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Bush calls Kennedy's Iraq criticism `uncivil'

LOS ANGELES -- Escalating an increasingly bitter rhetorical feud over Iraq, President Bush fired back at Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts yesterday, saying it was "uncivil" for the Democrat to accuse the administration of bribing foreign nations to take part in the postwar effort. Bush said the senator "should not" have made the remark.

Kennedy criticized the White House last week for using what he described as concocted evidence against Iraq and said the case for war was a "fraud."

In a separate appearance, Kennedy also described an $8.5 billion loan guarantee to Turkey as an administration attempt to bribe the country into offering military assistance in Iraq. The remarks sparked a partisan battle over the appropriateness of criticizing the president, with House majority leader Tom DeLay accusing Kennedy of reaching a "new low."

Bush, who had originally declined to respond to the attack, used an interview with Fox News anchorman Brit Hume yesterday to take Kennedy to task.

"I mean, Senator Kennedy, who I respect, and with whom I have worked, should not have said we were trying to bribe foreign nations," Bush said, according to a partial transcript made available last night by the network. "I mean, my regret is -- I don't mind people trying to pick apart my policies, and that's fine and that's fair game. But, you know, I don't think we're serving our nation well by allowing the discourse to become so uncivil that people say -- use words that they shouldn't be using."

Democrats have been infuriated by similar comments in the past, saying that Republicans are trying to cast them as unpatriotic because of their questions about Bush's foreign policy.

Last night, Kennedy responded in a statement, saying, "For the sake of our troops, it is time for this administration to speak honestly about its failures in Iraq. Many Americans share my views, and I regret that the president considers them uncivil."

Jim Jordan, the campaign manager for Senator John F. Kerry, who voted in favor of authorizing military action in Iraq, said it is "always amusing to see anybody from the Bush administration accusing Democrats of uncivility."

In the interview, scheduled to air this evening, Bush also previewed his address to the United Nations tomorrow. "My message is, is that although some of you didn't agree with the actions we took, now let's work together to rebuild Iraq, rebuild Afghanistan, fight AIDS and hunger, deal with slavery, like sex slavery, and deal with proliferation," he said. "Let's work together on big issues."

Asked whether he would grant the United Nations greater authority in Iraq in order to achieve a UN resolution, Bush replied: "I'm not so sure we have to, for starters. But secondly, I do think it would be helpful to get the United Nations in to help write a constitution. I mean, they're good at that. Or, perhaps when an election starts, they'll oversee the election. That would be deemed a larger role."

Bush continued: "I also -- you know when I think UN, I mean, I also think of member states within the UN. And, of course, we would like a larger role for member states of the United Nations to participate in Iraq. I mean, after all, we've got member states now, Great Britain and Poland, leading multinational divisions to help make the country more secure."

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