Novak comes to Bethany Beach

Infamous Washington political journalist Robert Novak appeared at Bethany Beach Books on Sunday to sign his, perhaps surprisingly, candid memoir, titled “The Prince of Darkness.” The memoir chronicles Novak’s life as a journalist from his beginnings as a sports reporter to his 50 years as a political insider in Washington.

dude: Bob Novak takes time out at Bethany Beach Books.Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY
Bob Novak takes time out at Bethany Beach Books.

In “The Prince of Darkness,” Novak also details the changes in the political landscape over his 50 years in Washington and offers his take on his role in the Valerie Plame scandal, a story that he said will forever be part of his public persona.

Quoting two “senior administration officials” later identified as then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and President George W. Bush’s advisor Karl Rove, Novak wrote a column in 2003 revealing Plame’s secret identity as a CIA agent. Plame’s husband, an American diplomat, had become a prominent critic of the Iraq War.

The leak led to a federal investigation that ended with Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, being sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for obstruction of justice and perjury, only to later have that sentence commuted by President Bush.

Novak said leading his memoir with the scandal was inevitable, because of the notoriety of the case and its influence on his career and life after nearly five decades as a Washington journalist. He said the scandal “undermined” his relationship with CNN – where he was a panelist on “Crossfire” – and made him a favorite target of critics.

“If I die tomorrow, that’s going to be the lead on my obituary,” Novak said Sunday, adding he was “stunned” by the impact of the column. “It’s a greatly overblown story.”

About the same time Novak wrote the Plame column in 2003, he began work on his memoir. After more than three years of work, the book, a handful at 638-pages but down from 1,400 pages on the first draft, was published on July 15 to mostly favorable reviews.

Despite losing a more-than-$600,000 salary at CNN because of the leak case, Novak “remains, however, flush in the real currency of his trade,” Edward McLelland wrote in Salon magazine last month. “He still has sources inside the White House, still eats breakfast with Republican senators in the Senate Dining Room and can still read his Chicago-based column in the Washington Post. He has no plans to retire.”

“I thought I’d (write my memoir) as I left Washington, waving goodbye,” Novak, who owns a summer home in Fenwick Island, said in between signing books on Sunday. “I finally decided I wasn’t going to retire.”

That’s much to the pleasure of the fans who stood in line last week to meet and express their gratitude to the conservative commentator, who said he is moving further right with each day.

“I think it’s fabulous (he’s here),” said Ned Swift, an Ohio native who told Novak he has been a fan for decades. “He’s truly a great American.”