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St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) The war of words over which presidential candidate is a better ally of troops and veterans made its way to the state Capitol grounds Wednesday as former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland led a "Veterans for Kerry" rally hours ahead of President Bush's campaign stop here. Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, accused Bush of waging a misguided war in Iraq and cutting veteran health benefits. The co-chairman of Democratic nominee John Kerry's campaign addressed a crowd of more than 100 before stopping by the Vietnam War memorial for a few minutes of quiet reflection.
He said Bush has alienated friends of the United States and Kerry would immediately seek to repair the country's standing in the international community.
"You cannot create more enemies than friends in the world and call this country safe," he said. "You can be the biggest and strongest kid on the block but you still need friends."
Marine veteran Andrew Borene, an Edina resident who served in Iraq last year, said the Bush administration has "dramatically failed" troops in the region.
"It's time to start fighting smarter, not harder," Borene said.
The Minnesota Republican Party rebutted Cleland's claims that veterans benefits have suffered under Bush. It distributed a letter signed by 24 Medal of Honor recipients, who said Kerry's campaign isn't being honest with veterans.
They said Bush's proposed Department of Veterans Affairs budget for next year is $68 billion, up from $48 billion when he took office. They also said more veterans are accessing health services and prescription drugs than four years ago.