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Posted on: October 28, 2020

The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III

The Man who ran washington

In the latter half of the twentieth century, no Republican won the presidency without his help, and the men he counseled in the Oval Office--Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush--defined more than one generation of American life. Campaign manager, chief of staff, treasury secretary, and ultimately secretary of state, James A. Baker III understood better than anyone how to make Washington work and how to pull the levers of power at home and abroad. 

A suave and profane Texas Democrat, Baker worked as a wealthy Houston lawyer until his best friend, George H. W. Bush, drew him into Republican politics. His first dramatic win was in 1976 as the delegate hunter who secured the Republican nomination for Ford against a challenge from Ronald Reagan. His next job, as Bush's campaign manager four years later, maneuvered Bush onto the ticket with Reagan and Baker into the most powerful office in Washington other than the Oval Office: White House chief of staff. 

In his years in the White House and in the cabinet, Baker was the avatar of a style of politics and governance that valued pragmatism and deal making over purity. He went from win to win--reforming the tax code, negotiating the first Middle East peace talks, managing the dissolution of the Soviet Union--until his capstone victory, as field marshal for the younger Bush's Florida recount battle, helped divide the country forever. In today's era of gridlock, The Man Who Ran Washington is an electrifying escape.

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