Backtrack Time For Kennedy?

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Some of the sharpest criticism yet of the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq came last week from a familiar adversary, Ted Kennedy. In an interview with the AP, the Massachusetts Senator called the war a "fraud" that was "made up in Texas" to give the President a political boost. Even more provocatively, Kennedy raised questions about where the money being spent on Iraq is actually going. He cited a Congressional Budget Office report showing that only $2.5 billion of the $4 billion being spent each month on the war can be accounted for, and said the rest of the money is being doled out to "political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send troops" to Iraq.

Republicans were quick to pounce; House majority leader Tom DeLay accused Democrats of venting more "hateful rhetoric at President Bush than they ever did at Saddam Hussein." In fact, Kennedy's remarks may have been a case of frustration with the war overtaking the facts. While the CBO report does say it cannot account for how all the money being funneled into Iraq is being spent, it contains no reference to any unaccountable $1.5 billion. Nor is there any evidence that the funds are being used to lure foreign troops to Iraq. Asked on CNN whether he had proof to back up his $1.5 billion allegation, Kennedy hedged on the specifics and resorted to the broad brush. The U.S., he said, will soon announce loans of $8.5 billion to Turkey — which, he said, amounts to a "bribe" (though such financial aid is a traditional way of rewarding allies). Kennedy's aides insist his broad point is valid: that Bush's policy has compelled the U.S. to buy support from other countries, and Congress still has no clear picture of how money is being spent in Iraq.