The Evans-Novak column ran under the title “the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine.” When I finished reading that early spring day in 1976, I remember thinking, this is quintessential Bob Novak.
State Department Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt had told a London gathering of American ambassadors that Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was actually necessary for world peace.In fact, Poland was a good example of the benefits of Soviet control because that had enabled the Poles to overcome their “romantic” political instincts which had led to so many “disasters in their past.”
This column had almost everything. Those words were contained in an official State Department cable slipped to Novak by a highly placed source. Henry Kissinger’s right-hand man was confirming that détente was code for Communist victory over freedom.
Within days, candidate Ronald Reagan who was challenging President Ford in Republican primaries, declared the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine meant “slaves should accept their fate.”For Novak, about the only one
of his political obsessions that’s missing were Republican green-eyeshades defending 70% tax rates as the only means to get a balanced budget.
From The New York Times:
Mr. Novak rose from a $68-a-week cub reporter to become the wealthy proprietor of almost a cottage industry, achieving prominence and celebrity as an influential Washington pundit whose views leaned decidedly to the right while parlaying that renown into books, newsletters and political seminars he organized.
At one point his column appeared in as many as 300 newspapers, and he was one of the first personalities to emerge on all-news cable television. CNN put him on the air its first weekend.
He first drew attention as an old-fashioned, notebook-and-shoe-leather newspaperman. For three decades his was the second byline with “Inside Report,” a syndicated column, written with Rowland Evans, that became a must-read for many both inside and outside Washington.
From Townhall March 2009 issue:
The Prince of Darkness as a Beacon of Dissent
by Tim Carney
Robert David Sanders Novak has been called many names. His close friends call him “Bob.” Most people call him “Novak.” His wife calls him “Robert.”….
I have had the honor of calling him “Boss.” Since I went to work for him at the end of 2001, Novak has been a mentor and a friend. I learned a lot at his side, but all journalists—and all Americans, for that matter—could learn important lessons from this man, now retired and ill.
In these days of single-party rule and a media that fawns over the
president, we can all stand a dose of his pervasive skepticism, distrust of those in power and doggedness to dig up the hard facts ….
Many people know Novak primarily from his long stint on CNN, but I think it bothers Novak—it always bothers me—when people describe him as a television commentator instead of as a columnist.
To some extent it’s understandable: People watch television more than they read newspapers. Even when people read your work in print, they often don’t bother checking the byline. On TV, they can’t help but see your face.
So, while Novak’s fame primarily resulted from his on-screen work, his real vocation was the written word. And although his work was found exclusively on the opinion pages for the last 45 years of his career, he was a political reporter more than anything else. Sure, he has always had his opinions—and over his life, he has become progressively more pro-life, more pro-market and more anti-interventionist— but so do all reporters. Novak was different from the news-page reporters because he didn’t hide his opinions.
Bob Novak was a great reporter on the American Political scene for many years, I have missed him since he has been ill. RC