Pat Buchanan

But the CIA leak story covers only a fraction of Novak's career, and a fraction of this frank and candid memoir in which Novak relates stories and renders judgment on the presidents he has known from LBJ to Bush, their adversaries, and the most controversial and famous statesmen, staffers and journalists of the last half century.

As no one has had the same experiences as Novak, none will share all of his judgments on those he regards as honorable and heroic, and those he has come to believe were or are poltroons and phonies.

From having read a hundred pages, this is both a brutally candid and important book, as well as a riveting read -- for those who have lived much of this history with him, and for those who would understand this vast slice of American history to which Novak had as privileged a seat as he is routinely given near the coach at the basketball games of his beloved Maryland Terps.

Ronald Reagan famously said of the platform he intended to run on, it should be all "bold colors ... no pale pastels." Some of Novak's opinions are scarlet. While writing, he told one and all he intended to use his memoir to clear up some matters and settle some accounts. He does not disappoint.

Often I have mentioned to friends that were I an editor of a major paper and had but one column to carry, it would be Novak's. His sources are the best. His opinions are upfront invariably, he is made privy to conversations and meetings that ring true in his telling. As few other columnists in his time, Novak continually breaks stories. That he has survived so long, after having enraged so many, is testimony that when Novak is denounced or disputed by some powerful figure, his editors believe him, not them.

At the party in his Pennsylvania Avenue apartment to celebrate his baptism as a Catholic, Pat Moynihan said to me, among others, "Pat, now that we have made Novak a Catholic, do you think we can make him a Christian?"

If the late senator were still with us, one would have to inform him that this remains a work in progress.

Justice Holmes once observed, "It is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at the peril of being judged not to have lived." Of Robert Novak, it may be said, he has surely done that.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
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