Robert Novak, the political columnist and longtime TV pundit, has died of brain cancer. I’m not going to claim to have been a big fan–of his politics, I’ll admit, but also of the style of TV confrontation he and others plied–but I was a big watcher of his, for years. And the man who “relished his ‘Prince of Darkness’ public persona,” as Lynn Sweet writes in Novak’s own Chicago Sun-Times, probably did not mind that his viewers were not all in his amen corner.
Whatever you did think of his conservative politics, his pugilistic TV debate style (“Are you a socialist?”) or his many controversies (not least his role in the Valerie Plame affair), Novak was hugely influential, both as a poltical columnist and as a personality, especially on CNN. On Evans and Novak, The Capitol Gang (which I watched devotedly) and especially Crossfire, he practiced a blunt, in-your-face style of debating, and beyond his belief in his views, he seemed to take joy in the simple exhilarating act of sparring.
On TV at least, Robert Novak spread a little darkness wherever he went, and he did it with gusto.