Thursday night, August 9, 2007, political columnist Robert Novak was a guest on the Mark Levin Show. Novak has recently released a book, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington, that Levin and Novak discussed.
Novak went to Washington, D.C. as a political reporter during the last years of the Eisenhower Administration and he has some fascinating insights and stories and opinions.
There is no transcript of the interview, so I listened to the audio clips of the segments a few times and jotted down some of the things I found most interesting. Mind you, these are not word for word answers or all the answers by Novak, nor do they represent exactly the questions Levin asked. All of it is just the best I could do as I listened.
If you're interested in listening to the audio of the interview, here is the link to the page with the audio. The Novak segment starts at about the 55 minute mark and lasts about twelve minutes. On the QuickTime player, it's at about 75-80% through the clip. Look for the clips from 8/9/2007.
Mark lead off with the obvious question. What about Wilson-Plame?
Novak has never met them face to face, has never talked to Valerie Plame. Talked to Joe Wilson on the phone prior to first column. Joe Wilson never asked Novak not to mention Valerie's name. Wilson wanted Novak to know that he was no dove or peacenik; that he was very anti-Saddam, but thought he (Wilson) was just more prudent. Wanted Novak to know that Novak's former partner, Evans, had written glowingly about his time as Charge d' affaires to Baghdad Embassy in the days after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
After the column came out, Joe Wilson called Novak, complained that he thought Novak had said he had a CIA official source for Valerie's name. Novak says he was very explicit that it was an administration source (Armitage), and had a confirmation from a CIA spokesman. Novak says both the phone conversations were cordial and the ranting and raving that Wilson did in public at Novak was a show, because it didn't happen during the phone calls.
After that, Levin asked Novak for his observations on Patrick Fitzgerald.
Novak said he was scared while he was being interviewed during the investigation. Explained that special prosecutors have a lot of power and he didn't want to say something that would get him in trouble. Novak said he didn't want to make the mistakes Libby wound up making. After the fact, as he looked back, in retrospect, said Fitzgerald had special prosecutor's disease - just can't leave it alone. Said Fitzgerald knew from the beginning that Armitage was the source of the information, all he had to do was decide if a law had been broken, which no law broken is the conclusion he obviously arrived at. Yet Fitzgerald kept the investigation going, for whatever reason.
Levin next addressed Novak's feelings about Robert F. Kennedy.
Novak had an almost instant dislike of RFK. Thought JFK picking his brother as Attorney General was a bad idea. Thought RFK was very hard on civil liberties. Said RFK was ruthless, just like his father, Joe Kennedy. Added that he was never convinced Bobby was a compassionate liberal that he campaigned as during his run for president.
Then Levin asked Novak who he thinks has been the worst President during his time in D.C.
Unhesitatingly, replied Jimmy Carter. Said he was a liar; lied to the public, lied to him (Novak). Said he has a devastating analysis in his book of Carter by one of Carter's Treasury Secretaries, Michael Blumenthal. Carter was a poor party leader. Party hated him, from Tip O'Neil on the left to Patrick Moynihan on the right. Novak said everything Carter did was a failure.
Next up, Levin asked Novak who his best source was. (This is a bit out of order because it winds up relating to Carter)
Man named John Carville, (ed.- not sure of the spelling) an aide to Jesse Helms. Had secret group called The Madison Group, a group of right wing plodders (as Novak described them). Leaked documents to Novak. Once gave Novak top secret plans from the Pentagon. They documented plans to concede 1/3 of Germany to the Soviets and Seoul to the North Koreans in the event of attacks. [ed. - Levin interjected here that he wanted to make sure the audience understood what Novak was saying, that Carter was prepared to give up on these countries in the event of attacks.] Novak believes that the publishing of those plans forced Carter to back away from those positions.
A bit of disclosure here. I loathe Carter. I strongly dislike Bill Clinton and think he was a lousy President, for a number of reasons. But I absolutely, with all my body and mind, loathe and despise Jimmy Carter. He's a four year black mark on the history of the United States. He's the stain you can't get off a white sweater. He's, well, I think you get the idea by now - I just can't stand the guy.
Last, Levin asked Novak who was his favorite President. Note, he asked favorite, not who Novak thought was best. Novak clarified that he was only talking about President's he'd known since he was in Washington.A very interesting interview and I think worth the twelve minutes to listen to the audio clips.
Reagan, without a doubt. Said Reagan was a leader, not a manager. All he wanted to do when he was elected President was restore the economy, win the Cold War and revive the morale of the American people - and he did all three. Only President in Novak's time he gives a passing grade to, but said he's a very tough grader.