Outspoken Mrs. Bush In Jordan

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First lady Laura Bush arrived in Jordan late Friday to start a Mideast swing she hopes will help repair America's image in the Arab world.

Her jet touched down at the airport near Amman in late afternoon, and she went straight to her hotel in the Jordanian capital. Soldiers in camouflage dotted her motorcade route, and the hotel complex was guarded by armed Humvees.

In the morning, Mrs. Bush speaks to the World Economic Forum, meets with King Abdullah and Queen Rania, has a session with Jordanian youngsters and tours Mount Nebo.

Speaking to reporters on her plane, an unusually candid first lady said incidents like the retracted Newsweek report on desecration of the Quran and the documented prisoner abuse in Iraq are "terrible happenings" that have "really hurt" America's image.

But, in a departure from the White House line, she said Newsweek should not be held solely responsible for the violent protest that followed its story. In America, she said, if there's a terrible report, people don't riot and kill.

She also said her husband should have been interrupted during a bicycle ride last week to be told that the White House and Capitol were under an emergency evacuation.

Her remarks showed anew Mrs. Bush's willingness to step out more boldly in her husband's second term. Usually deferential to her husband and rarely controversial, she has veered off the White House message only rarely in the past.

But there was no mistaking that her views were at odds with White House officials as she chatted with reporters on her plane as she flew across the Atlantic.

The White House has defended the decision not to stop President Bush on a bike ride last week to tell him of an emergency evacuation that sent thousands of people running from the Capitol and the White House. The scare was triggered by a small plane flying into restricted airspace over Washington. Mr. Bush was not informed until he finished his ride in suburban Maryland, about 50 minutes after the evacuation began.

"I think he should have been interrupted," Mrs. Bush declared, hastening to add, "but I'm not going to second-guess the Secret Service that were with him."
  • Francie Grace

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