To: Jack Kemp
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Novak on C-SPAN
I missed Brian Lamb's March 2 "Booknotes" interview of Bob Novak, keyed on Bob's ONLY book (by himself) in his 69 years, Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000. The transcript is now available and, by gosh, is really a treat to read. I know you heard about it and seemed unhappy about some remarks he made about you, but if you read the whole piece, you will come away with a greater appreciation of this great man in our midst. I'm running a transcript edited to make it easier to read than that which you can find at www.c-span.org. It is very long -- it was an hour-long interview remember -- but without Novak, I doubt there could have been a supply-side revolution. When we were at rock bottom, and no journalist would touch us, Jack, Novak was always there. Why not print this memo out and read it when you have time... I love Novak and I think you do too.
Announcer: This week on BOOKNOTES, our guest is Robert Novak, syndicated columnist and co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." He joins us to discuss his recent book Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000.
BRIAN LAMB, host: Robert D. Novak, after 34 years of not writing your own book, why a book on Completing the Revolution?
NOVAK: It didn't start that way. When the Republicans won the Congress for the first time in 40 years in the 1994 election, I came up with an idea that this--a book on the great triumph--I thought they were really going to put Bill Clinton to rout. And a ticktock book, as we call it in the trade--what happened in the 104th Congress would be a terrific book, and that's when I signed up with The Free Press, which is a division of Simon & Schuster. Now it very quickly became clear that this was not going to be a triumph, and to write a book about just two years of catastrophe seemed an awful waste of time. So with my editor, Paul Gollub of Free Press, who's one of the great editors -- he's a real old-fashioned editor-- we decided that we would come up with a totally different concept on the idea of why the Republicans went wrong, in my opinion, and what they could do to right themselves. And so it becomes less of a typical Novak book in the past, which was a reporter's book, and more of a thoughts of Chairman Bob, a little red book, except it's not red, it's yellow.
LAMB: It seems like in the early part of the book you put your finger on a $4.5 million book contract of Newt Gingrich. Tell us why you think that was important.
NOVAK: I think that had a climate-changing quality to it. You've got to remember that there was a great deal of excitement about Gingrich by the people who supported him and people who didn't support him. He really looked like he was the next major figure in America. And suddenly the most -- arguably the most -- important new figure in American politics in years, and he signs a $4.5 million book contract with HarperCollins, which is owned by the--by Rupert Murdoch. Nothing wrong with Rupert Murdoch. I like him. I've done a lot of work for him. But the idea of the speaker of the House doing that, it just took the gauze off of it. Now was that the end of the Gingrich revolution? Of course not, but it was a terrible jolt and a sign that this man was capable of really bad decisions.
LAMB: Why do you think he did it?
NOVAK: Money. And that's one of the things I talk about in the book, that one of the changes that there's been in the time I've been in Washington. I'm going to my 43rd anniversary in Washington, and one of the changes is that this has become much like New York, a money town. And believe me, the the members of Congress when I first came here were not that interested in becoming rich. They wanted to become powerful, but with some exceptions. Lyndon Johnson was a great exception, of course. They weren't that much interested in money. But he did it -- Newt did it because he wanted to be rich. He wanted to be as rich as the very rich people he took money from to run his campaigns.
LAMB: When did that start here?
NOVAK: I think it started gradually in the--in the last 20 years, accelerating in the '80s -- that it became a money town. As the government grew, the big law firms grew. They throw off tremendous amounts of money. They contribute money. The members of Congress -- they used to say that Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern used to live in tract housing out -- out in the suburbs -- never, -- never minded it. As the members of -- as the politicians see the affluence of the people they deal with, they say, 'I want that, too.' And so it's a question of people who, the minute they walk out the door, of course, they've got to spend a year not lobbying, but they immediately sign up for the lobbying contracts.
LAMB: You even quote Jack Kemp in here as saying, "Can think of nothing but making money."
NOVAK: Yes. He's that. One thing about Jack is what you see is what you get, and what you get is what you see. He makes it very clear that his main interest in life, making lots of money. That's why he didn't run for president. I have great admiration for him, but I think that's a problem in this city.
LAMB: What has the money gotten them? What's, you know, is it better? Are their lives better?
NOVAK: Well, that's almost beyond my pay grade, Brian. It's a question of whether they're happier or not or whether in the older--olden times they were happier. But that is almost -- without exception -- the goal. I don't know if you hear it, but I hear so many politicians say, 'I'd like to get out of this business as soon as I can, make a little money.' That's the phrase, 'make a little money.' I'm sure you've heard it, too. And you didn't used to hear that.
LAMB: What impact is it having on the whole city?
NOVAK: Well, I think it--it coarsens the city, it cheapens it -- and it makes it very difficult to pursue programs, particularly, I think, for conservatives, that I think are necessary for the republic. And that's what this book is about. I lay out things that I think they should do, and they don't have the courage to do it because when you--when you come out--when you have a vision, when you want to do the right thing by your standards, you have to accept the possibility of loss, the possibility of failure. And if you're really interested in the comfortable life, you like to minimize failure and maximize success.