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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Not Quite Kim Novak

Robert Novak, renown journalist, cancelled himself last week when he had a very real moment in which he expressed himself using a an obscenity in response to some minor league needling from James Carville, a Louisiana born pundit, and political consultant, known as the “ragin’ Cajun”. Novak and Carville were taping a news program for CNN when Novak cursed, (he said "bullshit"), removed his microphone and walked off the set of "Inside Politics".

In response to the incident, CNN suspended Novak indefinitely, calling the outburst "inexcusable and unacceptable." Spokeswoman Edie Emery also stated that Novak had apologized to the network for his behavior, and that CNN was apologizing to its viewers. "We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off," she said.
This is big news. Novak, the man who is known in some circles as, “The Prince of Darkness”, because of his role in several political scandals of the past, gave the distinct impression he can “dish it out,” but he can not take it. You’ve probably heard his name in conjunction with the current scandal in Washington, which involves Karl Rove, a former diplomat, the diplomat’s wife who is a CIA operative, and the President of the United States.

Novak has a reputation for being quite the charmer. One of his colleagues describes him this way: "Beneath the asshole is a very decent guy, and beneath the very decent guy is an asshole." I’ve personally seen the layer beneath the decent guy. I was witness to a grilling that Novak gave Jesse Jackson about thirty years ago on the NBC television program “Meet the Press”. After the broadcast it was clear Jackson was angered by the condescending manner, in which the questions were posed. He clearly did not appreciate the intent of the questions. I saw Novak come over to Jackson, offer to shake his hand and speak the words it’s nothing-personal Reverend Jackson. Novak’s meaning was I’m just doing my job. I only ask the questions the public wants to have answered.

It seems moderator Ed Henry planned to ask Novak some questions about his role in the current controversy to which his name is linked. Henry's questioning was likely to have been more thorough than previous occasions. Novak had avoided comment on the Plame affair in previous interviews by claiming that his lawyers had advised him not to speak. Reporters interviewing Novak were warned that any attempt to raise his role in the Plame affair would cause the interview to be immediately terminated.

On August 1st however, Novak had written a column on the affair in his Chicago Sun-Times column (“Ex-CIA official’s remark is wrong”). The fact that Novak had addressed the affair in print meant that CNN could not allow his previous 'legal advice' excuse to stand without comment.

In his column Novak claims he learned Plame's identity partly from reading the entry on Plame's husband Joe Wilson in Who's Who in America —implying that Novak never violated the law by revealing the name of a covert CIA agent. Even though the entry in Who's Who in America was consistent with Novak's claim to have found the name Valerie Plame there, Novak had previously given an inconsistent explanation claiming to have been given the name by his source; "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me, They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

I find it interesting that Novak who wrote the news story in which the CIA operative’s name was disclosed is free, able to walk off the set of a television program taping while New York Times reporter Judith Miller,
who never wrote or reported a word about the case, sits in jail for more than a month. More about this another day....

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