Calling Harry Reid “unpleasant,” Nancy Pelosi, “not very inspirational,” and Ron Paul “engaging,” controversial columnist Robert Novak served a roomful of conservative bloggers his opinions on the past, present and future of America.
The veteran journalist stopped by the Heritage Foundation yesterday in part to promote his recently published, 700-page autobiography, “The Prince of Darkness,” which chronicles 50 years as a Washington reporter and insider.
“The Republican Party really likes to be run pretty much like a private club — they don’t care for uncertainty,” said Novak, saying the GOP should pick their candidates like the Rotary Club. “McCain was the establishment candidate this year…but it didn’t work because his greatest point of public regularity was the war.”
Novak’s predicts Fred Thompson as Republican nominee, though he may just be a “specter in the dark.” As for Mitt Romney, he is “every girl’s dream” but his problem is being a Mormon. Novak is “amazed” Rudy Giuliani is in first but he doesn’t think he can win the early primaries.
“Politics is more a business than a game — a game like professional baseball,” said Novak. He admitted that the mainstream media had a political agenda on immigration and said that “nothing seems to be going right” for the Republican Party.
“People have said to me we need another bad loss…but the losses of ’31 and ’32…took 20 years [to come back]…we could be a long time in the wilderness,” Novak said of the potential for an ’08 repeat of the ’06 Republican Congressional losses.
The only Republican presidential candidate he specifically praised was Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), saying he “like[d] his politics” though it would be an “act of nature” if he were to win the nomination.
Support for Paul has been highly controversial and partisanly split since Paul asserted that America was attacked on 9/11 because of its own policies fault in a recent debate.
Novak also asserted that he would have voted for the recently killed Senate immigration bill and he “didn’t think it was an amnesty bill but if everybody thinks it is — that’s as good as it being an amnesty bill.”
He spoke of journalism’s downfall in spite of the profession being significantly more educated now than when he started out at a small newspaper in 1948 and later as a Senate reporter for The Wall Street Journal in 1959.
He said reporters don’t seem interested in reporting what’s really happening day to day, using the recent coverage of the farm bill as an example. “For the first time since 1933 a tax increase was attached to a farm bill…and I didn’t read it in any story anywhere,” he said. “So I think there’s an awful lot of journalism that’s — instead of reporting or investigating — is bloviating, editorializing, analyzing, opinionating and some people say that the news stories read more like columns than the columns these days.”
He called newspapers a “downsized industry,” recognizing that his home paper, the Chicago Sun-Times had over 20 reporters in for the Washington bureau in 1941 and now employs only one (Lynn Sweet), who “is a very good reporter but it’s ridiculous to think she could cover all of Washington…she’s lucky if she can cover all of Barack Obama.”
“Conservatives don’t think journalism is a serious business,” He said, “If you go into it now — not in the closet but out in the open as a conservative…you’re going to have a hard time getting a job.”
His extensive exposure to politicians in both parties has left lasting impressions. Asked who he admired most, he cited Ronald Reagan. “It’s cliché…[but] when I was admiring him it wasn’t cliché,” said Novak. “He understood…the presidency was not a management job but a leadership job.”
Novak denounced the notion of a president involved in petty details, saying he “like[s] a detached president and I think the attached presidents almost wreck this country.”
Novak’s political admiration goes to Scoop Jackson and Jack Kemp among others he mentioned.
He faults the “group journalism” of press conferences and “members performing,” with what has gone wrong with today’s reporting, saying reporters “don’t try very hard to find out why…”
He added, “In the 50s, news stories were what happened yesterday…you don’t find a lot of careful reporting on what happened yesterday.” In a roomful of bloggers, Novak was tentative in lambasting the internet as a place of misinformation that has corrupted news recently. (He also claimed he is “technologically-challenged” and jokingly, “do[esn’t] recognize the Iinternet.”)
As for the future, he wonders what Republicanism will look like. He said Republicans “have very little chance” of regaining Congress in ’08 considering that he calls some of the “supposed Moderate House members” like Rahm Emanuel “dynamic leader[s]” and Steny Hoyer someone who “still has a lot of respect,” despite labeling Reid “the worst majority leader since Frist.”
For our next President, Novak said “the Republican party is without a Rotary Club president and it’s wide open.”