Review — The Man Who Ran Washington
James Baker is a living legend. The book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser emphasizes that on multiple levels. ‘The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A Baker III’ is not a light weekend read. It is nearly 600 pages tracking the life and times of the former Chief of Staff to the 40th President and former Secretary of State to the 41st. None the less, it is well written and a great lens through which to review some of this countries most historic moments over the last 30+ years.
Baker was the ultimate political knife fighter. He was able to not only negotiate agreements for his side (whether that was for a President or the United States as a whole) but also allowed the other side to save face. It allowed him to broker deals that many thought weren’t possible. This was with Congress and with foreign countries.
The most interesting part of this book for me was his time as Secretary of State. He helped end the Cold War, reunite Germany, raise money for the first Gulf War, bring Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table with the Madrid conference, and essentially got the US out of the random Central American adventures. During his nearly four years in the role, he logged some 700,000 miles doing “shuttle diplomacy” which is still a record today. The funny part is that he had not spent a lot of time traveling outside of the US prior to being sworn in as Secretary nor did he speak a foreign language. The President and Congress pretty much just trusted that he would do what he’d always done, he’d figure it out.
Without James Baker in the roles he was in, things would look very different today. Despite never holding an elected office, he was the ultimate bureaucrat and political operator. Someone able to walk in multiple worlds and hold his own. From elegance to rough and tumble, in the end he saw the big picture, was the ultimate negotiator and somehow was able to come out of Washington without an indictment which is a victory in and of itself. Review some history and see how big of a role James A Baker, III had on the lives of every American by reading this book.