In 1987, when then vice president George H.W. Bush was eyeing the White House, Eric Tanenblatt was manning an Atlanta phone bank when Barbara Bush walked in – and got to work.
“She actually got on the phone,” he recalled. “She started calling people in Georgia to thank them for their support. She was actively involved in the campaigns.”
Tanenblatt served in the Bush administration, later became Gov. Sonny Perdue’s chief of staff and now chairs the U.S. Public Policy practice at the global law firm Dentons. He recalled Barbara Bush, who has died at 92 after a a period of failing health, as sincere and welcoming.
“She brought the best to the White House, and brought out the best of America,” he said. “She was like everyone’s grandmother.”
The twins were 7 when their grandfather became president, and they were eager to seize the mantle of First Granddaughter, ordering peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches to be delivered to the White House bowling alley. Ganny put the kibosh on the Eloise act, reminding the young ladies they were in the people’s house, “not in a hotel.”
Later, during their dad’s administration, Barbara Bush admonished the leader of the free world when he got too comfy. “I don’t care if you are the president of the United States, take your feet off my coffee table,’” she said. Bush 43 complied.
Tanenblatt chuckled at the twins’ anecdotes.
“She was sincere but she was clearly someone who spoke her mind,” he said. “There were no airs about her.”
In recent years Tanenblatt joined the Bushes in Kennebunkport for her 90th birthday, which served as a fundraiser for her literacy foundation.
“The good work of her foundation will carry on that legacy,” he said. During his time there, he recalled seeing Barbara Bush enjoying walks on the beach, unassuming as always.
“Mrs. Bush’s life, and now her legacy, was an extraordinary one, spent in service to her family and her country,” he said. “The loss of her light and love felt today by her family is shared by all who knew her and by the many whose lives were radically changed by her leadership and work in literacy. I was honored to have known the former first lady for more than 30 years, and I will miss her grace and wit.”