Peter Kramer/NBC/Getty
March 15, 2016 04:50 PM

Former First Lady Laura Bush, returning to Washington, D.C., to promote her new book on the continuing struggle of women in Afghanistan, made a strong denunciation Tuesday of the “xenophobic” talk going around among some Americans these days.

Careful not to name GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric and isolationist trade and foreign-policy policies have been dubbed xenophobic by some, Bush said at a luncheon panel discussion sponsored by Politico: “We go through these periods where we’re xenophobic and we’re just going to stay home and to hell with the rest of the world. We might be going through a little bit of that right now but that’s not a smart policy. And it certainly is not the policy of everyone in the United States.”

Holding two fingers about an inch apart, she added, “Our world is about this big now and what happens in other places does matter.”

Twice, the force behind We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, published at her instigation by the George W. Bush Institute, commended President Obama for his decision to prolong the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in order to give that country’s democracy – and its long-persecuted women – a better shot at long-term stability.

The luncheon was part of Politico’s “Women Rule” initiative and so Bush was asked about a new anti-Trump ad cataloguing some of the derogatory things said about women (think “dog” and “bimbo”) by the billionaire business mogul who is on the cusp of winning enough delegates to claim the mantle of presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Ever-cautious, ever-diplomatic, Bush replied: “There’s a reason there’s a curtain on the booth. We all get to vote for whoever we want to and we don’t have to say. I do hope whoever the next president is is somebody who will pay attention to the women in Afghanistan and women all over the world. That’s my answer.”

And then, without prompting, she made clear that she had denied Trump – and his remaining GOP rivals, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson – her vote in the March 1 Texas Republican primary, which came well after her favorite, brother-in-law Jeb Bush, quit the race.

“I voted for Jeb Bush,” the former first lady said with a smile, “on the first day of early voting in the Texas primary.”

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