Later, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Bush rebutted Kerry's criticism that he had left too much of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to Afghan warlords, calling that "an unjustified criticism of our military commanders in the field" and "the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking, and that's what we've come to expect from Senator Kerry."
Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Kerry's running mate, speaking to supporters in Toledo, accused Bush of "grave incompetence" in Iraq and said the president's failure to secure weapons in Iraq could be catastrophic. "About one pound of this stuff was what it took to bring to down Pam Am Flight 103," he told a union crowd of close to 3,000. "These explosives could be used to take down more buildings and airplanes, to harm our troops and to detonate a nuclear weapon."
Edwards also went after national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for speaking in the battleground state of Florida on Monday instead of "figuring out what went wrong and . . . how we're going to find this material."
Vice President Cheney, in Minnesota, told voters that a "breaking point in American history" has been reached, in which leaders must set a course for U.S. security for the next three to four decades.
Even Clinton joined the debate over terrorism and fear. Making his first public appearance since having heart-bypass surgery, a thinner and more laconic Clinton implored the crowd here to choose hope over the fear he said Bush and Cheney are pushing. "The other side, they're trying to scare the undecided voters about Senator Kerry," he said. "And they're trying to scare the decided voters away from the polls."
Kerry, who stumped in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, rural Michigan and Green Bay, Wis., on Monday, was not as polished as Clinton, but he was more pointed. The senator from Massachusetts said in Philadelphia that Bush "failed the test of commander in chief" by not having a better plan for a postwar Iraq and by not averting mounting casualties and chaos there.
He went on to slam the president as a one-trick politician who is trying to scare Americans.
Bartlett said Kerry's attacks, especially over Iraq, are not hurting the president's standing with voters. "Regardless of how Senator Kerry tried to attack President Bush, the public has confidence in President Bush's approach to it. If he wants to debate Iraq and the war on terror every day up to the election, we're more than happy to do so," he said.
Allen is traveling with Bush. Staff writers Lindsey Layton, with Cheney, and John Wagner, with Edwards, contributed to this report.