Novak's Books Praised for Their Lasting Value

Few will deny that Robert Novak was a cranky pessimist. But the conservative columnist, who died Tuesday, was also a journalist who got his story - often the one no one else had. But he was more than a newspaper scribbler.

Novak was an author of books that both his opponents and soulmates praise for their lasting value. Writing Tuesday in the Washington Times , Michael Barone called Novak's 2007 autobiography "The Prince of Darkness" a "superb and unflinchingly self-revealing piece of work." He placed it side by side with Katharine Graham's "Personal History," Robert Merry's "Taking on the World," which is a biography of Joseph and Stewart Alsop, and Ronald Steel's "Walter Lippmann and the American Century" as a primer on Washington politics and journalism over the past 50 years. Barone, a Washington Examiner political analyst and a regular commentator on Fox News, also highlighted Novak's "Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power," written with Rowland Evans. He said Robert Caro, who himself wrote a massive biography of Johnson, singled out the Novak-Evans book as the best on Johnson.

Lou Cannon writes on that he "mostly disagreed with Novak on everything except the current Iraq war." But that doesn't stop him from praising Novak's oeuvre. According to Cannon, the Novak-Evans books contained many nuggets. Cannon's favorite was "Nixon in the White House: The Frustration of Power." The book, published before Watergate, captured Nixon in a way that foreshadowed his later troubles. Cannon also likes Novak's characterizations of U.S. presidents in "Prince of Darkness." "Novak describes Lyndon Johnson as divisive," Cannon writes, "Nixon as a 'fraud,' Gerald Ford as a nice man who was over his head in the White House, Jimmy Carter as a 'habitual liar,' George H.W. Bush as clueless, Bill Clinton as a leftist posing as a man of the center, and George W. Bush as secretive and unwilling to admit mistakes. Novak rather liked John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan (also my modern presidential favorites) but considered them a bit light."

By Steven E. Levingston |  August 20, 2009; 12:33 PM ET Steven Levingston
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There is no question Robert Novak was a talented man, but given all the shameless liars we've seen governing in recent years, it does seem strange to characterize our Baptist president, Jimmy Carter, as a "habitual liar."

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | August 21, 2009 4:37 PM

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