Mr Novak, who died today at age 78, helped invent modern political reporting. He grew up in Illinois and climbed to better and better jobs as "shoe leather" reporters in the sleepy state capitols of Nebraska and Indiana. As one admirer put it today, Mr Novak practicised "journalism through whiskey", befriending and socialising with sources, worrying less about sensational on-the-record quotes than finding out what these people, with their hands on the public treasury, really thought. It resembled British reporting more than the high-minded, Walter Lippman-worshipping "objective" reporting that dominated coverage in America.Just had a long conversation with Joe Marier, in which I pointed out that Novak and Pat Buchanan were personal friends, and that Buchanan had (obviously) been one of Novak's sources in the Nixon and Reagan administrations. So when David Frum attacked Novak as "unpatriotic" for siding with Buchanan in opposition to the Bush administration's Iraq policy, it was not merely a policy dispute.
A Washington journalist needs sources, including sources he may disagree with politically, and if Sidney Blumenthal invited me to lunch tomorrow, I'd accept the invitation, assuming that Team Hillary had some really good anti-Obama dirt they wanted to inject into the media via the VRWC. (Trust me, Sid: No fingerprints, IYKWIMAITYD.)
Sometimes your sources become your friends. And when your sources and friends are at war with one another, calling each other the nastiest names they can think of, this is painful for a professional practicioner of neutral objectivity like me.
Speaking of "journalism through whiskey," there will be a 7 p.m. Happy Hour event Thursday at the Continental Lounge in Rosslyn, Va. -- just across the Potomac from D.C. -- and if you haven't been personally invited, feel free to show up anyway.
Bloggers, journalists, fat cats, bigwigs, congressional staffers, congressional mistresses, lobbyists, interns, hookers, policy wonks, oppo researchers, "senior administration officials," two-faced backstabbing GOP political operatives -- everyone should consider themselves invited.
Except my creditors. If I owe you money, you are specifically not invited. That would not be ethical.
Also: I don't drink whiskey. I had a traumatic experience at a Christmas party about 10 years ago, and had to part ways with my old buddy Mr. Jack Daniels.