Mr. Novak Takes Leave

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ALONG WITH many readers, we were saddened to learn yesterday that, at least for a short while, we won't be receiving any columns from Robert D. Novak to publish on the opposite page. Mr. Novak has been writing a column since 1963 -- that's not a typo -- and, to our knowledge, he has never missed a deadline. He revealed yesterday that he has a brain tumor. A lot of tests are yet to be completed, but in a statement, he said that he hopes his absence from the op-ed page will be for a "not too lengthy period."

In the course of writing columns for more than 45 years -- most of them co-authored with Rowland Evans, who died in 2001 -- Mr. Novak has picked up his share of detractors. Conservatives have assailed him as unpatriotic; liberals have branded him a traitor. The vilification became particularly vitriolic after he wrote a column in 2003 identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee and the wife of Bush critic Joseph C. Wilson IV who had helped arrange an investigative trip to Africa for Mr. Wilson. In his 2007 memoir, Mr. Novak wrote, "Thanks to the CIA leak case, I came over as more disreputable than ever."

With a mixture of irony and defiance, Mr. Novak titled his memoir "The Prince of Darkness." But to his many admirers, Mr. Novak is "performing a service for my country," as he described his goal. He wrote that he also tries "to tell the world things people do not want me to reveal, to advocate limited government, economic freedom, and a strong, prudent America -- and to have fun doing it." What we've noticed over the years is that Mr. Novak has never stopped reporting. Whether you agree with him or not, you can pretty much always learn something from his columns. Given that we've published, on rough calculation, more than 7,000 of those, that's a fair amount of fresh information and juicy disclosure.

Mr. Novak noted in his book that he had survived three cancers, with a possible fourth -- a growth on his kidney -- under medical observation. We hope his latest health challenge will quickly meet the fate of its predecessors.

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