If the liberal media continue to undermine President Bush by comparing him to former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who lied and took the country to war in Vietnam, Bush will lose re-election, Sen. Bob Bennett believes.

Speaking to the Deseret Morning News editorial board Thursday, Bennett said the media are framing the nearly year-old war in Iraq as deception by Bush because no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Much of the media's point of view comes straight out of America's trauma with its Vietnam experience, he said.

Journalists are making a parallel today between America's Vietnam War and the war in Iraq, Bennett said. "If journalists frame it in those terms, Bush will lose and they are framing it in those terms."

However, Bennett, Utah's junior Republican senator, said he believes Bush will win re-election and the war will be proceeding favorably by the time of the election.

The administration's decision last year to go into Iraq, he said, was, in a sense, a diversion away from success in finding and destroying al-Qaida.

"What's at stake here? I believe George Bush's decision to move ahead in Iraq will be seen as consequential as Abraham Lincoln's decision to fortify Fort Sumpter or President Truman's decision to hang onto South Korea," Bennett said.

"I'm sure Lincoln had no idea that he would set off a war that would kill more Americans than any other war in our history. If he had not fortified Fort Sumpter, the whole country might have fallen apart, " Bennett asked.

The senator said he has been studying Islam in the past few years and believes if the country's action in Iraq is handled correctly, that is, if a functioning, self-governing Iraq is left in place, the entire Middle East will be transformed.

"If we get it wrong, it will because we adopt a Vietnam solution of pulling out, which I'm afraid John Kerry will embrace," Bennett said. "If we get it wrong and tell ourselves we shouldn't be there . . . Iraq becomes a failed state. As a failed state, it becomes a haven for terrorism, like Afghanistan did."

If the bad guys win in Iraq, Bennett said, millions of people in the Middle East will lose hope and will slip into despair.

"If I'm going to fight this war, I want to do it in the streets of Baghdad with well-armed soldiers wearing flak jackets and driving armored Humvees, not in the streets of Detroit or London. These people can smell a lack of resolve a thousand miles away."

Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden has been flooding Iraq with audio tapes urging the people to fight Americans and drive them out of the country, citing America's willingness to cut and run when casualties mount or public opinion turns against a war, Bennett said.

"If John Kerry, as president, were to decide to pull out of Iraq because he couldn't justify the casualties of war, Bin Laden's next tape would say 'We did it, join with us.' " At that point, an emboldened al-Qaida and possibly other groups could hit mainland United States cities, Bennett said.

E-mail: lweist@desnews.com