Book Review: The Prince of Darkness by Robert D. Novak

I took time during my “neighborhood watch” program for Italian Festival week to read Bob Novak’s memoir “The Prince of Darkness.” (The title is taken from a nickname he was given due to his dour and pessimistic nature. Maybe that’s why I like him so much.) I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while, having become a fan of his when I regularly watched “The Capital Gang” on CNN during my high school years. Reading his columns since then has been one of the most reliable ways to keep up on what’s really going on in Washington.

The book itself is refreshingly honest; he admits that he was frequently selfish during his marriage, often putting his career before his wife and kids. He acknowledges his failings, mistakes he made in his professional career and private life. (For example, he took full blame for the failure of his first marriage.) He chronicles his journey from a liberal nominal Republican to a solid conservative, albeit hardly a doctrinaire one and discusses his disagreements with the conservative movement on such issues as both Iraq Wars. (He spends a significant amount of time on the efforts of David Frum to to write him and others who opposed the second Iraq War out of the conservative movement. A few points to that: 1) There were many legitimate conservative reasons to oppose that war. 2) Who the hell is David Frum to be writing people out of the movement?)

Probably the most interesting parts of the book are his discussions of the various personalities he dealt with over the years. He shows Jimmy Carter to be a repeated liar, despite his promise to the American people never to lie to them. Nixon, obviously, doesn’t come off much better, although he argues that had Nixon been surrounded by better people than John Mitchell and H.R. Haldeman, things might have turned out better. Newt Gingrich is described as a Rockefeller Republican losing as a conservative to get ahead. (Which I had always felt: Gingrich’s fascination for authors like Alvin Toffler and some of his other more bizarre notions kept me from ever completely trusting him as a conservative. Once again, my gut was right.) RFK is described as cut-throat and his brother’s enforcer, while Ted Kennedy is portrayed as a lightweight and not up to the standards of his older brothers. Al Gore, Jr. is said to be only in politics to succeed where his father failed in becoming President, which was more his father’s goal than his own, which might explain his discomfort in campaigning and his “flame-out” after he was defeated in 2000, having lost the only purpose he had in life, which wasn’t even his own to begin with.

This book’s an excellent read, a little longer than most people want to deal with at just under 640 pages, but it’s a page-turner and worth the time you put into it.