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Former Bush Strategist Splits With President

One of President Bush's longtime political advisors has now become one of the administration's biggest critics. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Matthew Dowd is taking on the White House in a very public way.

Matthew Dowd took his complaints to the New York Times.

In a story that appears on the front page of Sunday's edition, he describes the president as isolated, and details a loss of faith in George Bush and his policies.

Dowd is considered one of the chief strategists behind the president's 2004 re-election victory over Democrat John Kerry. But he told the Times he now thinks the Massachusetts senator was right in calling for a withdrawal from Iraq.

The White House response to his comment was relatively low key. During an appearance on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Dan Barlett, one of the president's top advisors, described Dowd as an old friend. Bartlett said Dowd is on - what he called - "a long personal journey" and is seeking answers at a trying time in his life when his soldier-son is headed to war.

"He himself has acknowledged that he is going through a lot of personal turmoil, but also he has a son who is soon to be deployed to Iraq," said Dan Barlett. "That can only impact a parent's mind as they think through these issues."

Bartlett said in a way, Dowd is personifying the national debate about Iraq.

"... and it brings out emotions in people from both sides of the aisle [Republicans and Democrats], even those who work closely for the president," he said.

He said he disagreed with Dowd's assertion that the president is isolated, and does not understand the difficulties of the war.

"I have spent most of the last 14 years working beside this president," said Bartlett. "I know everyday he wakes up and there is nothing that weighs more heavily on his mind than this conflict and the people he is sending into it and risking their lives."

Dowd also has a long history with the president that goes back to his days as the Republican governor of Texas. He told the New York Times he joined the Bush staff because of the governor's ability to work with Democrats in the state legislature.

But Dowd told the New York Times that as president, George W. Bush has squandered the ability to unite the country after the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Congressional Democrats seized on those comments, including Delaware's Joe Biden - the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I think that is the most disappointing legacy of this administration, not Iraq or any specific item," said Joe Biden. "I think it is that sort of mindset."