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He was not AWOL: Laura Bush

February 19, 2004 16:47 IST

First Lady Laura Bush is firmly standing by her husband.

She says she is sure President George W Bush fulfilled his service in the Air National Guard decades ago.

"And the records had been shown. He wouldn't have gotten an honourable discharge if he hadn't pulled his duty," she told ABCNEWS.

It is the first time that she has spoken on the controversy.

Bush criticised Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who has levelled the charge that her husband was AWOL [Absent Without Leave, a very serious charge in the US defence establishment].

"I don't think it's fair to really lie about allegations about someone like the Democratic national chairman did," she told ABCNEWS.

"Well, he made it up, I guess I should say."

She also was not very concerned about her husband's declining popularity.

"I think part of the reason he has is because the Democrats have just spent over $100 million campaigning," she said. "And their main campaign issues have been to beat George Bush. That's all they really talked about."

The Bush campaign sees the first lady as a major asset, and officials say they plan to use her to woo independent voters in key swing states -- like Arkansas.

Her style is low key, and, as a former schoolteacher, she usually emphasizes non-controversial education issues.  "We want teachers with diverse academic backgrounds who will commit to teaching in urban or rural public schools," she told an audience at a Los Angeles elementary school.