Barbara Bush 'brought out the best in America,' Georgia policymaker says

Eric Tanenblatt, top right, and Sen. David Perdue stood behind George and Barbara Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Caption
Eric Tanenblatt, top right, and Sen. David Perdue stood behind George and Barbara Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives

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.

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“She actually got on the phone,” he said. “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 died Tuesday at age 92 after 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 Bush 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, Maine, 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.

“She was very unassuming,” he said. “She was like every average person you see on the street.”