Laura Bush defends husband’s policies


KENNEBUNKPORT -George W. Bush campaigned for the presidency with a promise of compassion, a decidedly domestic agenda pledging to reform public schools, offer illegal immigrants a chance at a permanent home, enlist churches in the delivery of social services and cut taxes for Americans.

During his two terms as president, Bush has carried that voice of compassion to another continent, pledging more than any of his predecessors for aid to impoverished and disease-stricken regions of Africa.

Yet much of his compassion agenda has been obscured by a war that has consumed his presidency. All the president’s hopes for a lasting domestic legacy essentially ended on Sept. 11, 2001. Even now, as he struggles to save an apparently doomed immigration bill, the biggest domestic accomplishments of his administration are traceable largely to his first year in office.

First Lady Laura Bush, just back from her third trip to Africa and suggesting that her husband is likely to make another trip there next year, maintained in an interview with the Chicago Tribune aboard her flight home Friday night that neither she nor her husband has any regrets about “the hand we were dealt” on Sept. 11.

“It’s a philosophy of no regrets,” Mrs. Bush said. “In one sense, (it) is that whatever happens happens, and you have to keep moving on and do the best you can with whatever it is. But it’s also a philosophy of moving forward . . . a realistic view of life.”

The first lady was asked whether she and her husband ever wonder what his presidency would have been like had terrorists not struck.

“Neither George or I are the kind to look back and think, “Oh, what if? Why did this happen when I was president?”‘ she said. “I think it’s because he is a realist. . . . And it’s just that this is what’s happened, this is the hand we were dealt, and you just have to move on and do the very best you can with that hand.”

With a year-and-a-half remaining in his presidency, Bush is returning to a theme he voiced at the start – with his wife, the more popular face of the administration, pressing the president’s multibillion-dollar African aid initiative.

“All of it” is related, the first lady said. “A lot of this really is the president’s philosophy – all of it. . . . I get to be the one that gets to go and see it and see the progress that’s being made and each of these different programs set up in each of their countries, but this is really his philosophy.”

(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune.

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AP-NY-06-30-07 1824EDT