Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) today accused President Bush of playing fast and loose with the facts, creating “the largest credibility gap since President Nixon.”
Speaking at the Brookings Institution, Kennedy charged that Bush had misled the American public on Iraq, the economy, Medicare, and education.
“On issue after issue, they tell the American people one thing and do another,” Kennedy said. “They repeatedly event facts to support their perceived agenda.”
“In this Administration,” the Senator said, “truth is the first casualty of policy.”
Kennedy claimed we went “to war in Iraq on false pretenses” because the Administration knew it could not gain the consent of Congress if the facts were known. “We have made America more hated in the world, and the war on terrorism more difficult to win.”
“Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam,” Kennedy declared.
Kennedy said the Administration’s “only economic policy is more and more tax cuts for the wealthy. What he doesn’t mention is larger and larger deficits.”
He also ridiculed Bush’s promise in February 2001 that his tax cuts would create jobs.
Instead of creating 800,000 jobs by the end of 2002, Kennedy said, “We lost 1.9 million jobs instead. His economic report promised 3 million jobs in 2003. Wrong again—300,000 jobs lost.”
Kennedy downplayed Friday’s report showing the creation of 300,000 new jobs last month, saying that the news didn’t paint a complete picture of the United States economic condition. “The unemployment rate actually went up—not down—last month,” Kennedy said, adding that the new jobs “pay an average of $8,000 less than the jobs lost in the Bush economy.”
Kennedy sharply rebuked the recent Medicare bill, calling it “a triumph of right-wing ideology masking as moderate reform” and “a poster child for how not to write a law.”
“Even a sausage maker would be offended by how this law was made,” Kennedy said, criticizing the White House for underestimating the bill’s final costs, engaging in arm twisting, and spending public money to promote the bill. “It’s an anti-elderly, anti-Medicare bill that never should have passed,” he said.
Claiming that the bill would cost $400 billion only to increase the price tag seven weeks later to $534 billion amounted to a “conspiracy to hide the truth about the cost of the bill from Congress and the American people.”
“They believed victory was more important than honesty,” Kennedy charged.
Kennedy sharply criticized the Administration for not fully funding the No Child Left Behind Act, an education bill Kennedy strongly supported in January 2002. At the time, the partnership between Bush and Kennedy led many to believe that the two had formed a powerful friendship and political alliance.
“Democrats took the President at his word,” Kennedy said, “and we worked with him…The country has seen that promise flagrantly broken.” Kennedy said that the administration’s failure to adequately fund the education bill makes it impossible for schools to properly implement the bill’s reforms.
“Imagine if President Kennedy had said, ‘We’re going to send a man to the moon,’ and then provided the resources to get only two-thirds of the way there,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy reminded the audience that during the campaign, Bush had promised humility abroad and compassionate conservatism at home.
The reality, he insisted, has been radically different:
“George Bush has been arrogant, not humble in foreign affairs; conservative, not compassionate in domestic policy. As we now know, all the reassuring language of the 2000 election campaign was a Trojan horse cynically constructed to smuggle the extreme right into the White House.”