WASHINGTON - The two most influential women in President Bush's White House - first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - are strongly defending the president's legacy against critics who are calling his administration one of the worst in history.

"I know it's not, and so I don't really feel like I need to respond to people that view it that way," Laura Bush said in an interview that aired yesterday. "I think history will judge and we'll see later."

Rice took a similar view in a separate interview, saying claims that the Bush administration has been one of the worst ever are "ridiculous."

"I think generations pretty soon are going to start to thank this president for what he's done. This generation will," Rice said.

"Because I think the fact that we have really made foreign assistance not just an issue of giving humanitarian aid or giving money to poor people, but really insisting on good governance and fighting corruption," she said. "I think the fact that this president has laid the groundwork for a Palestinian state, being the first president, as a matter of policy, to say that there should be one, and now, I think, laying the foundation that's going to lead to that Palestinian state - I can go on and on."

In her interview, Laura Bush rebuffed Bush administration critics who contend the United States turned its military might and resources to the war in Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan.

Bush noted that under her husband's watch, the United States toppled Saddam Hussein and liberated millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq from oppressive governments. She also highlighted the president's work to provide treatment for diseases such as AIDS and malaria to millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. She said her husband responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a way that has kept the nation safe.

"I think that's very, very important," she said.

Bush said she was not amused when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at her husband during a news conference this month in Iraq. The president deftly dodged the shoes and wasn't hit. He continued the news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after security officials dragged the journalist from the room.

"The president laughed it off," she said. "He wasn't hurt. He's very quick. As you know, he's a natural athlete and ducked it. But on the other hand, it is an assault. And I think it should be treated that way. And I think people should think of it that way."

Rice said it would not be long before Bush's contributions to the world would be acknowledged.

"When you look at what this president took on in terms of AIDS relief and foreign assistance to the world, when you look at the number of countries . . . and the number of people that this president has actually liberated - you know, I really am someone who believes that you don't want to pay too much attention to today's headlines," she said.

Laura Bush spoke on

Fox News Sunday

, while Rice was on

CBS Sunday Morning

.