Maxine in Bob Novak's Office

It was a windy day — late fall of 2006 — as I walked past the White House headed to the Kinkos/FedEx store on K Street, I was carrying the final galleys of Robert D. Novak’s memoirs to send them to the publisher. His story of 50 years of journalism — all 940 pages — was gripped tightly in my arms. As a 25 year old fresh out of college, it was surreal, much like most of my experiences working for the “Prince of Darkness.”

I began my work in Novak’s office as an intern placed by the National Journalism Center, part of the Young America’s Foundation. I had just graduated from a small liberal arts college in Connecticut, as an English literature major who wrote political opinion pieces for my school news paper to fulfill my passion for politics. A passion that fueled my to move to Washington, DC.

The first phone call I picked up in his office (a small modest office that resembled something out of 1970) was “Air Force One calling for Mr. Novak.” I knew right then that I was extraordinarily lucky, even blessed. Blessed for the experience I was about to gain and blessed to be now working for the best reporter in Washington DC.

I worked with Novak’s assistant, Kathleen Connolly, who was extremely kind to me despite my ever-present nervousness. I was always eager to please Novak and David Freddoso, Novak’s other assistant, who also became as much my mentor as Novak himself.

Freddoso, now a New York Times best selling author, reporter for the Washington Examiner and a former HUMAN EVENTS reporter, showed me the ins and outs of calling offices on Capitol Hill and requesting information. What I observed and researched in Novak’s office was the best experience a rookie journalist could ever dream of.

Since Novak’s death we have read about his old-school shoe leather reporting and his God-given talent for writing. He may have been the last of the greats, those reporters who did so much digging that the concept of “fact checking” was second-nature.

To say he was well connected is a huge understatement. He was always on the phone hounding movers and shakers to get the real scoop. When I made a call to get a prestigious politician on the phone for him, “Bob Novak would like to speak with the Senator,” they always called back. Republican or Democrat. This is something that I have learned — as a reporter now outside of his office — is an anomaly.

Novak made some enemies among political and religious radicals. On the way to his services last Friday, my jaw dropped as I saw protestors with foul and shameful signs a few blocks from St. Patrick’s where Novak’s service was being held. As angry as I was, I remembered that Novak never let these nut jobs get to him. His hate mail made him laugh — as many notable and recognized media figures must learn to do.

As Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Robert Novak CPAC 2008

What I remember most about Novak was that he liked his coffee hot and black and ready for him as soon as he got in. He liked Big Macs from McDonalds for lunch or sometimes a hot dog from the vender down the block (with mustard only,) and he would lose everything. I had to make two copies of every piece of research I printed out for him.

He let me drive his black corvette one day (dubbed by many “the bat mobile”) when he needed to be dropped off at a lunch meeting — I don’t think I ever felt cooler. He didn’t mind that I joined him and his wife when he had extra seats at a DC Nationals baseball game. He wore binoculars (even though our seats were ridiculously close) and took score the entire game. He loved talking about sports … I only wish that I could have known more about them so I could have talked with him on that level.

Bob Novak was kind and generous to me as it was the opportunity to work in his office that served as a launching point for my career. When Connolly said Novak wanted me to stay longer in his office — past my internship date — as a member of his staff to help him finish his memoirs, there wasn’t a happier rookie in the entire city of Washington DC.

He sometimes called me Maxine instead of Michelle. I loved it.

At his service last Friday, Monsignor Vaghi said something that I will always think of as I remember my mentor. “It would not surprise me that Bob, already using his considerable shoe leather, is already at work on his second edition of his memoirs” with the title of this edition, said Vaghi, “Child of Light, a Life of God Forever.”