09/08/2009 at 04:30 PM EDT
As First Ladies are often only able to do once they've left the White House, Laura Bush is expressing herself as never before – praising President Obama, admitting her disappointment at those who label him a "socialist," and singling out Michelle Obama for "doing great" in making the White House a home for the Obama family. Speaking to CNN
while in Paris to help promote global literacy, Mrs. Bush spoke on a number of topics. And while she often voiced sentiments that seemed to run contrary to those promoted by her husband's administration, she did thank former Vice President Dick Cheney for his support of some tactics implemented while George W. Bush was chief executive, particularly those concerning the interrogation of suspected terrorists.
"I think that Vice President Cheney has every right to speak out, and I appreciate that he is defending" the administration, she said.
As for Barack Obama, "I think he is [doing a good job]," said Mrs. Bush. "I think he has got a lot on his plate, and he has tackled a lot to start with, and that has probably made it more difficult."
Regarding Obama's speech to schoolchildren set for Tuesday, which caused an uproar in some quarters, Mrs. Bush said it's "really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States." On this issues, she added, "I think there is a place for the president ... to talk to schoolchildren and encourage" them – and parents should follow the example.
When it comes to the great partisan divide in the country, Mrs. Bush said, "We've seen that for the last eight years, certainly, and we're still seeing it. That's just a fact of life."
Conceding that as president her husband did not manage to reach across the aisle, Mrs. Bush said, "He was disappointed that that was not the way it worked out in Washington. I'm sure President Obama didn't expect it to be that way [either].
Striking a positive note, she added, "All of us need to do what we can to come together on issues."