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Tilting at Windmills

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November 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

PRINCE OF DARKNESS UPDATE....On Monday, Fred Thompson snagged the support of the National Right To Life Committee while Mitt Romney landed an endorsement by the California Republican Assembly. Ed Kilgore asks an interesting question:

Today's news also makes me wonder if Robert Novak is losing his touch as an analyst of conservative Republican infighting. Just last week he did a column suggesting that Fred Thompson had profoundly, perhaps irreversibly, alienated right-to-lifers in an appearance on Meet the Press. Not so much, it appears. And about three weeks ago, he did anoher column documenting the deep satisfaction of California conservatives with Rudy Giuliani, his positions on abortion and gay rights notwithstanding. Wrong again, Batman.

Most references to Novak in the liberal blogosphere are of the form, "Sure, he's an SOB, but he does have good sources in conservo-land." So now what? He's just an SOB full stop?

Kevin Drum 12:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Well, Mr. Novak unhesitatingly destroyed the career of a CIA agent; put her foreign contacts at risk of their lives; and ended the usefulness of whatever projects she had in progress. Son of a bitch is far to kind.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on November 13, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting. Let me guess.

Novak has had good sources, and the Republican Party was quite unified in its responses, so Novak's sources would work for what the entire party thought and expected.

But now the Republicans do not have a singly designated standard bearer, and those who want the job are pretty careful never to speak of Bush. The Republican evangelicals especially are all over the map so that there is no unity of message.

I would suspect that Novak's sources are plugged into only parts of that spectrum, and both he sources and Novak have never operated in such a splintered environment within the party. They aren't used to going to the same sources and finding that those sources are unaware of what other parts of the Party are doing.

I would also bet that most of Novak's sources are economic Republican rather than evangelical Republicans, so Novak and his sources simply don't understand what is happening to the evangelicals - and no one is bothering to tell them.

Posted by: Rick B on November 13, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Novak's an old creep who was never anything more than a gossip columnist. Who cares about Novak?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on November 13, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

So now what? He's just an SOB full stop?

Mmmm. After careful, serious, sober, judicious thought, and with due consideration to the needs for bipartisanship and cooperation, and to restore civility to our political discourse, I believe I would amend your suggested description somewhat, as follows, to wit:

He's an evil pig-fucking SOB.

I do hope this helps.

Posted by: bleh on November 13, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but in case you missed it Kevin, Glenn Greenwald replied to your Ron Paul is a fruitcake post here.

Posted by: Crust on November 13, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares? Thompson won't get much past NH.

Posted by: JeffII on November 13, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Novak is just Irv Kupcinet-in-D.C. Like all of these characters, he can't figure out that in the digital age the life expectancy of his random musings is longer than it was in the age of newsprint.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on November 13, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK
OT, but in case you missed it Kevin, Glenn Greenwald replied to your Ron Paul is a fruitcake post here.

No, he linked to it as one of many examples of people calling Ron Paul unflattering names. He did not reply to Kevin's post, or even address the substance of Kevin's post obliquely.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 13, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

It wouldn't be out of character for Novak to slant his coverage in the direction of what he thinks might benefit the GOP, nor would it be unreasonable of him to suspect (as I do) that Thompson or Romney would be demolished by whichever Dem next November, whereas Giuliani and perhaps McCain would at least avoid a rout with extensive damage down ballot.

Posted by: penalcolony on November 13, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:
[Greenwald] did not reply to Kevin's post, or even address the substance of Kevin's post obliquely.

Not even obliquely? Putting aside the trash talk, Kevin's argument was that Paul doesn't have a chance at the Republican nomination because he has unserious positions. Greenwald is replying to that line of argument by saying look at the unserious positions of other candidates.

And that, in my view also, was the central weakness of Kevin's post. Yes, it is true Paul is loopy on the Federal Reserve. But then again, so Giuliani is loopy on foreign policy (Norman Podhoretz is a key advisor, need I say more?). And so is Thompson on global warming (comparing himself to Galileo for denying anthropogenic global warming). Or all the Republican candidates except Paul on Iraq. Etc., etc. Saying that Paul can't win the Republican nod because he is unserious is a weak argument if he's arguably more serious than the competition.

None of this is to say that Paul has a big chance to win the Republican nomination. Just that he has a chance (Intrade puts it at 7%). It's pretty much a two horse race now, between Giuliani and Romney. But Paul is in the second tier, with McCain, Thompson and Huckabee.

Posted by: Crust on November 13, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

It is a little harsh to say He's just an SOB full stop?

Let's say He's just an SOB with no particular inside information.

Posted by: Tripp on November 13, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Novak's an old creep who was never anything more than a gossip columnist.

Jeff, that's exactly what I've thought about Novak for years. Never heard anyone else express the thought until now. Thanks.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on November 13, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Novak's reliable sources must reside in the White House and are always especially well-versed in the traitorous destruction of US intel programs for the express purpose of furthering the goals of the GOP.

