KRANJ, Slovenia - Laura Bush said yesterday that she admired the "grit and strength" Hillary Clinton demonstrated in the Democratic Party's long, hard-fought primaries, but said she would want to see a Republican woman as president.
She also came to the defense of Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, who has been harshly criticized by Republicans for saying last February that for the first time in her adult life she's proud of the United States (she later clarified the remark).
"I think she probably meant 'I'm more proud,' you know, is what she really meant. You have to be very careful in what you say. Everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued," she said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Laura Bush said she's been paying close attention to the 2008 election. "I know what it's like to run those campaigns and so I'll have to say I have a lot of admiration for her endurance," she said of Clinton.
In the interview, Laura Bush also acknowledged President Bush's unpopularity, but said that history will vindicate her husband's two-term presidency, noting the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
"I know he may not be that popular right now, but we've liberated two countries - 50 million people have been liberated from very brutal regimes - and I think that's really important," she said.
Senator Dick Durbin said he had spoken with Obama, his fellow Illinois senator.
Jim Johnson and Eric Holder, who comprise two-thirds of the group Obama has asked to help guide his search, met separately with Senate majority leader Harry Reid as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representatives Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.
Obama's campaign announced last week that he has asked Johnson, Holder, and Caroline Kennedy to help guide the search.
None of the congressional leaders involved in the meetings have figured in speculation about a possible running mate, suggesting that the day's conversations were designed to seek advice. Durbin and Emanuel are barred from being on the ticket because the Constitution requires that the presidential and vice presidential candidates be from different states.
Johnson himself became a subject of campaign controversy during the day after a weekend report in The Wall Street Journal that he had received loans from
The $10,000-per-ticket reception and a $1,000-a-ticket luncheon raised $800,000 for McCain and the GOP.
McCain said he would meet Obama wherever and whenever, then suggested this week in New York.
McCain has proposed 10 such meetings in the coming months and campaign managers for both sides said they had agreed in spirit to schedule some type of joint appearances.
Both camps rejected an offer Sunday from Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and ABC News to host the first proposed town hall because they do not want it limited to one TV network.