April 18, 2007

Novak Criticizes White House

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Robert Novak, nationally syndicated columnist, television news commentator and the self-acknowledged “Prince of Darkness” of the Washington press, spoke at Schwartz Auditorium last night.
In his opening remarks, Novak, who served in the Korean War and worked for 50 years in Washington, D.C., revealed the origin of his sinister moniker. “I believe in limited government, low taxes and individual economic freedom. And in Washington that makes you The Prince of Darkness. It may well make you The Prince of Darkness at Cornell,” said Novak.
In his speech, Novak offered an analysis of the 2006 Congressional power shift, a diagnosis of the struggling Republican Party and an evaluation of the upcoming presidential election.
Novak attributed the 2006 Democratic sweep in the House and Senate to failures of the Republican Party and resulting disillusionment of its members. In his analysis, Novak cited the unpopularity of the Iraq war, President Bush’s expansion of government, increases in entitlement program costs and failure to reform the tax system.
Regarding Iraq, Novak pointed out that historically, even successful wars have provoked the ire of American voters. “After two Democratic presidents won World War II, the first election was 1946. There was a Republican landslide,” he said.
Novak claimed that although he supports a global economy and free trade, it is not the job of the United States to spread democracy: “We can’t have the whole world our way. Let’s worry about security in the United States,” he said.
Novak also blamed a lack of strong party leadership for the Republican decline. “There’s not a leader in the Republican Party to enunciate the issues. I once said that George W. Bush has got the smallest vocabulary of any president I knew. It doesn’t make me popular at the White House, but the truth is that he isn’t the most articulate man, and the presidency is a leadership role where you must articulate yourself,” said Novak.
Novak went on to discuss the chief difficulties of the two Democratic frontrunners.
“Senator [Hillary] Clinton [(D-N.Y.)] is smart. She thinks she would be a much better president than her husband. She thinks she’s smarter, better read, and she’s a lot more disciplined. I know both Clintons, and I’ll tell you something: Bill Clinton is one of the most likeable people I’ve ever met. Hillary is not likeable.”
According to Novak, what Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) lacks in experience, he makes up for in popularity. “He’s only been in the Senate a couple of years, nobody knows him. And people love him,” said Novak.
But, Novak said, Obama’s race may affect his political career: “Senator Obama is an African American. Does that mean he can or cannot be elected president? We don’t know. Don’t pay attention to the polls. You call up someone and say, ‘Would you vote for an African-American for president?’ guy says, ‘No I wouldn’t, I’m prejudiced.’ Nobody says that.”
Novak identified the lack of a dominant candidate as the primary challenge for Republicans. “This is the first election since 1952 where the President or Vice President of the United States is not running for either President or Vice President. All new people,” Novak said.
Novak’s speech evoked a number of student reactions.
“He had a sense of humor and let us know very directly how he found leaders of both parties. I found I really liked him because he is comfortable with what he believes in and is willing to give us an informed opinion flavored with his point of view. Like Helen Thomas, he likes being a journalist because he likes to cause trouble, however he is no Republican nut job,” said Ryan Gomez ’09
“I’m interested in both journalism and politics and so obviously, he’s a pretty huge figure. I thought it was real interesting. I don’t know a lot about him personally, and so it was good to hear what he thought about various issues — especially from such an insider in D.C. It was good to hear about both races,” said Tristen Cramer ’09.