Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- Congressional leaders must agree on details of the independent 9/11 commission recommendations by Tuesday in order to pass an intelligence reform bill before the election and avert a late Democratic attack.

 John Kerry's campaign has angry families of 9/11 victims poised to blast George W. Bush for not acting promptly on the commission's recommendations. Republican strategists fear a damaging eleventh hour Democratic attack.

 At last week's Senate-House conference seeking a final version of the bill, the leading House Democratic negotiator -- Rep. Jane Harman of California -- appeared ready to end the talks. But her Senate Democratic counterpart -- Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut -- insisted on keeping the process going.


 Sen. Hillary Clinton's public criticism of Sen. John Kerry's part in the Mary Cheney affair provoked speculation inside Democratic ranks about closing the books on 2004 and getting ready for Mrs. Clinton's presidential run in 2008.

 In an interview with an Albany, N.Y., radio station Monday, Clinton said that Kerry noting Vice President Cheney's daughter is a lesbian has "taken up a lot of space and time." The senator said she could "understand why some people might have been bothered" by Kerry's comments. Even such restrained criticism, when made two weeks before a closely contested presidential election, shocked party insiders.

 The recent influx into the Kerry campaign of Clinton operatives headed by Mike McCurry and Joe Lockhart signaled that Sen. Clinton was working hard to elect Kerry even though that would derail her in 2008. However, McCurry has told party insiders he urged Kerry to apologize for his comments about Ms. Cheney.


 House Speaker Dennis Hastert has infuriated Republican politicians by making dismissive public statements about two fellow GOP candidates engaged in close elections.

 In an interview with the Daily Herald in Chicago's suburbs, Hastert said "we are probably going to lose" Senate seats in Oklahoma and the speaker's own state of Illinois. While Alan Keyes trails by 40 points in Illinois polls, former Rep. Tom Coburn is running even in Oklahoma. Coburn, an independent conservative, tangled with Hastert and other Republican leaders when he was a member of the House.

Robert Novak

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

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