The controversial conservative columnist bares all—or some, at any rate—to stake a claim for fame beyond naming Valerie Plame.
To trust Novak, long ago nicknamed “the prince of darkness,” he named Joe Wilson’s CIA-agent wife as a sort of afterthought in the wake of a conversation with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Why, Novak asks, would the CIA send Wilson, with no intelligence experience, off to check on whether Saddam Hussein was buying yellow cake uranium in Niger? Because his wife is in the agency, Armitage replies: And the rest, apart from a quick check of Who’s Who, is history. “I have written many, many more important columns,” Novak laments, “but the one on the CIA leak case will forever be part of my public identity.” As if by way of rebuttal, Novak’s memoir offers a rich self-assessment of his work. Regardless of what one thinks of his politics, which can charitably be branded as somewhere between paleoconservative and reactionary, Novak’s abilities as a writer of vigorous, highly readable prose are not to be dismissed. And admirably for a journalist these days, Novak takes pride in his legendary scrappiness: “I am not a person who is easy for a lot of people to like,” he writes. “No stirrer-up of strife is ever very popular.” When he is not recounting his stinging disagreements with every administration since Ike’s—his longtime partner Rowland Evans made Nixon’s enemies list, but Novak, unaccountably, did not—Novak details the boozy world of Washington politics, writing, for instance, that Daniel Patrick Moynihan “was most qualified to be president and did not make it,” thanks in good measure to an over-fondness for the sauce. Moreover, he tallies up his legendary feuds with just about everyone who is anyone—revealing, along the way, that political operatives such as Carville and Atwater can be as vicious to their own kind as to their enemies.
Sure to be popular reading inside the Beltway, and worthy of an audience far beyond it as well.