Laura Bush, Rice, defend Bush era
AFP - Monday, December 29
CRAWFORD, (AFP) - - US President George W. Bush's top women advisers -- wife Laura and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- fought back Sunday against critics who say his presidency was one of the worst ever.
"It's ridiculous," Rice told CBS in an interview recorded Monday. "Generations pretty soon are going to start to thank this president for what he's done. This generation will."
Both Rice and Laura Bush assailed the news media, with the top diplomat repeatedly dismissing "today's headlines" as meaningless to the task of governing and the first lady bluntly calling reporters unfair to her husband.
"Do I think the press is fair? No, absolutely not," Laura Bush told Fox News Channel in an interview also taped Monday and broadcast while the president was set to usher in 2009 on his Texas ranch near this tiny town.
Asked about critics who say her husband's presidency was a failure, Laura Bush replied: "Well, I know it's not. And so I don't really feel like I need to respond to people that view it that way.
"And I think history will judge and we'll see later," she said.
"This administration will be judged well, and I'll wait for history's judgment and not today's headlines," Rice told Fox.
The interviews came amid a months-long effort to polish President Bush's controversial legacy at a time when he remains deeply unpopular with the US public and policies like the Iraq war have tarnished the US image abroad.
Laura Bush and Rice mostly cited the same successes, including the toppling of the Islamist Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and the overhaul and expansion of US aid to Africa, notably to battle HIV/AIDS.
"His inner core and his belief in freedom -- and that means not just freedom from tyranny, but freedom from disease and freedom from illiteracy -- is what really is the basic of American values, and that's what I think he's shown the whole time he's been president," said the first lady.
"When you look at the number of countries that this president and the number of people that this president has actually liberated -- you know, I really am someone who believes that you don't want to pay too much attention to today's headlines," said Rice.
Rice drew comparisons between Bush and US president Harry Truman (1945-1953), who left office unpopular but has benefited in history's eyes from having overhauled US national security institutions in a way that was instrumental to winning the Cold War.
Any historians already criticizing Bush "aren't very good historians," said Rice. "Good historians are still writing books about George Washington. Good historians are certainly still writing books about Harry Truman."
The interviews occurred before Israel launched a punishing offensive at Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Rice defended Bush's Middle East policies, notably the talks revived in November 2007 at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland -- negotiations which failed to yield a hoped-for agreement before 2009 and have yet to resolve any of the core issues.
"We're leaving this in a lot better shape than we found it. We're leaving a negotiating forum where Palestinians and Israelis have said they have confidence that they will reach agreement," she said.
"I think this is in much better shape than we found it," said Rice.
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US President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush (left) and their daughter Jenna walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. Bush's top women advisers -- wife Laura and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- fought back Sunday against critics who say his presidency was one of the worst ever.
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