the highest levels of government with equal impunity.
It was almost an odd turnabout for a conservative columnist who had more than once criticized not only the Bush administration for how it had handled the Iraq occupation but also the state of Israel, calling what Israel was doing in the Gaza Strip to be "worse than apartheid" while criticizing the Bush administration once again for not negotiating with a Hamas political power that Novak insisted wanted peace.
In the balance, it can't be said that Novak was a nice or a fair man nor was he the worst of the bunch. He lacked the wit, panache and intellect of the regal William F. Buckley. Novak also couldn't be said to be a trusty automaton of the Bush administration and was as feared by the GOP as Rush Limbaugh is today by default. It's hard to imagine any other conservative journalist who could ever assume Novak's mantle and hold as much sway over the GOP as he did.