'04 Campaign: When Credibility Becomes An Issue

As the 2004 campaign kicks up, the Administration finds its word questioned on several fronts. TIME looks at Bush's predicament--and his counterattack

Five years ago, when a President was fighting for his political life, his defenders struggled to keep his sins in perspective. All he did was lie about sex, they said of Bill Clinton's breach of trust--it's not as if he had been fooling around with matters of war and peace. Imagine how ugly a debate like that could become over the issues that matter most, matters of life and death.

For a President, trust is the one asset that, once lost, he can't buy back. This may be especially true for George W. Bush, whose appeal has always been personal...

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