WASHINGTON (AP)-Hinting that she will seek the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential election, First Lady Laura Bush has sharply criticized her husband George for the Iraq War and his handling of Hurricane Katrina, and voiced alarm at the swelling US budget deficit.
Breaking with tradition under which First Ladies are usually mute about political matters, Laura said the Bush Administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction or any links to terrorism."
Her criticism is seen by many as a sign of the decreasing support for the Bush Administration and his growing weakness at home and abroad. Her outspokenness also parallels the career and political ambitions of former First Lady Hillary Clinton.
The US war in Iraq "has undermined the international support that the US formally had" Laura said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" program.
On Hurricane Katrina, Laura faulted George's failure to evacuate New Orleans ahead of the storm's strike on August 29.
People with cars were able to heed the evacuation order, but many of those who were poor, disabled or elderly were left behind.
"If George had really wanted to do it right, he would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out," said Laura.
She agreed that direct responsibility for this lay with the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but ultimate responsibility lay with her husband, who had appointed the clown.
FEMA boss Michael Brown, a former jockey and horse trader, quit in response to criticism of his handling of the Katrina disaster. He was viewed as a political appointee with no experience with disaster management.
"When James Lee Witt ran FEMA, because he had been both a local official and a federal official, he was always there early, and I greatly respected that," Laura said, referring to FEMA's head during Bill Clinton's 1993-2001 presidency.
On the US budget, Laura warned that the federal deficit is out of control, driven by foreign wars, the post-hurricane recovery program and tax cuts that benefit just the richest one percent of the US population and corporations.
"What Americans need to understand is that every single day of the year our government goes into the market and borrows billions of dollars from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts," she said. "We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a military conflict by borrowing money from somewhere else."
Laura added, "We now depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea to loan us money every day of the year to cover tax cuts, investment bubbles in the stock market and housing, as well as these conflicts and Katrina. Now my husband is even threatening to use nuclear weapons against other countries to make sure they continue to use the US dollar, fearing that if they shift to the Euro our dollar will plunge in value. I just don't think George is making any sense at all. In fact, he never has."