CARROLL, Ohio -- Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday raised the possibility of terrorists bombing US cities with nuclear weapons and questioned whether Senator John F. Kerry could combat such an ''ultimate threat . . . you've got to get your mind around."
''The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us -- biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind to be able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans," Cheney said.
''That's the ultimate threat. For us to have a strategy that's capable of defeating that threat, you've got to get your mind around that concept," he said.
Cheney, speaking to an invitation-only crowd as he began a bus tour through Republican strongholds in Ohio, said Kerry is trying to persuade voters he would be the same type of ''tough, aggressive" leader as President Bush in the fight against terrorism.
''I don't believe it," Cheney said. ''I don't think there's any evidence to support the proposition that he would, in fact, do it."
The Democrats called Cheney's comments ironic.
''He has the audacity to question whether a decorated combat veteran who has bled on the battlefield is tough and aggressive enough to keep America safe," said Mark Kitchens, Kerry campaign national security spokesman. ''He wants to scare Americans about a possible nuclear 9/11 while the Bush administration has been on the sidelines while the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran -- the word's leading sponsor of terrorism -- have increased."
The Kerry campaign has contended its Republican opponents are trying to frighten people with warnings of likely terrorist attacks in the United States and by suggesting America's enemies want Bush to be defeated.
In Des Moines, on Sept. 7, Cheney told supporters: ''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, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we're not really at war."