Robert Novak

It did not work out that way, as we swept into the tumultuous '60s. Newspapers of May 15, 1963, contained stories signaling the civil rights revolution ahead. The second Evans-Novak column, proving more prophetic than the first, reported that the eclipse of moderates in Birmingham suggested "lethal, combustible elements of the dreaded race riot are near at hand." Soon, we were reporting infiltration of the civil rights movement by far left elements, and the Evans-Novak column soon lost its early "liberal" label.

The Washington of the '60s was neither as polarized nor as partisan as it is today. We were fervent anti-Communists committed to victory in the Cold War, and this was no party issue. The Vietnam War became a focus of our reporting, and between us we made seven long visits to the combat zone. We were so at odds with the anti-war stance of George McGovern in his 1972 presidential campaign that the column then acquired the "conservative" label.

Bashing McGovern did not endear us to President Nixon, who put Evans (but not me) on his enemies list. Even Rowly's friend Jack Kennedy was irked by some of our early work, and no subsequent occupant of the White House has been all that happy with this column.

Indeed, this column has been accused, before and after Evans retired, of being Red-baiter, Arabist, Chinese Communist and U.S. corporate apologist, labor-baiter, homophobe, warmonger, isolationist -- and most recently, unpatriotic conservative. All these are base canards, but they reflect the tensions of our era. The truth is that in every 690-word column, we were reporters.

To achieve the dream of my lifetime at age 32 meant that I have had 40 years to work at what I love. I thank my editors and readers for making this possible for so many years, and I certainly am not done yet.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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