Kennedy assails Bush `credibility gap'

April 06, 2004|By Deborah Barfield Berry | Deborah Barfield Berry,NEWSDAY

WASHINGTON - Shifting his ongoing criticism from Iraq to domestic issues, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy took President Bush to task for misleading the American public on everything from Medicare to education.

The Massachusetts Democrat called Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam," and said: "This president has now created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon. He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people." With Bush, Kennedy said, "Truth is the first casualty of policy."

Terry Holt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said Kennedy was a "hatchet man" for John Kerry, his fellow Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic nominee for president. "I don't think Kerry and Kennedy understand that this is a nation at war," said Holt. "Kerry and Kennedy act as if the war on terror is more akin to crime-fighting, and that's just fundamentally out of touch with the reality we face."

Kennedy, who spoke at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said Bush, desperate to claim a win on Medicare, pushed a law that is a "raw" deal for seniors and a "sweetheart" deal for drug and insurance companies.

"This administration misled Congress, misled the public and misled even members of their own party about the cost of the Medicare bill," said Kennedy. "Why? Because they knew the bill would never pass if the real cost was known, and they believed victory was more important than honesty."

Congress narrowly passed the Medicare drug law last fall after much debate about its cost. Weeks later, administration officials acknowledged that the measure could cost $534 billion over 10 years - far higher than the $400 billion they had said.

Last month, the chief Medicare actuary said he told White House officials of an even higher estimate last summer.

Republicans argue that Congress relies on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and that Democrats are trying to make it a political issue.

Kennedy also blasted the president for not providing resources to help pay for teacher training and school improvements.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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