Laura Bush Praises Hillary's 'Grit and Strength'

First lady has kind words for Clinton and advice for Michelle Obama.

June 9, 2008 — -- First lady Laura Bush today praised Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, saying she admired her "grit and strength," and also defended recent controversial comments made by potential first lady Michelle Obama.

"I know what its like to run those campaigns, to be the candidate and how very difficult it is both emotionally and physically. It's a huge endurance, process of endurance, and so I'll have to say I have a lot of admiration for her endurance and strength," Bush told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview from Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The first lady is joining President Bush in Slovenia for the annual European Union-United States summit, which begins today.

Mrs. Bush was in Afghanistan Saturday to visit U.S. troops and highlight progress there before a donors conference in Paris, where the United States hopes billions of dollars in international aid will be pledged to help the war-torn country. It was the first lady's third unannounced visit to Afghanistan.

Advice for Mrs. Obama

Laura Bush also defended Sen. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, for a controversial remark on the campaign trail in February.

"For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback," Michelle Obama said in a speech in Milwaukee.

"I think she probably meant I'm 'more proud,' you know, is what she really meant," Bush told ABC News. "You have to be very careful in what you say. I mean, I know that, and that's one of the things you learn and that's one of the really difficult parts both of running for president and for being the spouse of the president, and that is, everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued."

The first lady called Myanmar's refusal to allow the U.S. military to provide more relief to cyclone victims there "one of the most difficult things that has happened since my husband has been president."

Asked if the U.S. military should have gone into Myanmar without the government's permission, Bush said, "I don't know. That's the question. That is what goes over and over in my mind -- I want the people of Burma to know that the people of the United States know what their situation is … and I don't think they'll ever know."