This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes ," July 16, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story tonight. It's the book that everybody is talking about, and it reveals the secrets of a life spent reporting on our nation's leaders. Joining us now, the author of "The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington," Robert Novak.
I never thought you could call you that to your face, the prince of darkness.
ROBERT NOVAK, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, everybody else does. You might, as well.
COLMES: You talk about a guy named John Lindsay, not the former mayor of New York who gave you that name.
NOVAK: Yes, he thought that -- we were both young reporters covering the Senate, and we used to talk a lot about the future. And I was so gloomy and so critical of politicians that he said, "You know, you're really the prince of darkness," and it just spread.
COLMES: So you don't think you were called Mr. Happy?
NOVAK: Not exactly.
COLMES: Well, you have a nice smile, though. The book starts with Valerie Plame, so let me put up on the screen what Michael Hayden, the head of the CIA, has said in his testimony. And he said, "During her employment with the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was undercover. Her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under executive order 1258. At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, Mrs. Wilson's CIA employment status was covert. Mrs. Wilson's work in many situations had consequences for the security of her colleagues, and maintaining her cover was critical to protecting the safety of both colleagues and others."
Does that speak for itself, that, indeed, she was covert and outing her was against an executive order of the president of the United States?
NOVAK: Well, General Hayden has had several versions of that, I must say, Alan. That's one version. I'm very suspicious of the CIA's role in this whole controversy. But I do know this, that the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, certainly was not a shill for the administration, investigated this. He didn't find any law was broken in the outing of a covered agent's...
COLMES: But he did say she was covert.
NOVAK: But then why didn't he prosecute Mr. Armitage? Because she did admit the qualifications of a covert operation operating abroad under a security status. So I -- if anybody from the CIA knew I was going to write this story, and never said this is going to endanger security operations and endangers anybody's life, I would have never written it.
COLMES: Does Michael Hayden -- what we just put on the screen, was that the truth? Was Michael Hayden not being accurate in what he just said?
NOVAK: It doesn't look accurate to me.
COLMES: You talk about you never had such a good source as Karl Rove, you said recently. You talk about Karl Rove in the book.
NOVAK: At one time.
COLMES: And you say you never try to criticize your sources in your column. Does that mean if one of your great sources is Karl Rove, and Karl Rove is a key adviser to the president, does that mean you go easier on the president?
NOVAK: That's right. Now, this is -- Alan, I'm going to tell you a fact of life.
COLMES: Dirty little secret?
NOVAK: This is the dirty little secret. They all do that. The difference between me and them is I admit it in the book, as in the book I do, frankly, admit a lot of things.
COLMES: Now, you say that many of the people you reveal in the book as sources are dead, which is why you can reveal them. Why reveal Karl Rove now, because he apparently is still a key player?
NOVAK: Because he revealed himself in the investigation by Mr. Fitzgerald. He revealed himself as a source of mine. I would have never done it on my own.
COLMES: You say that covering politics takes more elbow grease and chicanery than cerebral brilliance.
NOVAK: That's right.
COLMES: What do you mean by that?
NOVAK: You don't have to be a genius. You don't have to be an intellectual and cover politics. What you have to do is make the extra phone call. You don't sit around thinking hard thoughts. And that's what I try to show in the book, that I have lunches, breakfasts, dinners with politicians, always mining them for information, making the extra phone call, looking for material. And that's what it takes to be a good political reporter.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Bob, I'm loving the book. I haven't finished it, but I'm really enjoying it, because 50 years is a long time. And you know, the life experience, I especially found the stories you were telling about president and presidential candidates phenomenal. For example, you wrote a column about JFK losing momentum. Then what happens? He calls you.
NOVAK: I used to come into the Senate press gallery. I was working for the Wall Street Journal, covering the Senate, and I get a call at 8:30 in the morning. The Washington wire used to run in the Wall Street Journal. And he said, "Bob, how can you tell that I'm losing my momentum when we haven't even had the first primary?" He said, "I'm going to beat Humphrey in Wisconsin. Come out and see it and watch me and check for yourself," and I did.
HANNITY: And you did. And you went out there. Now, you have another story of LBJ drunk in a bar, and you walk him out?
NOVAK: I was told that he was drunk at a party at the press club. I was sitting at the bar myself. I hadn't gotten (INAUDIBLE) a buddy of mine went out, and here was the majority leader of the Senate, dead drunk. He puts his arms around. He said, "Bob, I like you, but you don't like me." And so we finally collected him into a cab. And then the next day at the daily press conference, the majority leader, he looks at me and he says, "Well, Novak, a little drunk out last night at the press club, wasn't he?" And everybody thinks I was the guy who was drunk.
HANNITY: But that couldn't happen today. I mean, it's now widely known the media knew about some of the shenanigans of JFK. They didn't disclose FDR's real health issues. That's not the case. Things have changed a lot.
NOVAK: Absolutely, and there used to be a situation where you just didn't tell. I tell a story where the time Senator Ed Muskie was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. He had a violent temper, and I was covering him. I was all alone in a plane with him, and he was just screaming that they hadn't given him time to go to mass on Sunday. And I never wrote that. When politics...
HANNITY: You didn't have to say off to record.
NOVAK: No, politicians embarrassed themselves. Maybe that was bad. I don't know. I think it was better, because it gave you more access.
HANNITY: See, I think I would tend to agree with you, and not everything has to be covered in that sense. Also, you didn't have a great relationship with Nixon in the end.
NOVAK: I did not in the beginning, either. That was never a good match, and I have some stories in there and some quotes about him that maybe he was a man who never should have been president.
NOVAK: I think he had a great sense of inferiority. I think he was really not a conservative, Sean. And I thought -- you know, I voted for John F. Kennedy against him in 1960.
HANNITY: Kennedy, he won you over after that invitation.
NOVAK: That's right. And you know, you say, well, how could you -- what would you do today? Well, just remember one thing: John F. Kennedy cut taxes across the board...
HANNITY: Across the board.
NOVAK: ... and Nixon never did.
HANNITY: Look, I think if Kennedy was around today and was adhering to the same principles, he'd be a conservative.
NOVAK: I believe so.
HANNITY: I found one thing interesting, too. You describe a private plane ride that you took with Ronald Reagan, a small plane. Tell us about it.
NOVAK: That's right. It was a four-hour ride, because there was a storm -- we went from Mississippi to Boca Raton, Florida. And he never liked to talk politics, but he opened up about his life, and Hollywood, and his days as an adventurous lover and bachelor between marriages. He told a lot of dialect jokes. He talked about people in show business, like Jack Warner and Errol Flynn, and he was just an absolutely wonderful -- and I became convinced on that trip that he was going to run against Jerry Ford, because he was working so hard in 1975, the year before the election.
HANNITY: Well, let me ask, because you've had all this experience, and we don't have a lot of time left here. With all of these presidents, and now we see George W. Bush in terms of poll numbers, popularity is in trouble, Truman had the same problem at the end of his administration. I think history vindicated him. You think that will happen with Bush?
NOVAK: I think presidents usually get a better review after they have left office, and particularly after they die. You know, I was amazed with the praise of Jerry Ford, who I didn't think was a very good president.
HANNITY: A lot of people weren't kind to Reagan, either.
COLMES: Hey, Bob, thank you very much. And good luck with the book. Fascinating reading.
NOVAK: Thank you.
COLMES: Thanks so much for being here tonight.
NOVAK: Alan, thank you, my pleasure.
COLMES: Thanks very much.
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