Four years ago, one of the big questions for presidential candidate Al Gore was what role his buddy Bill Clinton would play in the campaign. Answer: not much of one. Clinton was eager to hit the trail; the Goristas demurred.

This time Clinton is fixin' to be on the road quite a bit, promoting his book. But John F. Kerry's folks are looking to use him as much as possible. Maybe four years out of office there's a nostalgia factor kicking in a booming economy and budget surpluses. Clinton let the Kerry folks know he'll do whatever he can.

The publisher, Clinton's aides and the Kerry campaign are working out scheduling for the fall, "looking at synergy," one source said. There'll be some straight book-signing days, some combined signing-campaigning and quite a bit of straight campaigning.

But after the big-city book markets are done, don't be surprised to find Clinton spending a whole lot of time doing book-signing in the battleground states, especially in medium-sized cities, where a presidential visit can dominate the news.

Let's see. The publisher will want four to six hours of book-signing, but that, for Clinton, is scarcely a warm-up. Then perhaps an interview with the local paper and television. Leaves plenty of time for a speech at an area college, rallies with local and state candidates, an exclusive interview with a local political reporter, maybe a fundraiser and then on to the next stop.

The oddest thing about this strategic book-signing idea is that it has been Clinton's plan since at least November, long before the book was done. A source earnestly laid out the idea back then that he'd be on tour. We naturally dismissed this out of hand as preposterous, since it was based on Clinton actually doing something on time, especially something as big as finishing a book.

Who knew they wouldn't edit it? (Couldn't resist.)

It's All in the Interpretation

Speaking of Clinton, who can forget the days of elevated political discourse, when the country cogitated on the many definitions of "is"?

Fortunately, that high level of philosophical contemplation continues. For example, last week the Senate intelligence committee concluded that the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, CIA analyst Valerie Plame, had suggested to the agency that Wilson might check out Iraqi uranium purchases in Niger.

But Wilson said in his book that "Valerie had nothing to do with this matter. . . . She definitely had not proposed that I make this trip."

After the Senate committee report, he said he did not see what she did as a "recommendation."

So it depends on how you define "recommendation."

Or take President Bush's distancing himself from former Enron chief Kenneth L. Lay, who was indicted last week. "Well, first of all, Ken Lay is a supporter," Bush said when the scandal erupted in 2002. Bush said he decided to "leave him in place" as an appointee of former Texas governor Ann Richards to a state council. Quite magnanimous, considering Lay was Bush's biggest contributor in 1994.

This from a president who in 1997 wrote a chummy birthday note to Lay. "One of the sad things about old friends is that they seem to be getting older," Bush said in the typewritten letter, " -- just like you! 55 years old. Wow! That is really old. Thank goodness you have such a young, beautiful wife. Laura and I value our friendship with you. Best wishes to Linda, your family, and friends."

He signed off as "Your younger friend."

So it depends on your definition of "supporter."

McCain Takes His Turn

Who was that suspicious-looking guy trying to get on the 12:30 p.m. shuttle Monday from New York to Washington? Security guards apparently didn't know or care as they pulled Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out of line to give him the in-depth wand, belt-buckle and shoe treatment.

A smiling McCain waved to other passengers who recognized him. He said that this has happened to him before and that there shouldn't be any exceptions to security procedures. (They let him on the flight.)

Program Could Become History

Former history teacher and now House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was back in his district on Monday talking at a local school about the importance of teaching American history and handing over a $722,943 check for a program to train history teachers.

Might not be able to do that next year. A House subcommittee voted to kill the $119 million program last week.

Another Drawn-Out Election?

The Department of Homeland Security is thinking of delaying the election in case of a terrorist incident. But Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) thinks he has a better option: "Why don't we start the election on November 2, but then hold it open until the Republicans get all the electoral votes they need?" That's "worked well in the House."

Emanuel notes Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States are thinking about delaying elections. Hmm. All three pretty much run by the Bush administration.

CIA Spokesman Moves On

Novelist Bill Harlow, who has been working days as CIA spokesman for the past seven years, is calling it quits at the end of this month as the second-longest-serving director of public affairs. He is, as they say, keeping his options open after a break to recharge. He may help former boss George J. Tenet in whatever he is going to do, which may mean helping Tenet write a book. Or he may do some writing on his own.