WASHINGTON – First lady Laura Bush, an increasingly prominent voice on matters at home and abroad, says the difference lately is not her policy role in the White House but rather the attention she gets for it.
"The fact is, I've been involved for a long time in policy, and I think I just didn't get a lot of coverage on it," she said in a rare Sunday talk show appearance.
"I mean, I really do think there's a stereotype. And I was stereotyped as being a certain way because I was a librarian and a teacher and, you know, had the careers that traditional women have," she said.
She returned last week from the Middle East, where she promoted breast cancer awareness in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan.
The first lady has been vocal about the plight of the people in Myanmar, also called Burma, where a military dictatorship has repressed basic freedoms. She also has traveled to promote the prevention of Malaria and AIDS in Africa and, in the United States, has been a point person for the president on education.
Laura Bush said she was always free to speak out about her interests during her husband's first term, but has expanded her public profile in the second one.
"It took me a while to realize what a platform I had, and that I could be the one to go the Middle East and talk about breast cancer and literally bring up a topic that was a taboo topic to talk about, very much the way it was in the United States 25 or 30 years ago," she said in an interview on "FOX News Sunday."
On domestic matters, she said:
— Democratic lawmakers are out to make the president look bad on children's health care, rather than try to reach a genuine compromise with him. The White House and the Democratic-run Congress are at odds over how to expand an insurance program to cover millions more children from needy families.
"It's just a perfect issue to demagogue. And instead of really trying to work on something that both sides could come together on, I think — I think that's the easy way out," she said, referring to the Democrats.
— Gender "doesn't matter" to her when it comes to the presidential candidacy of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.
"And I hope it doesn't matter to other people," the first lady said. "I hope that people will choose the candidate that they think really has the views that they want, you know, that they believe in, and that represent them in the way that they want to be represented."
Clinton, a former first lady herself, would be the first female president. Laura Bush said she looks forward to voting for a Republican woman for president one day, but as for the eventual 2008 nominees, "I'll be supporting the Republican."