Evans&Novak in the April Playboy
Jude Wanniski
March 20, 2000


To: Hugh Hefner
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Interviewing Rowlie & Bob

We've never met, Mr. Hefner, but I have been an admirer of yours ever since I bought the first copy of Playboy with the Marilyn Monroe centerfold. At the time, 1953, I was the editor-in-chief of the Brooklyn Technical High School weekly newspaper, The Survey. In the many years since, I subscribed to Playboy more years than not, and want to assure you that one of the reasons I did so was because of the Playboy Interview. (In the early years, I read it last; these days, I read it first, when I see the magazine. You know how that goes.) I bought the April issue when I saw the subjects of the interview were my close friends, Rowland Evans and Bob Novak. What a great idea someone on your staff had... and what a great job David Sheff did in conducting the interview! With Rowlie at 79 and Bob at 69, between them they have had more influence on public policy this last half century than any other journalists around. They surely deserve the attention you gave them, and they did not disappoint with a fun excursion through their 37-year partnership.

If you don't mind, I'm going to quote from the interview, but not attempt to run the whole thing out. I want to give our website fans and browsers a good excuse to rush out and buy the April issue. Here are a couple of my favorites:

After Rowlie says he likes George W. Bush as "an extraordinarily attractive fella," but that Al Gore would be "the most fun -- as well as the worst President," Sheff asks Novak if he agrees about Bush:

NOVAK: If W. Gets to be president, one question is going to be whether he is going to be much better than his father, who wasn't a good president in my view. When George Sr. succeeded Reagan, he said, "In this administration, we will be burning the midnight oil." It was definitely a slap at Reagan, who definitely wasn't burning the midnight oil -- he was sawing wood. When George Sr. said that, it made my blood run cold. In my opinion, when presidents are burning the midnight oil, the country is in trouble. We don't want workaholics running the country. We don't want presidents doing much of anything, because we get into trouble when they do. If you read the Haldeman diaries and hear the Nixon tapes, you see that Nixon was way too busy. He was constantly getting involved in things he had no business being involved in. President [Lyndon B.] Johnson thought he could run the whole government. If nothing else, this worries me a little bit about George W. He thinks he can run the whole damn thing.

Pretty cheeky. Bob then says he would have liked to have been able to vote for a Reform Party ticket suggested by Rowlie -- Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey -- because "I can't imagine them bombing Kosovo." Rowlie says "It would take them six weeks to find it on a map." Rowlie then tells us what he really thinks about President Clinton:

EVANS: He has seriously diminished the presidency. When you get the kind of action he got in the Oval Office -- or right next to it --and you are talking to congressmen while you are getting your thrills, it cheapens the presidency. Clinton has changed a lot of opinions in this country about how important the presidency is. He is why it is difficult to become excited about the next president. We are living in an unreal time. We have no foreign problems of any real dimension. Sure, wars are going on, but there is no Soviet Union. We have prosperity. Everybody is supposed to be getting a little richer. I, too, would vote for Trump-Winfrey, though I would prefer it would be Winfrey-Trump, if she were on the top of the ticket.

Later in the interview, Sheff brings up their views on the Middle East, for which, he says, "you have been accused of being anti-Semitic."

NOVAK: I've been accused, but I have always said that if I am anti-Semitic, Abba Eban, the great Israeli leader, is anti-Semitic. We felt the same way about many issues related to Israel. Being critical of Israel isn't being anti-Semitic.

PLAYBOY: You've also been called "the mother of all Israeli bashers."

NOVAK: There has been a lot less Israel bashing from me in the last six years.

PLAYBOY: Because?

NOVAK: Because Evans left the column.

PLAYBOY: So you were the Israeli basher, Rowland?

EVANS: Not at all. But I was critical of the concessions the U.S. has made to Israel. Over and over. Basically, the Israelis have too much clout in Congress. The Israeli lobby is too strong. Once there was a movement in the Senate to kill one of the weapons systems that was going to be sold to Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Egypt. The sale was all set until the Israelis called everybody they possibly could to stop it. Hubert Humphrey wasn't yet vice president, and I called him. As a senator, he was big with the Jewish lobby. I knew him well and said, "Hubert, how can you do this? How can you put our country in this position? Our policy is so transparently uneven!" He said, Rowland, let me tell you something. There are some things I'll never do. One is that I will never in my life get up on the floor of the Senate and say anything against blacks, labor, or Jews." That's what I don't like.

The boys have always spoken their minds freely, which some mindless journalists are always prepared to do. But Rowlie and Bob practice due diligence to a degree that leaves out partisanship, even friendship. Here's what Bob says about his feelings toward Pat Buchanan.

NOVAK: I like Buchanan a lot personally. I like his views on foreign policy. I have trouble with Pat on international economic policy -- where he wants to unscramble the eggs of globalism. He resents Daimler Benz-Chrysler because he can't tell whether it is an American or German company. He thinks it is an arrow pointed at the heart of the nation's fate. That's reactionary, as far as I am concerned. But I like Pat very much and I like his views on non-interventionism. I agree with his feelings about interventionism in Kosovo and around the world -- that we shouldn't do it.

* * * * *

There is much, much more... including a lot of stuff I never knew about... including the time Novak socked Christopher Lydon of the NYTimes. If you didn't read the interview yourself Mr. Hefner, but only looked at the pitchers, I recommend you treat yourself to the whole of it. And I recommend my website visitors do the same -- after, of course, they have looked at the pitchers.