The White House declined Wednesday to echo Vice President Dick Cheney's (search) warning that the United States risks another terrorist attack if voters make "the wrong choice" on Election Day.
The assertion by Cheney, which Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) derided as "scare tactics" aimed at bolstering the Republican ticket, was not repeated by White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search) during a meeting with reporters aboard Air Force One as the president flew to Florida.
"There are differences in how the two candidates approach the war on terror," McClellan said. "That's what the vice president was talking about in his remarks."
During a campaign appearance Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa, Cheney suggested Kerry would follow a pre-Sept. 11 policy of reacting defensively if an attack were to occur during a Kerry administration.
"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told supporters at a town-hall meeting.
Democrats reacted quickly.
"Dick Cheney's scare tactics crossed the line today, showing once again that he and George Bush will do anything and say anything to save their jobs," said a statement issued by vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
"Protecting America from vicious terrorists is not a Democratic or Republican issue and Dick Cheney and George Bush should know that. John Kerry and I will keep America safe, and we will not divide the American people to do it," Edwards said.
If Kerry were elected president, Cheney said the nation would risk falling back into a "pre-9/11 mind-set" that terrorist attacks are criminal acts that require a reactive approach. Instead, he said Bush's offensive approach works to root out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressure countries that harbor terrorists.
Cheney pointed to Afghanistan as a success story in pursuing terrorists although the Sept. 11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, remains at large. In Iraq, the vice president said, the United States has taken out a leader who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and harbored other terrorists.
"Saddam Hussein today is in jail, which is exactly where he belongs," Cheney said.