BUDAPEST, Hungary – First lady Laura Bush said Friday that victims of Sept. 11 are being "preyed upon" by those who question whether President Bush was negligent to terrorist intelligence last summer.
She also gently reminded Democrats that the war is still on and they should be working with her husband, not criticizing him.
"I know my husband. And all Americans know how he has acted in Afghanistan and in the war with terror. I think really, we need to put this in perspective and I think it's sad to prey upon the emotions of people as if there were something we could have done to stop" the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, Mrs. Bush said in an interview.
The first lady called her husband for the first time Thursday since leaving on her 10-day solo European tour. Her call coincided with the White House's disclosure that the president was briefed about a possible hijacking plot in early August while he and Mrs. Bush vacationed at their Texas ranch.
Mrs. Bush said she and her husband did not discuss then the general threat he'd learned about, or talk Thursday about the questions swirling now.
Instead, she mimicked how the phone call went: "Hey. How are ya? How's Barney?"
To the White House journalists traveling with her, the first lady spoke with a simmering insistence and quick cadence that betrayed how closely she's been tracking the controversy back home.
After one act of Madame Butterfly at the Magyar Allami opera house and dinner at a Budapest restaurant Thursday night, she said she retired to the U.S. ambassador's residence here to watch national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised briefing from the White House.
Democrats in Congress, and a few Republicans, have demanded an investigation into what Bush knew and why he did not appear to act on it. Some relatives of Sept. 11 victims were distraught and outraged to discover that Bush was told in August about potential hijackings but failed to warn the public.
Asked about the families' feelings, Mrs. Bush said:
"I think it is very sad that people would play upon the victims' families emotions, on all Americans' emotions. I feel very, very certain that anyone — Republican or Democrat — if they had had any sort of specific information, would have done something about it."
She was vague about exactly who she saw as predators. Asked if partisan politics was at work, Mrs. Bush replied, "I hope that both sides, both parties can work together. We're still in a war on terror. It's still very important that both Democrats and Republicans work together because of other threats to our country and because of this war."