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Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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First lady focuses on bright side of disaster

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Laura Bush is reprising her role as her husband's first defender, as President Bush's approval ratings sink to new lows.

Mrs. Bush is highlighting the positive that has come out of the storm, telling stories of strangers helping one another in a time of tragedy.

Mrs. Bush said yesterday that much more human good than bad has come from the disaster, despite what people see on television. She said the evacuees she met in her three trips to the Gulf Coast are hopeful and thankful they don't have to start from rock bottom because of donations and the kindness of strangers. "That's what I've seen at each of the shelters I've visited," she said. "I've never heard a single word of complaint."

The first lady, with approval ratings much higher than her husband's, is focusing on stories of compassion while the president is under a barrage of criticism about the government's slow response to the disaster.

Some have suggested that he would have acted faster if so many of the victims weren't mostly poor and black, remarks that Mrs. Bush condemned as "disgusting."

She also blamed the media for focusing on the negative in the recovery efforts.

"We've seen terrible, terrible things and we've seen unbelievably unselfish acts of giving as well by communities all across the United States ... ," she said in a speech yesterday to the conservative Heritage Foundation. "Maybe the media hasn't shown us that much, but we've read about it and we do know about it."

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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