Over 638 pages, Robert Novak’s new memoir afflicts the comforted, reveals some sources, settles some disputes, and reveals much detail about the past 50 years of life in Washington, D.C.

Readers will learn what Novak thinks about some of the major political figures of the past five decades, and they’ll learn the John Locke Foundation’s role in one of his most famous escapades.

Among the many interesting items in the book, I’ll highlight two. First, those who discredit Novak as a shill for Republican politicians will be left scratching their heads when they read his description of a 1995 conversation with Rep. Bob Livingston, whom Newt Gingrich had just elevated to the top job on the House Appropriations Committee.

Now I realized Bob Livingston was less a Republican or a conservative than he was an appropriator…. House Appropriations Committee members constituted a band of brothers who crossed party and ideological lines in dictating how much, where, and what would be spent by the government.

I had thought Gingrich reached four rungs down the seniority ladder for Livingston to get a conservative reformer ending this buddy system of appropriators, but that was not it at all. I now realized that Gingrich was not trying to break this closed circle but merely trying to get a younger, more competent appropriator than the old-timers ahead of Livingston in seniority. Livingston was keeping the Democratic staffers because he was an appropriator at heart.

Near the end of the book, Novak quotes a commencement speech he delivered at Illinois’ University of St. Francis in 2004:

I encountered considerable criticism when I delivered the commencement address at my alma mater, the University of Illinois, a few years ago. I offered this advice to the graduates then, which I now repeat to you: Always love your country ? but never trust your government!

That should not be misunderstood. I certainly am not advocating civil disobedience, much less insurrection or rebellion. What I am advocating is to not expect too much from government and be wary of its power, even the power of a democratic government in a free country.

Ours is one of the mildest, most benevolent governments in the world. But it too has the power to take your wealth and forfeit your life. So, follow the teaching of St. Francis in being generous as a private citizen but be wary of the power of government. A government that can give you everything can take everything away.