Kerry Ducks Clarke Questions

Hitting the slopes for the final time on his ski vacation, presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry (search) on Tuesday ducked a dispute over what some Democrats are calling a White House effort to discredit former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke (search).

"I don't know anything about it," said Kerry, questioned by reporters as he arrived at the ski slopes. "It's my last hours, my last hours."

In a new book, Clarke contends that the White House didn't respond to warnings of potential terrorist attacks and manipulated the nation into a war with Iraq. The White House has moved aggressively to discredit Clarke, s  During his nearly weeklong vacation at this upscale ski resort, Kerry has had little to say publicly even as the Bush campaign stepped up its criticism of Kerry on the stump and in new attack ads.

Kerry planned to return to Washington on Wednesday. Aides have said the Massachusetts senator needed a low-key vacation after emerging victorious from an intense primary campaign.

However, the pace is about to change dramatically. After returning to Washington, Kerry hits the campaign trail running on Thursday. He plans to meet with officials of the Democratic National Committee to coordinate campaign efforts, and is stumping with former rival Howard Dean. He then heads to a unity dinner featuring former Presidents Carter and Clinton before flying to key battleground states of Michigan and Missouri.