Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- Democratic insiders privately complained that when John Kerry indicated last weekend he had a secret plan to return U.S. troops from Iraq, he sounded too much like Richard Nixon 36 years ago.

 Asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" how long it would take to fulfill his promise to bring "significant numbers of troops back within the first term," Sen. Kerry replied: "I'm not going to lay out my whole plan here. I need to be able to negotiate as a president." In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Nixon implied he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam that could not be revealed.

 On the same interview program last Sunday, Kerry running mate John Edwards made matters worse after Kerry's comment by saying: "We have a real plan -- he has a real plan about what America needs to do in Iraq."


 House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has been talking about making a concerted campaign to taunt her Republican counterpart, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, for not moving fast enough on the independent 9/11 commission's recommendations.

 Democratic congressional sources say Pelosi would like to reconvene the House to complain that Hastert has been traveling the country in a sales promotion campaign for his new book ("Speaker: Lessons from 40 Years in Coaching and Politics") instead of getting to work on anti-terrorist legislation. Whether Pelosi can actually bring the House back into session without the consent of the Republican majority seems doubtful, however.

 Hastert, on the eve of his book tour, did seem slower than other top officials in reacting to the commission report.


 Republican strategists, believing that Laura Bush is a major campaign asset, is sending her to six battleground states. She will be in Langhorne, Pa., Grafton, Wis., Toledo, Ohio, St. Cloud, Minn., Royal Oak, Mich., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 Mrs. Bush may be the least controversial first lady since Mamie Eisenhower half a century ago. But she is willing to go on the road by herself as a campaigner, unlike such predecessors as Mrs. Eisenhower and Bess Truman.

 In contrast, Teresa Heinz Kerry attracts ardent supporters but also breeds controversy. Last week, she berated hecklers in Milwaukee, prompting her husband to call them "goons."


 John Kerry's official Web site last week deleted his advocacy of homosexuals in the military after the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported on this disclosure of the Democratic presidential candidate's position.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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