IMAGE: Laura Bush in Afghanistan
Pablo Martinez Monsivais  /  AP
First lady Laura Bush, center, and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, right, walk together for their news conference at the Presidential Palace, Sunday in Kabul, Afghanistan.
updated 6/9/2008 10:16:36 AM ET 2008-06-09T14:16:36

First lady Laura Bush said Monday she admired the "grit and strength" Hillary Rodham 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's been harshly criticized by Republicans for saying last February in a Wisconsin campaign appearance that for the first time in her adult life she's proud of the United States.

"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." In fact, Michelle Obama later clarified the remark, saying she had always been proud of her country.

Mrs. Bush flew to Slovenia on Sunday after making an unannounced trip to Afghanistan — her third as first lady — to rally international aid for the war-weary Afghans. President Bush left Washington on Monday for Slovenia for his final U.S.-European Union Summit. He and Laura are also traveling to Germany, Italy, France, England and Northern Ireland.

In her interview, Mrs. Bush said she's been paying close attention to the 2008 election.

"Of course I want the woman to be a Republican woman," Mrs. Bush said. "But I will say, I have watched the campaign and I admired Hillary's grit and strength. 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."

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