First Lady: Bush a Historic Leader

First lady Laura Bush (search) said Tuesday night that her husband agonized through White House walks and somber suppers and took the United States into war against terrorism "because he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it."

"I remember some very quiet nights at the dinner table. George was weighing grim scenarios and ominous intelligence about potentially even more devastating attacks," Mrs. Bush said in a prime-time speech to the Republican convention.

"And I was there when my husband had to decide," she said.

It was a rare foray into foreign policy for a political spouse whose main campaign focus has been on schools and children. More than half her speech dealt with the wars on terror and in Iraq.

President Bush (search) introduced his wife to the delegates by satellite from a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. He will address the convention in person on Thursday, when he accepts the party's nomination.

"I am a lucky man to have Laura by my side," Bush said.

The couple's 22-year-old daughters, Jenna and Barbara (search), were the first family members at the podium Tuesday, part of their new prominence in their father's campaign.

"They taught us the importance of a good sense of humor, of being open-minded and treating everyone with respect," Barbara Bush said of her parents.

At the start of her speech, the first lady waved to her in-laws in a special box with the presidential seal. In response, former first lady Barbara Bush stood with a "We love Laura" sign, a red heart for "love."

Laura Bush compared her husband to great wartime presidents.

"No American president ever wants to go to war. Abraham Lincoln didn't want to go to war, but he knew saving the union required it. Franklin Roosevelt didn't want to go to war, but he knew defeating tyranny demanded it. And my husband didn't want to go to war, but he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it."

She had listened and watched as Bush met and talked with foreign leaders, about the "threat from Saddam Hussein," Mrs. Bush said.

"Our parents' generation confronted tyranny and liberated millions," she said.

"Many of my generation remember growing up at the height of the Cold War, hiding under desks during civil defense drills in case the communists attacked us," she said.

Parents should tell their children that "police and firemen, and military and intelligence workers are doing everything possible to keep them safe," and there is no need to hide under desks anymore, she said.

"Because of President Bush's leadership and the bravery of our men and women in uniform, I believe our children will grow up in a world where today's terror threats have also become a thing of the past," she said.

Four years ago, at the GOP convention in Philadelphia, Mrs. Bush delivered a warm testimonial to her husband, telling delegates her husband's values wouldn't waver "with the winds of polls or politics." Four years earlier, Elizabeth Dole, wife of GOP nominee Bob Dole, spoke of her husband's humility and honesty, describing unpublicized occasions when he had done things for the less fortunate.

In 1992, after the first Persian Gulf War, then-first lady Barbara Bush used her convention speech to talk about den mothering, carpooling, Little Leaguing. The focus was anything but waging war.

This time, this Mrs. Bush said her goal was to "answer the question that I believe many people would ask me if we sat down for a cup of coffee or ran into each other at the store: You know him better than anyone -- you've seen things no one else has seen -- why do you think we should re-elect your husband as president?"

Her answer: Bush's vision for a safer world.

"We are living in the midst of the most historic struggle my generation has ever known. The stakes are so high."

Polls show Mrs. Bush is popular -- more popular than her husband -- and she has been a more frequent campaigner than usual this year, in what she often calls their last campaign.