Yesterday we mentioned our hope that someday we’ll have journalists half as good as Robert Novak. Although the folks who get their worldview from the Daily Show only know that Novak outed Valerie Plame, his long career in Washington Journalism was so much more than that.
Unlike most folks who find themselves living in our nation’s capital, Novak didn’t “grow” into an appreciation of government like so many others. He “shrank,” which is to say that prolonged exposure made him even more sceptical that our government was an effective servant of the common good. In many ways, his reporting was more valuable to those who favour a more limited government than a library full of libertarian screeds. This wasn’t libertarian theory–it was exposing the truth of government reality.
Tim Carney, who worked for Novak for several years, explains:
Bob Novak wrote columns because it was the only vocation he ever had. Though he never would have called his work “public service” — he laughed at the idea — he undoubtedly served his country by exposing the machinations of power and showing how government actually operated.
Novak’s reporting unearthed how politicians often answer to well-connected lobbyists and serve their own interests rather than the needs of the country. This was an education for me and for his readers.
With his columns, Novak helped foster a salutary scepticism of government and reinforced the distrust of power that lies at the core of American liberty.
Much of Novak’s work involved tracking political horse races and getting inside dirt on candidates and elections. But Novak also loved digging into the bowels of the legislative and executive branches, and showing readers how the sausage is actually made.
In these days, when the president (like his predecessors) calls his critics “naysayers” and “cynics” and says the day for scepticism of government is past — and when even many conservatives believe that government is responsible for solving all of the nation’s problems — Novak’s lesson is indispensable.
We really do need a reporter like that in the age of the bailout. Let’s hope we get one.
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