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Bush: 1995 Kerry Intelligence Bill Was ‘Deeply Irresponsible’

By Richard W. Stevenson

and Jodi Wilgoren

The New York Times -- HOUSTON

President Bush accused Sen. John Kerry on Monday of having tried to “gut” the nation’s intelligence services in 1995 when Kerry introduced legislation that would have cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion over five years.

On a day of rock-’em, sock-’em politics unusual for such an early stage of a presidential campaign, Bush said the 1995 legislation, proposed two years after the first attack on the World Trade Center, undermined his Democratic rival’s claim to have given the nation the intelligence tools it needs.

“His bill was so deeply irresponsible that he didn’t have a single co-sponsor in the United States Senate,” Bush told donors at a fund-raiser in Dallas. “Once again, Senator Kerry is trying to have it both ways. He’s for good intelligence, yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services. And that is no way to lead a nation in a time of war.”

Kerry’s campaign responded that Bush’s attacks were misleading and that Kerry had a long record of supporting increased spending on intelligence agencies.

“He voted against a proposed billion-dollar bloat in the intelligence budget, because it was essentially a slush fund for defense contractors,” Chad Clanton, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, said in a statement. “Unlike George Bush, John Kerry does not and will not support every special spending project supported by Halliburton and other defense contractor.”

Kerry, campaigning in the critical general-election battleground of Florida, continued to criticize the Bush administration’s intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“If the president of the United States can find time to go to a rodeo, he can find the time to do more than one hour in front of a commission that is investigating what happened to Americas intelligence,” Kerry said at a rally in West Palm Beach on Monday afternoon.