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Novak: Swing and a Miss


There are more important things than the paleo-brouhaha going on. But let me just say I find Bob Novak’s column in his own defense to be a pretty poor showing. Novak has one good argument on his side. He is not, strictly speaking, a “paleoconservative.” He does, however, share the paleo view on Israel and the war. On more than one occassion he’s suggested this war is an Israeli “plot” of one kind or another.

But in his column today, he doesn’t defend his longstanding and oft-repeated views on this point. Rather, he complains that Frum is being mean for criticizing Novak during wartime. This is a pretty lame counter-attack coming from a guy who suggested in The American Conservative that Frum might have been an agent for Israeli interests inside the White House.

Novak starts by lauding Pat Buchanan for keeping mum on his opposition to the war once the fighting started. He praises Daschle for shutting up with his barbs at the president shortly after the shooting began. But, Novak complains, “Frum, on the other hand, chose that moment to begin shooting at ‘paleo-conservatives.’”

I don’t get it. Are pundits who claim this war is an Israeli plot suddenly off-limits in wartime? Are pundits of any kind off-limits during wartime? Bob Novak is not a government official, let alone the Commander-in-Chief. Criticizing Novak or Buchanan does not undermine troop morale or communicate a divided message abroad on issues of foreign policy. I’m all for rallying around the flag during war, but I draw the line at rallying ’round Bob. I don’t usually use the “If we do X….then the terrorists will have won” formulation, but if journalists can’t argue with each other during wartime, what’s the point of having a first amendment? It’s not like NR announced troop movements.

But, even if I’m missing something. Even if Novak is right that Frum’s assault is illegitimate during war, Novak must know that neither Frum nor National Review knew the war was going to start on the day it did. The production schedule of National Review is not approved by Tommy Franks and Frum started working on this piece months ago. And, let us not forget, Frum’s article came out only days after Novak himself ran a piece accusing Frum of dual loyalties while serving for the government. Why is that not beyond the pale when the nation is on the brink of war? One has to respect Novak for the work he’s done in the past and the fearlessness of his approach to politics. But surely he could have spent a bit more time defending his outrageous theories about why this war is happening and a little less time complaining about the allegedly unfair timing of the criticism aimed at those theories.