A salute to Barbara Bush

The passing of Barbara Bush has evoked many eulogies for a matriarch who, a generation or two later, might well have earned a place in political history in her own right beyond the very respectable niche as the wife, mother and unfailing support of two US presidents.  I can but add an unintended but telling tribute from one of them, which I recorded without ever meeting Ms. Bush in person.

I had a recurring problem with Israel’s President Ezer Weizmann. Every time I went — ex officio as head of foreign news at Voice of Israel Radio — to cover a reception for a visiting dignitary at the presidential residence in Jerusalem, he would spot me in the receiving line and beckon me over. “This young man,” he would introduce me to the honored guest, “his father was my commander in the Air Force.”

It was true; my father, Aharon Remez, led the fledgling IAF in the 1948 War of Independence and Weizmann, his friend and then-subordinate, became one of his successors. But with all my pride in this legacy, after a while the inescapable ritual began to chafe. As First Lady Re’uma Weizmann, tibadel le-hayyim arukkim  (Barbara Bush’s contemporary and, like her, a great woman who was her family’s rock through thick and thin) just as regularly chided her husband to no avail: “Ezer, the young man has a name!”

After five years of this, in December 1998, I saw my chance. Texas governor George W. Bush, who had until then shown little interest in Israel, was considering a presidential bid and therefore planning a candidate’s obligatory visit here. By the time I was notified of his photo op with Weizmann, I was prepared. At the event, Re’uma and Laura Bush were not present, so I had to stand up for myself.

When Weizmann predictably repeated his usual routine, I replied, “Yes sir, but surely the governor can tell you how embarrassing it is for a man of our age [Bush and I were both 52] to be introduced as somebody’s son.”

Bush chimed in: “You’re so right! Especially when they introduce me as Barbara’s son!”

Which said it all. What a formidable lady! RIP.

About the Author
Gideon Remez, formerly head of foreign news at Voice of Israel Radio, is an associate fellow of the Truman Institute, Hebrew University. The views expressed here are his own and not the Institute's.