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Inside Politics

Laura Bush urges nation to trust president

First lady Laura Bush provides Republican delegates an initimate picture of her husband.
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Laura Bush speaks to the convention.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Laura Bush told the Republican National Convention and the nation Tuesday night that her husband, President George Bush, can be trusted.

"You can count on him, especially in a crisis. His friends don't change -- and neither do his values," she said to applause.

The first lady was introduced by her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and then by President Bush via satellite from Pennsylvania where he had been campaigning.

Mrs. Bush's address echoed her husband's campaign of the past few weeks, including the notion that Bush is more trustworthy than Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee.

"I am so proud of the way George has led our country with strength and conviction," Mrs. Bush said.

Bush's campaign has presented Kerry as a man who waffles on important decisions. By contrast, it has portrayed the president as steadfast in his decisions.

Critics argue that Bush is unyielding to a fault. He has been described by critics as rushing his decision to wage war in Iraq despite of resistance from the United Nations and global calls for caution.

Mrs. Bush, however, presented a more dramatic version of Bush's decision-making process following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"I remember very quiet nights at the dinner table," she said. "George was weighing grim scenarios and ominous intelligence about potentially even more devastating attacks."

She described her husband talking to foreign leaders "on the phone, in our living room, or at our ranch in Crawford [Texas]."

She described an "intense weekend" at the presidential retreat Camp David when Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the potential threat from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Another time, she said, "I remember sitting in the window of the White House, watching as my husband walked on the lawn below. I knew he was wrestling with these agonizing decisions that would have such a profound consequence for so many lives and for the future of our world."

Although most of her 25-minute speech dealt with the war on terrorism, the first lady opened with a litany of domestic issues.

She mentioned education, tax relief for small businesses, health care, stem cell research and home ownership.

She called education her "passion" and called Bush's No Child Left Behind program a "sweeping education reform," which has generated controversy over its strict uniform testing standards and funding needs.

Mrs. Bush mentioned a female tow-truck company owner who credited the president's tax relief plan for allowing her "to buy the business, modernize her fleet, and expand her operations."

She lauded the president's decision to restrict federally funded research to 78 embryonic stem cell lines in existence.

"My husband is the first president to provide federal funding for stem cell research. He did so in a principled way, allowing science to explore its potential while respecting the dignity of human life," Mrs. Bush said.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan has been among those calling for the restrictions to be lifted, citing the research potential to find a cure for diseases such as Alzheimer's, which afflicted her late husband, former President Ronald Reagan.

"All of these issues are important," Mrs. Bush said, "But we are living in the most historic struggle my generation has ever known. The stakes are so high."

She assured the audience that her husband will "work to protect our country and defeat terror so that all children can grow up in a more peaceful world."

The first lady ended on a hopeful tone.

"These are also years of hope for our country and our people. We have great confidence in our ability to overcome challenges," Mrs. Bush said.

"We have gained a new appreciation for the many blessings of America, and been reminded of our responsibilities to the country that we love."

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