tv Washington Journal Peter Baker Susan Glasser CSPAN October 19, 2020 10:01am-10:31am EDT
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correspondent and the co-authors of the bring to book on baker, a man who ran washington life and times of james baker. peter baker no relation and susan glasser good morning and welcome to "washington journal." >> good morning. thank you so much. >> susan classic, let me start with you about the idea of doing this book on james baker. this predates the 2020 election but this is earlier than 2016, correct? >> that's right. we did not envision the rise of donald trump and the transformation or hostile takeover of what is logical of the republican party we started this book back in the obama era. a character who would help us to write a big story about washington as well has -- as well as his own personal story. from watergaten to the end of the cold war and
james baker is in the middle of that. host: >> was he an easy a prey? did he sort of easily agreed to be interviewed for a book project? was at this point, he willing and ready for some of the l2 write a biography about him. some -- ready for amebody else to write biography about him. he was open and cooperative. he didn't put anything off balance. he was very generous with us. host: what was it about him personally and about his stellar career in washington and before that that initially -- you to talk to him? guest: i think we realized we were delighted to realize that no one had done an independent
book of history about him. when you think about it, baker has a unique resume in american politics as well as policy, because he combines the two. operative andical unparalleled success. he ran five different national presidential campaigns, but also was white house chief of staff twice, the only person to hold that job twice. as well as treasury secretary and secretary of state when the end of the cold war happened. was tied upgure who with henry kissinger. there is a reason why the former national security advisor to obama said he thought baker was the most important unelected official in the united states since the end of world war ii. host: the book was a great reminder to me the james baker had an sort of things that you forgot that he did.
you write in there, and i noted that this is, james baker fought against the reagan revolution inside the republican party on behalf of gerald ford and george bush, and then came the revolutions most capable executor as the reagan white house chief of staff and bush secretary of state and watch the unraveling in eastern europe, another revolution he did not start that figured out how to channel. the lesson he had taken from these events was simple and clear, with the tectonic plates of history move, move with them. he did over the course of several presidencies. guest: that is exactly right. it is interesting to think about a president picking as a chief of staff 70 that had ran to campaigns against him. think about that good i can't even imagine that in today's washington. reagan wanted somebody to translate his vision into reality erie he knew he needed someone who had a better sense of washington that he and his
california crew had. it speaks a lot about reagan and it speaks a lot about reagan about the marriage of man and moment. bakerare guests, peter and susan glasser and their new book about james baker. we welcome your comments. (202) 748-8001 four republicans. for democrats, (202) 748-8000. for independents (202) 748-8002. texts, encourage your (202) 628-0184 -- (202) 748-8003 . we talk about white house chief of staff for ronald reagan, secretary of state for george h w bush, and also white house chief of staff. what brought him into washington in the first place under the presidency? guest: it was not a normal trajectory.
wasn't normal for it now or ever. after one year of his arrival in washington, he went to run the presidential campaign. that is the surprise for peter and i was to realize during this time, much jim baker was an indispensable man in washington. he didn't even get there until he was 45 years old, making him the world's most successful midcareer change. his story of the previous two decades in houston i think really was a fascinating one for us to learn. it began with an unlikely friendship with george herbert walker bush on the tennis court at houston country club. host: was he has fierce a competitor in sports as your
chevy bush was, reportedly? w bush was, reportedly? guest: he was looking for a partner in one person's name on the wall and 16 singles tournaments was a guy named james baker. they had a connection through a cousin. their friendship on the court was rooted in mutual competitiveness. you saw that in sports and threat their political careers. host: he comes to washington as undersecretary of converse in 1976, and he was made chairman of gerald ford's campaign in 1976. as you point out in the book, he had several elected office failures in texas. what is it about a guy who success running for public office made gerald ford say this is the guy i went running my campaign? guest: he was inexperienced and naturallead to his
abilities and that competitive ness comes from. he escaped the narrow constraints of houston life as a lawyer. he went to bigger and bigger playing fields, leading to international diplomacy. basically thed only experience he had before that was helping his friend ,eorge bush in a senate race where he ran in a county that included houston. and then he did some fundraising after that at the presidential level. he was bitten by the politics result of will, a that 1976 race. it was 1978 ran for texas attorney general in his one and
only effort at elected office. not only did he lose, but it was clear to those who observed him heer.e was not a baby kiss history would've been different had he won that. host: tell us what you write in the book about his father and his guidance in terms of politics to james baker. guest: his family is part of .ouston by james baker the third and we can't tell you why. they explained because they were bad at math. he had a family legacy and they did so much to build modern houston. they built institutions but they were not into politics. the family actually was work hard, study, and keep out of
politics. that is something jim baker did for the first 40 years of his life. he had a family tragedy with his first wife, who passed away and george h w bush had come and work with me and will help you mourningugh your period. "the man whok is ran washington: the life and times of james a. baker." baker, no is james relation, and susan glasser we welcome your comments. (202) 748-8001 four republicans. for democrats. (202) 748-8002 for
independents. has anyone equaled the role since? guest: absolutely not. in some ways it is not even possible to conceive of a career such as the one that baker had come in part as peter said, you managed to transcend individual theidates and arrived at height of politics in washington . these days it is progressively harder to do. they baker unique was the ability to transcend the world of electoral politics in the world of policy and international diplomacy. that is something i haven't seen since and arguably before, it was highly unusual as well. host: how did he or did he have the year of george w. bush during his prejudices -- his presidency? george w. bush, yes, you
are right. he was his best friend, and helped him get elected and the recount that followed the election results. adviceries to give him on erratic. -- on iraq. he later tries to help get out of iraq and wasn't listen to. through his career, it showed how things changed in washington where james baker had been so integral to so many important decision making moments and had suddenly begun to pass on to the next generation the reins of power. host: let's go to calls for susan glasser and peter baker. two louisville, kentucky. louisville, kentucky.