Posted by: ckelly on November 13, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I dont understand why they backed DUD Thompson. He was a DUD during the Nixon times and hes a DUD today. His speeches are DUDs, No Charisma, no Charm, wont look people in the eye..

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 13, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Batman? With his garbled speech, Novak is more like the Dick Tracy character, Mumbles (immortalized by Dustin Hoffman in the otherwise horrid film).

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on November 13, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, BTW, Blob Noback is a disgrace.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 13, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, don't forget Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice.... the shame is that it really wasn't Reagan himself as Pruneface. (Personally, I think Nancy nixed it, cuz I can't believe Reagan wouldn't have leaped at the chance.)

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Small sample size there.

Posted by: Brian on November 13, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Novak has some of the best sources, but sometimes, especially in crazy times like these, even the best sources dont know what is going on.

Posted by: jimmy on November 13, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

If Novak's sources are within the GOP, then they might be what we'd call crazy; in which case, it wouldn't surprise me if the information Novak gets is also confused, muddled, schizophrenic and basically bats**t nutso.

Posted by: jim on November 13, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Since when is being demonstratively dead wrong about anything a detriment to a mainstream pundit?

Posted by: DrBB on November 13, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

ALL political writers are gossip columnists, no?

It's a useful exercise to read what the oldest ones were writing back when dinosaurs walked the earth: Evans and Novak columns from the Johnson administration were full of hawkish leaks about LBJ being undermined by dovish generals despite evidence that the war in Vietnam was being won.... he didn't see McCarthy coming, either. He has the defects of his method, and always did: most political writers are sort of unelected and unaccountable politicians.

Political gossip can be very useful, if you get enough of it from a wide enough range. But if all you get is from Alterman, Broder, Dionne, Friedman, Herbert, Ignatius, Kaus, Klein, Krauthammer,Krugman,Marshall, Novak, and Will (add as many as you want), you're still just covering A to B.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Joel: Son of a bitch is far to kind.

..For Novak I prefer...Douche Bag for Liberty..

Posted by: Jon Stewart on November 13, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Novak is becoming exactly the sort of conservative pundit we should crave: a self-discrediting hack. More power to him.

Posted by: Hieronymus Braintree on November 13, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Novak: No fool like an old fool.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 13, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK
Novak has some of the best sources….jimmyat 2:33 PM
His FBI source was fellow Opus Dei member, Robert Hanssen and we know how good a source he was. Posted by: Mike on November 13, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Novak stopped being a journalist some years ago when he became a paid mouthpiece for the Cheney administration. Without anyone left to tell him what to think, what to report, what to say, his latest "reports" are proving he has no insight into the Republican Party. He also offers no successor to Bush any credibility or meaningful access to the media.
In short, he made a pact with the devil, the devil was unmasked, thereby Novak his own throat. The bloody bubbles floating out of his mouth are the ravings of a dying, irrelevant suicide.

Posted by: psmarc93 on November 13, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

He's just a "douchebag of libert." (Courtesy of Jon Stewart)

Posted by: Matt on November 13, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

He's just a "douchebag of liberty." (Courtesy of Jon Stewart)

Posted by: Matt on November 13, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican party is now the fiscally liberal religious party. Gotta get used to the reversed definition of "conservative."

Posted by: Luther on November 13, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

I've got a partial answer, which suggests the question is not correctly framed. Novak is never merely an "analyst of conservative Republican infighting," he is always also a player in that infighting. A Novak column is never merely "documenting" anything, it is a move in the Republican game. It's not analysis, it's an act. I doubt you will ever see a Novak column that is not emphatically, if subtly, pursuing a particular political agenda. (I don't really understand what or whose agenda he is pursuing, but I suspect you could do worse than starting with the Off the Record Club.)

The point is, Novak has gotten this stuff wrong not because it's not true that he has good sources in conservo-land; he does. He's gotten it wrong because he and his side have lost those battles, and his columns have not helped his side succeed. Why there has been this concentration of notable losses - and hence wrong analysis - is the interesting question, and though I have no idea how to explain it, I suspect it does speak to the fact that the Republican field is much more in turmoil and uncertainty than usual. In fact, that's my guess: Novak is reflecting and promoting the views of the usually determining top-elite-Republican establishment that Giuiliani should be the candidate. But that view is coming up against more opposition than it normally does. Hence Novak's desires end up being worse predictions than usual.

Posted by: Jeff on November 14, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Novak has always been more annoying than interesting. Whatever his sources, his analysis of what is actually happening is dead wrong most of the time. (Actually, analysis might be too strong a word for his often off-the-wall speculations.)

Posted by: trashhauler on November 14, 2007 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff is right.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 14, 2007 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

Only thing more scary than his shilling, is his driving around DC in his "Vet".

Posted by: bert on November 14, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK
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