My first interactions with President George H.W. Bush


December 14, 2018

(JNS)—My first personal interactions with George Herbert Walker Bush were in 1987, when he was running for president, and I was working for Congressman Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), who was also seeking the Republican nomination.

In the folksy one-on-one campaigning that occurred in early caucus and primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, the candidates and their staffs would bump into each other in hotels, airports, green rooms, county fairs, candidate forums and debates, such that a familiarity and respect often developed among us all.

Despite being ensconced in an entourage befitting a sitting vice president, Bush always stopped to exchange pleasantries and express his respect for the fact that his opponents’ staff were engaged in the political process.

After Kemp dropped out of the election, I went to work for the Bush campaign and then on his Inaugural Committee, and finally, as a political appointee in his administration. My interactions with him continued to show that he had a deep respect for everyone he worked with.

I had left the administration by the time of the loan guarantee crisis, which was a low-watermark in U.S.-Israel relations. However, I honor his efforts on behalf of the Jewish people, including his instrumental role in liberating Jews from the former Soviet Union, Syria and Ethiopia.

His personal engagement in “Operation Solomon,” which brought 15,000 Jews from Ethiopia to Israel, forever places him among the righteous.

William Daroff is the senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America.


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