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First Lady: Shoe 'Assault' Shows Freedom in Iraq

Dec. 26: President and First Lady Bush head to their home in Crawford, Texas (AP Photo).

First lady Laura Bush said she was offended by the recent "assault" on her husband, who had two shoes thrown at him during a recent visit to Iraq. At the same time, however, she said the assault shows that Iraqis feel a lot freer than they did before.

"I know that if Saddam Hussein had been there the man wouldn't have been released, and he probably would've been executed," she said of the Iraqi journalist, who was arrested following the Dec. 14 incident and has been in custody since.

Laura Bush noted that President Bush is a "natural athlete" as demonstrated by his ability to dodge the shoes.

Bush, who appeared in an interview taped for "FOX News Sunday," said she never thought she would personally have the power to spotlight her favorite issues until after Sept. 11, 2001, when she began discussing the plight of women in Afghanistan.

The first lady said she understood about her influence after her first address on women in Afghanistan, when she was walking by a cosmetics counter in a department store.

"They -- and I think this really speaks for American women in general -- had a real feeling for the women in Afghanistan. ... The idea of a government that would forbid half of their population from being educated was so shocking," the first lady said.

Bush said she worries about the return to the "days of the burqa," which at least at this point is a choice for women in Afghanistan rather than a requirement. But she said many choose the option of donning the full body covering because they are afraid of removing it.

That is a worry. And I met with a group of parliamentarians, women parliamentarians from Afghanistan last January or so. And they said they were afraid that this is their only chance. And if they can't make it now, then they just don't know if they ever would be able to," she said.

"Afghanistan and Iraq. Both have the opportunity if they can seize the moment to build real democracy, where the rights of every person in those countries is respected. It's very, very important for the people of these countries to stand up and take this opportunity to build their countries," she said.

The first lady also lamented the reporting on Hurricane Katrina, which she described as "not factual." Bush said the Coast Guard did a fantastic job pulling people off their roofs, and that a lot of people got the misimpression that 10,000 New Orleans residents died in the aftermath of the 2005 storm that flooded the city. An estimated 1,800 people died in the storm and the flood.

Mrs. Bush said that her husband's "inner core and his belief in freedom, and that means not just freedom from tyranny, but freedom from disease and freedom from illiteracy" is the untold story of her husband's presidency.

Bush said in a recent visit from incoming first lady Michelle Obama, the two discussed closet space, and the Obama girls got to decide which rooms they wanted. 

"It was really very practical. It was about building a life there, building a home there for children. And I know that's one of her first priorities, and it's certainly the first priority I think of every first lady who's moved into the White House," she said. 

Asked if she wanted to get anything off her chest, Bush said no, but then responded: "Do I think the press is fair? No, absolutely not, but you are, Chris, so thanks a lot," she told "FOX News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.