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Bush defends Iraq policy amid bipartisan criticism
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President George W. Bush waves as he departs from the South Lawn of White House 20 September 2004 in Washington, DC. Bush is enroute to New York to attend the 59th United Nation's General Assembly. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Washington, DC — (AP) -President Bush, buffeted by criticism from Democratic Sen. John Kerry and even some in his own party on Iraq, is urging U.S. voters to stick with him on the war in the face of surging violence. Kerry assailed Bush's policy on Monday, saying the steps the commander in chief took "were colossal failures of judgment." The Democrat said Bush has not been honest about the rationale for war or its costs.

Within his party, Bush is facing a fresh wave of criticism, including an influential senator who said Sunday that the administration's "incompetence" was to blame for the country's slow recovery from war.

In a speech in New Hampshire on Monday afternoon, Bush was countering by saying the nation needs "consistency" in its leadership - not a change in the middle of the war, and not a series of contradictions, said campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel.

"Our troops deserve better than to hear Kerry's campaign pushing pessimism and lack of faith in the mission," Stanzel said.

As evidence of the pessimism, Stanzel pointed to remarks last week by Retired Adm. William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an adviser to Kerry. Crowe said Friday the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and the United States must reconsider its military efforts.

"That is the No. 1 lesson of Vietnam. We must decide if we're paying a larger price at home than justifies the gains made in Iraq," Crowe said.

Separately, it was reported last week that the National Intelligence Council presented Bush this summer with three pessimistic scenarios regarding the security situation in Iraq, including the possibility of a civil war there before the end of 2005.

Six weeks before the election, Bush was also the subject of unusually harsh criticism from members of his own party, some of whom also invoked Vietnam.

"The fact is, a crisp, sharp analysis of our policies is required. We didn't do that in Vietnam, and we saw 11 years of casualties mount to the point where we finally lost," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran who is co-chairman of Bush's re-election committee in Nebraska. He spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, noted that Congress appropriated $18.4 billion a year ago this week for reconstruction. No more than $1 billion has been spent.

"This is the incompetence in the administration," Lugar, R-Ind., said on ABC's "This Week."

Lugar added that the United States needs to train more Iraqi police officers and better coordinate military bombings with Iraqi forces "so that we do not alienate further the Iraqi people by intrusions that are very difficult and are costly in terms of lives."

Sen. John McCain, another Vietnam War veteran, was asked on "Fox News Sunday" about Bush's often rosy pronouncements about progress in Iraq.

McCain, R-Ariz., said Bush was not being "as straight as we would want him to be" about the situation.

An adviser to McCain, John Weaver, sought to soften McCain's remark, saying it should not be considered a broad critique of the war. Weaver said McCain simply "has some concerns about the day-to-day tactics."

New England was hostile territory to Bush in 2000, with every state voting against him except New Hampshire, and as president, he's never visited Vermont or Rhode Island. But he moves Monday to build momentum in New Hampshire, where a new poll shows him with a solid lead over Kerry, a New Englander.

Bush was wedging in a day of re-election campaigning in New Hampshire and New York on Monday before sitting down for two days of heavy diplomacy at the annual U.N. meeting in Manhattan.

Bush attends two fund-raisers for the Republican National Committee in New York City on Monday night.

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