WASHINGTON – Democratic candidate John Kerry's chief surrogate, Sen. Ted Kennedy (search), accused President Bush of having the largest "credibility gap" since former President Richard Nixon.
Bush "has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people. He's the problem, not the solution. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president," Kennedy, D-Mass., told an audience at the Brookings Institution (search).
Kennedy attacked the administration on the war in Iraq, a war he has said was predicated on a fraud devised to help Republicans in the 2002 and 2004 elections and divert attention from "the administration's deceptions here at home."
Democrats plan to hammer away for the next seven months on the president's so-called "credibility gap" but a new poll indicates that voters have more doubts about Kerry comments.
A recent CBS poll shows that while 52 percent say President Bush says what he thinks, and 43 percent say he tells people what he thinks they want to hear, 29 percent think Kerry says what he believes while 54 percent think he panders to audience desires.
In the Brookings speech, Kennedy accused Bush of "happy talk" about budget deficits that he said makes Democrats appear fiscally frugal.
"The administration's only economic policy is more and more tax cuts for the wealthy. What [President Bush] doesn't mention is larger and larger budget deficits, the largest in our history, mind-boggling budget deficits (search) that make Democrats look like budget balancers," Kennedy said.
Focusing on an array of domestic issues that Kennedy said will add to the deficit, the senior senator from Massachusetts blasted the administration for misleading the public by cutting unemployment benefits and failing to pay for the No Child Left Behind (search) education overhaul.
On the Medicare prescription drug benefit that Bush recently signed into law, Kennedy said the White House deliberately concealed over $134 billion in costs above and beyond the $400 billion the president initially said it would cost.
"This administration misled Congress, misled the public and misled even members of their own party about the cost of the Medicare (search) bill," Kennedy said.
Kennedy has been taking on Bush as one of the most fervent supporters of Kerry, who is seeking to run to the political right of Bush on managing the budget. Kerry has scheduled a week of attacks on the president's budget proposals.
But the president's supporters said Kerry's notion of going on the record as a fiscally-prudent negotiator is a farce, especially since the junior senator was crowned the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate recently by the nonpartisan National Journal magazine.
Officials at the think tank, which prides itself on its own objective nonpartisan policy analysis, told Fox News that they were surprised by the "extent and breadth" of Kennedy's attacks on Bush's policies.
Fox News' Carl Cameron and The Associated Pres contributed to this report.