“There’s no question if you walked out of here and I dropped dead, my obit would probably have [the Plame affair] in the lede,” Robert Novak told the Observer in 2007. “I don’t have too many years left, so that’s probably what it’ll be. The idea that that’s my legacy is unfortunate, but that’s the way it turned out.”
As predicted, the first paragraph of today’s New York Times obituary described him as a “pugnacious political columnist and cable television fixture” who had “revealed the name of a CIA officer, setting the stage for a criminal investigation.”
The Washington Post obituary gets to the scandal in the third paragraph. (The Post also provides a photo gallery of Novak’s life and times.)
The Chicago Sun-Times, where Novak’s column has run since since 1966, remembers him more warmly. The obituary quotes Novak’s wife, Geraldine, saying, “He was someone who loved being a journalist, loved journalism and loved his country and loved his family.”
The Times‘ 2004 analysis of his role in the leak described him as “the central figure in perhaps the gravest confrontation between the government and the press in a generation.”
In a 2007 interview with the Post’s Express Night Out, after the release of his book Prince of Darkness, Novak explained why he adopted the titular nickname: “[E]verybody calls me that, and it has an ironic connotation in a theological sense,” he said. “Because I’m not the Prince of Darkness [Satan],” he clarified helpfully.
“For nearly half a century, Robert Novak has been mixing it up and churning it out,” wrote David Margolick in Vanity Fair four years ago. “Once, he was a petrified passenger as Senator John F. Kennedy sped his convertible through the streets of Georgetown. Lyndon Johnson reportedly said he always knew when Novak was around, even without looking; he could smell him. Novak helped shape the Reagan revolution. He was first to report that George W. Bush would fire Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. And now, at the age of 74, he shows no signs of letting, or lightening, up.”