Robert D. Novak announces retirement from syndicated column

Robert Novak's picture

LOS ANGELES, CA, AUGUST 4, 2008 — Robert D. Novak announced today that he is retiring from writing his column, Inside Report, distributed by Creators Syndicate, due to the dire prognosis resulting from his recent diagnosis of a brain tumor.

With his retirement, Novak ends the longest-running currently active syndicated political opinion column in the country.

Novak had taken over the title earlier this year with the death of William F. Buckley.

With 46 years of continuous production, Novak’s column ranks behind only those of Buckley and David Lawrence, the U.S. News & World Report founder who wrote for 57 years, as the longest-running political column in American history.

“Robert D. Novak is a legend in the world of political journalism, and his insights and analyses are going to be dearly missed,” said Creators Syndicate President Richard S. Newcombe. “For nearly 20 years, Creators Syndicate has had the honor of working with Mr. Novak, and we have benefited greatly from the association.”

Novak and Rowland Evans started writing Inside Report for the New York Herald-Tribune on May 15, 1963, and the column was distributed nationally by Publishers Newspaper Syndicate. When the Herald-Tribune folded in 1966, Evans and Novak moved over to the Chicago Sun-Times. Creators Syndicate took over distribution of the column in 1989.

Evans and Novak collaborated on Inside Report for 30 years, until Evans’ retirement in 1993. For the last 15 years, Novak wrote the three-times-a-week column on his own.

And until his final column, Novak continued his trademark combination of political analysis and shoe-leather reporting, often outpacing journalists half his age.

Following is the final column Novak wrote; it was scheduled for release July 28.

Can McCain Back in Again?

WASHINGTON — In the contest for president, Barack Obama is a magnetic candidate supported by a disciplined, well-organized campaign. John McCain seems wooden, with a campaign that appears to be in shambles. Yet Obama’s lead in the polls over McCain is fragile because he so far has not won the support of a majority of American voters.

An effective and massively publicized foreign trip failed to push Obama to the 50 percent mark. Hopes of Democrats and fears of Republicans that he would get a major bounce in the polls when he clinched the nomination and then on his campaigning abroad have not been realized.

Overnight surveys by Gallup and Rasmussen for the past two weeks have shown Obama hovering around 46 percent, while McCain has declined from 45 percent to 41 percent after the wild acclaim for Obama in Berlin, for a 6-point deficit that is by no means insurmountable. These numbers have prompted speculation among Republican political practitioners that McCain can back into the presidency, just as he backed into his party’s nomination.

Not even Bob Dole’s dismal candidacy in 1996 generated less enthusiasm in GOP ranks than McCain’s current effort. However, in winning the nomination this year, when he had been counted out after the disintegration of his campaign structure, McCain showed more fortitude than skill. He was blessed by a weak field of Republican competitors, who eliminated each other and left McCain as the last man standing.

But Obama is no Huckabee, Giuliani or Romney. He is the most spectacular campaigner of his generation, with appeal well beyond Democratic ranks. That he lingers below the 50 percent mark is a mystery among politicians of both parties.

It is particularly troubling to Democrats who recall past Democratic candidates taking a huge lead over the summer before being overtaken or nearly overtaken by a surging Republican opponent.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter took a 33-point summer lead over President Gerald Ford and won in a photo finish. In 1988, Michael Dukakis led George H.W. Bush by 17 points after being nominated in Atlanta before he lost the election. Al Gore and John Kerry were ahead of George W. Bush in the summer.

One candid Republican consultant says that the massive Carter and Dukakis summer leads were illusory, based on large generic Democratic leads. But their generic lead is back at 15 points after 12 years of a Republican Congress and eight years of George W. Bush.

Clearly, Obama has not yet closed the deal with the people to accept a young, inexperienced African-American as their president. Obama had virtually clinched the nomination when white working men in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia poured out to vote and carried their states comfortably for Hillary Clinton. It was not because of unalterable affection for her.

Obama’s difficulty in reaching the 50 percent mark reflects an overwhelmingly white undecided vote at 10 to 15 percent.

