updated 4/5/2004 9:50:53 PM ET 2004-04-06T01:50:53

Iraq has become “George Bush’s Vietnam,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Monday, calling the president deceitful and for the first time comparing him to former President Nixon, who resigned in disgrace.

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Saying that truth has become the biggest casualty of the Bush administration, Kennedy said Bush misled the public about the war, the economy, health care and education, eroding the nation’s reputation at home and abroad.

'Credibility gap'
“As a result, this president has now created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon,” Kennedy said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a think tank. “He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people.”

Terry Holt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, called Kennedy a “hatchet man” for John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator who is the 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 said the Bush administration has cut unemployment benefits, failed to pay for education overhaul and is spending $134 billion more than expected on a Medicare plan.

Kennedy is a strong Kerry supporter. And his criticism of the administration’s domestic agenda comes after several high-profile speeches in which Kennedy called the war in Iraq a fraud and said the plan to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was devised to help Republicans in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

'A new president'
Bush “is the problem, not the solution. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam, and this country needs a new president,” Kennedy said.

He said the military campaign also diverted attention from “the administration’s deceptions here at home.”

An administration pattern of deception and efforts to dismiss any critics, he said, have polarized and paralyzed Congress and are undermining the public’s trust in government.

“Saying whatever it takes to prevail has become standard operating procedure in the Bush White House,” said Kennedy. “In this administration, truth is the first casualty of policy.”

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