Kennedy leads Democratic onslaught on Bush

Senator Edward Kennedy and other Democrats assailed President George Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq today and declared they would oppose Condoleezza Rice’s nomination as Secretary of State as a principal architect of a failed policy.

Senator Edward Kennedy and other Democrats assailed President George Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq today and declared they would oppose Condoleezza Rice’s nomination as Secretary of State as a principal architect of a failed policy.

Kennedy keyed the Democratic attack in the Senate with charges that Rice, as Bush’s national security adviser, provided Congress with “false reasons” for going to war. Had she not, he said in a speech, “it might have changed the course of history.”

Senator Mark Dayton, following up, accused the Bush administration of lying and said he was voting against Rice’s confirmation as a way of trying to stop mistruths.

And Senator Carl Levin charged she concealed the Central Intelligence Agency’s scepticism that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium for a nuclear weapons program from Africa.

Rice claimed there was a “consensus” within the administration on on Iraq’s activity when the Department of Energy and the State Department had reservations. “She exaggerated and distorted the facts,” Levin said.

Still, Rice’s confirmation as Colin Powell’s replacement appeared not to be in doubt.

Republicans rallied behind Rice – and Bush – with briefer speeches. Nine hours have been set aside for the debate, divided equally between the two parties.

“We are talking about the safety and security of this country, so I very much and very quickly want to move with Secretary Rice,” Senate Republican leader Bill Frist said.

Frist said he was disappointed by the delay and was confident the Senate would confirm her on Wednesday.

The White House had been confident that Rice would be approved last week, and State Department officials were alerted to show up Friday to greet her with smiles and applause.

But Democratic critics insisted on an opportunity to air their views on the Senate floor.

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