Robert Novak, from the FAIR Archives

Conservative columnist and TV pundit Robert Novak died this morning at the age of 78. While Novak will likely be best remembered for his involvement in the Valerie Plame scandal, it’s worth recalling some of his other notable contributions to the public debate.

As we pointed out here on the FAIR Blog, Novak pronounced himself unimpressed by Barack Obama’s margin of victory in the 2008 election (writing that “he neither received a broad mandate from the public nor the needed large congressional majorities.”) But in 2004, somehow George W. Bush’s 51 percent margin was different (CNN‘s Capital Gang, 11/6/04):

MARK SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is 51 percent of the vote really a mandate?

BOB NOVAK: Of course it is. It’s a 3.5 million vote margin…. So the people who say there’s not a mandate want the president, now that he’s won, to say, Oh, we’re going to accept the liberalism that the voters rejected. But Mark, this is a conservative country, and it showed it on last Tuesday.

And two items from the pages of Extra!, FAIR’s magazine:

(Extra!, Soundbites, 5-6/99)

Invisible ink

I was reading the Constitution the other day, and I found in it an injunction to protect the people of the country on the national defense. I didn’t find anything in there about education. I didn’t find anything in there about old people’s prescriptions. I didn’t find anything in there about hungry children. Did you–do you have some invisible writing in the Constitution?

–Robert Novak to Rep. Bernie Sanders (Crossfire, 3/17/99)

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

–Preamble of the United States Constitution (emphasis added)

(Extra!Update, Soundbites, 10/00)

Novak on ‘Color-Blindnessâ┚¬Ã‚

Commentator Robert Novak wasn’t happy with the ethnicity of the speakers at the Republican convention. He complained to Bush advisor Ralph Reed (Crossfire, 7/31/00):

You know, Mr. Reed, I used to think that one of the values of the Republican Party is they were color-blind while the Democrats had a quota system. I was looking at the schedule for tonight’s proceedingsâ┚¬Ã‚¦. We have tonight four African-Americans, two Jews, five Hispanics and an Asianâ┚¬Ã‚¦. Boy, I thought I was in San Francisco with the Democrats, what Jeane Kirkpatrick used to call the San Francisco Democrats. Have you abandoned the idea of we’re color-blind and you’re having this kind of quota system?

When Reed responded, “I think what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to have a convention that reflects diversity as a strength,” Novak shot back: “What about white people? Not too many.”

But Novak didnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t like the racial makeup of the Democratic convention, either. On Larry King Live (8/17/00), he warned: “The Democrats are skating on very thin ice. They are a party of minorities. They are a party of the African-Americans, the Hispanic-Americans, and a certain percentage of the women.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.