From Ed Henry
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In her first public comments about Bob Woodward's explosive book "State of Denial," first lady Laura Bush sharply denied claims in the book that her husband has misled the public about the level of violence in Iraq.
"Absolutely I think that is wrong," Bush said in an exclusive interview with CNN Wednesday. "Of course, the president has been frank from the very very first speech he gave to the country after the September 11 attacks, talking about this is a long war, this is a very difficult war.
"It's a different war than our country has ever faced. The enemy can make a big show on television like they did for the bloody last month we had in Iraq by blowing themselves up a lot of times along with other people. But our success is not so easy to see. But the fact is that we are succeeding."
The first lady also bristled when asked about Woodward's suggestion that she privately supported an effort by then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to push out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"Andy Card also went onto television and said that's not true," she said. "And let me just say the one thing about that book. Those 'quotes' of mine are in quotes and the author didn't call me and fact check, and it just didn't happen."
Pressed again on whether she supported the effort to remove Rumsfeld, she told an interviewer, "Are you just trying to continue to give the quotes that I said I didn't say?" Bush added that suggestions she wanted Rumsfeld to be fired are "absolutely not true."
Bush made her comments in an interview between campaign stops in Minnesota and Indiana. With her favorability rating at 68 percent in the latest CNN poll -- a full 22 points ahead of the president's rating -- the first lady has become one of the Republican Party's most potent weapons in swing states during the final two weeks of the critical midterm elections.
The first lady is treated like a rock star on the campaign trail -- with local Republicans lining up for photographs and autographs -- as she criss-crosses the country to help candidates. She will be visiting Florida this Friday, followed by stops in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania on Saturday.
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