These were target voters for Obama when he ventured into the war zones to demonstrate his mettle as a future commander in chief. He looked good, sounded good and committed no serious gaffes. But sitting by the popular Gen. David Petraeus and disagreeing with his military judgment may not have been the way to win over undecided white working men.

The toughest interrogation of Obama was CBS anchor Katie Couric’s in Jordan last Tuesday. She asked four different times whether the troop surge he had opposed was instrumental in reducing violence in Iraq. Each time, Obama answered straight from talking points by citing “the great effort of our young men and women in uniform.”

That sounded like the old politics. He would have sounded more like a new politician if he had simply said, “Yes, the strategy did work.” That would have infuriated anti-war activists, but not enough for them to drop Obama.

Several Democrats I have talked to noted that recent Democratic presidents got elected with a minority of the vote and also that McCain is further below the 50 percent standard than Obama.

But McCain, running a flawed campaign in a big Democratic year, is dangerously close. He still could back in unless Obama closes the deal.


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Submitted by dianacnp on Sun, 09/07/2008 - 6:47pm.

This is karma for you, Novak.

Main Stream's picture
Submitted by Main Stream on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:13am.

it would probably be best if you re-registered under a different name and rejoined the blog dialogue with us in a less controversial style.

no one wishes cancer on another person, even if they are a jerk, like Novak.

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 7:57am.

How can you be so cruel? I hope you never have to watch a loved one die from this horrible disease.

Submitted by therealdeal on Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:55pm.

My sister died 3 months ago of brain cancer. She was 56 years old. It is a terrible, unforgiving disease. It can rob you of your speech, your eyesight, your ability to reason. Either way, it is normally a death sentence. She had glioblastoma multiforme, which is a grade IV type of cancer. She fought a brave 2 1/2 year battle, but it is an enemy you cannot beat.

To wish that on anyone due to partisanship is unthinkable. When I heard Ted Kennedy had that same cancer, I was stunned. I can't stand the man's politics and I sure can't stand the things he has gotten away with. But, I pray still for him and his family. Remember, these people have families.

For someone who believes in "karma", that seems like a risky statement. In your case, I hope it is. I can't join these other folks here who would not wish that on you. To think that, much less say it would indicate someone with no soul. What liberal "god" or "goddess" do you bow down to? Idiot....

wulfman's picture
Submitted by wulfman on Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:13am.

I hope you never find yourself battling cancer and wondering what you did to deserve it.

I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.


Submitted by Bonkers on Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:53am.

I had litle use for Novak or his ideas, but if you are saying this is pay-back for his past actions, then you are incorrect!

Novak was a man of words only. He killed no one that I know of, and simply decided, as do many others, to make a good living out of opposing liberal people.He was used by Washington insiders to pass on somethings they couldn't do personally---like the Valerie Plame thing.

Karma, whatever that is, had nothing to do with it. No one or no entity floats around watching individuals and keeps a record of just how to punish them for their deeds!

If that were true then we wouldn't see so many good people punished as they are. And a lot more go unpunished who may deserve it!

TonyF's picture
Submitted by TonyF on Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:54am.

"Your, yore, you're all idiots." (T.Floyd)

Submitted by MYTMITE on Sun, 09/07/2008 - 9:20pm.

How can you possibly make such a hurtful statement when there are so many people suffering and dying from this horrible disease? Is it Karma for all of them or only the ones you don't like? I know many wonderful people who have lost their lives to cancer and many who are still fighting the fight. Having endured the pain that goes with nursing and then losing loved ones to cancer, I can only say I pray that you never have to experience that. And, I have no way of knowing if you are a good or bad person or what kind of 'Karma' you may have. Shalom

Submitted by Sick of Fascists on Sun, 09/07/2008 - 8:01pm.

I wouldn't wish that sort of harm on anyone. How utterly self-righteous to believe that bad things only happen to people whom you don't like.

Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Sun, 09/07/2008 - 8:06pm.

I agree, it was poor taste.
Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

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