MANCHESTER, N.H. – Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark (search) on Sunday said President Bush's preoccupation with a missile defense program distracted him from the threat of Al Qaeda (search) before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
"One of the reasons we had 9/11 is because this president spent too much time worried about national missile defense and not enough time worried about the greatest threat to this country," Clark told supporters and undecided voters in a crowded living room two days before New Hampshire's primary.
"He was told when he came to office that Al Qaeda was the greatest threat and he didn't pay attention," Clark said.
Asked whether he would continue Bush's emphasis on missile defense, Clark said he would have to study the issue.
"I don't know if it will work and I don't know if it's worth the money. What I'll do is take an objective look at it and make a decision," he said. "I'm the best qualified person in this race to make that decision."
That statement was one of several by Clark claiming an advantage over his rivals, none of whom he mentioned by name.
Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (search), the retired general said he is the only candidate who has used diplomacy to end a war. He also said working with the leaders of 19 countries as NATO's supreme allied commander puts him in the best position to restore America's reputation worldwide.
"George Bush can't do it. No other candidate in the race knows how to do it. I've done it and that's the way we've won in the wars in the Balkans and Kosovo (search)," he said.
In the last days before Tuesday's voting, Clark has been following in the footsteps of fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton, whose second-place finish in New Hampshire in 1992 started his drive to the White House.
On Saturday, Clark campaigned in a general store where a sign commemorates Clinton's 1992 visit. The host of Sunday's house party was George Bruno, who held a similar gathering for Clinton just before that year's primary.
"We're hoping history repeats itself," said Bruno, former ambassador to Belize.
Keith Miles, of Deering, said he's seen nearly all the Democrats and is deciding between Clark, Howard Dean and John Kerry.
"I like [Clark] but I worry about his political experience and being able to get his programs passed," Miles said. "But he's immensely intelligent and I think his heart is in the right place."