updated 9/27/2004 5:50:01 PM ET 2004-09-27T21:50:01

An arrogant rush to war in Iraq has made the United States more vulnerable to nuclear attack while the Bush administration has misled the public with “happy talk” about prospects for peace, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Monday.

As Bush campaign ads hit the air criticizing the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, as a flip-flopper, Kennedy tried to paint the president as a reckless, stubborn leader whose Iraq war policies have only fueled the insurgency.

“The president’s handling of the war has been a toxic mix of ignorance, arrogance and stubborn ideology,” Kennedy, Kerry’s colleague from Massachusetts, said in a speech to students at George Washington University. “The president’s arrogance toward the world community has left our soldiers increasingly isolated and alone.”

Meanwhile, he said, the administration continues to insist that the country is safer now because of the war. But Americans “deserve to hear more from our president than happy talk like that,” Kennedy said. “The war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely.”

‘Distorting and misrepresenting’
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, answered back, criticizing Kennedy’s nuclear comments.

“Fighting the war on terror globally and fiercely and treating state sponsors of terror the same as the terrorists themselves is the only way to succeed and to prevent fighting terrorists on our own shores,” Cornyn said.

Separately, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Kennedy said that rather than describe their own policies, the Republicans had “spent all their resources in distorting and misrepresenting” Kerry’s views.

“It’s a campaign of anger and insult,” Kennedy said. “And the most egregious examples are the examples of Vice President Cheney. When he even goes on to suggest that the al-Qaida wants John Kerry to win, that is the most outrageous charge. It’s the most anti-American — it’s McCarthyism of the first order.”

Kennedy has been criticizing the Bush administration in daily speeches in the Senate, serving as one of the most aggressive boosters of Kerry’s presidential campaign.

In his speech Monday, Kennedy said the war in Iraq had created a new breeding ground for terrorists, distracted from efforts to eliminate al-Qaida, alienated America’s allies and allowed North Korea and Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.

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