caller: nice to see you altogether again. a book about a chief of staff has to be something very interesting, and it seems like a really good subject. you get to find out things about people that you don't really know. i have to ask you one more question, who is your favorite writing partner don mitchell or susan glasser? no pressure. best. susan by far is the we were lucky because we are a married couple and that is why we are not socially distanced. we got together 21 years ago with washington post she was my editor and we were working on the clinton impeachment story. that is how we first got together. we have been very lucky to have
this professional and personal ship with these two decades and they go hand in hand. and we are still talking. host: how do you delegate that? who does what and who does what interview? how do you split that up? lucky on this project and didn't intend it to be seven years. it took longer. we are very lucky that we were working on this together, because it was an all-consuming project. for me having a partner who was immersed in it was invaluable. we did a lot of interviews with secretary baker together, but peter is the hardest worker in the family. he gets much less sleep than i do, i have to say. host: let's do a call from texas. let's go to cliff in san angelo. caller: congratulations on your book. i will be anxious to read it.
i called in simply because you mentioned houston country club. my father, george ritchie, was the tennis pro there at the houston country club back with jim baker and george h w and played a lot of tennis. was theter of fact, i number one ranked player in the united states in 1970. my name is cliff ritchie. i got a call when date when i was in houston and he said to me, we have a congressman that loves to play tennis over here who would you come and play tennis with him? it was george h w. it has been so long ago i can't remember, but i think maybe he had jim baker with him. couldn't get him off the court good we were out there two hours. hours.ed there for two at the end of the match, to give
you a cute story on george h w, he looked at me, and my dad had been the tennis coach in the 50 -- 1950's, and president bush looked at me and i asked my dad have you ever met him, and he said no. he looked at me and said how is your dad, george, doing these days? one other quick story, i was in the dallas airport in the 1980's, and here comes jim baker with a couple of his bodyguards, maybe. i came out of the shadows and recognized him and i rushed over to him and it's like, these days you can't do that, but i said mr. baker, cliff ritchie, good to see you again. he was so nice. i just had to call. one question i would like to know -- was jim baker involved in politics before meeting president george h w? guest: that's a great question.
election day he would go vote because he often -- it often coincided with the opening of hunting season. he clearly was not very involved. host: let's go to pat in keyport, new jersey. republican line. go ahead. caller: countries whether not baker had any contact with cheney before the two presidents bush? thank you. his best cheney in some ways ws friend. they are very different kind of republicans and have different views on things like the iraq war. at the time they were young people coming up in washington post watergate. you had a young white house chief of staff named dick cheney, and he noticed the sky over at the commerce department -- noticed this guy over at the
commerce department and he brought him into the campaign in 1976 that gets baker really going. the two of them were close during the ford days and worked together. even to this day, they are close friends in hunting and fishing together. int: let's hear from susan massachusetts, independent line. morning, to sunday be able to wake up and make a cup of coffee and see you both together talking about this amazing book. i have heard about it. i sister texted me last week about it. enough to have seen secretary baker's career serving various administrations and have inched his presidents
washington, a dignified, gifted respondys was able to to a changing world and national events. what a juxtaposition to look at his life and contributions compared to what we are doing with what wish -- with what we are doing with the white house now. i hope your book becomes mandatory reading in the public schools, because it does teach about public service when it is practiced correctly with great baker is justlso a unique gentlemen, i think. , and just the idea especially with what happened when senator feinstein this week have the gall to say something
come from entry, at least kind to lindsey graham, i thought, granted i think it is time that maybe she leaves the senate because of her age, but just the way she has been treated like a pariah just because she acted civilly to a colleague on the other cited the aisle. i had a curiosity about mr. baker's second wife susan and how she came into his life and the influence she had on his career and just life after they met and married. strong,tand she was a very interesting woman peered at wouldn't mind hearing about the other susan, susan baker. guest: from once is into another, i can tell you she was first of all fantastically helpful to peter and i and working on this book. she was one of our consistently
best interviews and often the real truth teller, interjecting a note of reality into some of our conversations. there is this incredible story of susan winston and how she became to be susan baker. she was one of jim baker's first wife's close friends, mary stuart. we mentioned mary stuart at a very young age and her earliest with four young sons was diagnosed with cancer. enough, there is a letter that is in our book from jim baker to george bush in which he tells bush about this terrible diagnosis of cancer and he says, george, i have not told anyone. i didn't tell mary stuart, i didn't tell my mother, i didn't tell our children, but i am telling you. that for peter and i was quite rogatory as what was the nature of the baker-bush relationship
and they had a close bond that goes far beyond cocktails at the country club. but interestingly enough, mary stuart knew this was happening to her. she confided in her friend susan winston and she wrote her own letter and gave it and told susan where to find it in their house after she passed away. there is this unbelievably moving scene in the book where susan comes over to the grieving household, finds the letter and gives it to baker. baker read it out loud and cries every time he reads it, even now 50 years later. but susan had her own family struggles and has three children of her own with divorce from alcoholic husband. so they got together. it became the sort of brady bunch. jim baker had four kids and susan had three kids, but it was the dark dystopian version of
the brady bunch, not the cheery sitcom version. it really was a challenging merger of these two reading, troubled families. they ultimately had another daughter as well, so they had eight kids. the huge verdant fell -- the huge burden fell on susan. as baker was beginning public life, she had four and middle school at the same time in different schools driving around. she is a heroic figure. a very close advisor to her husband, she traveled often with him and he was secretary of state at the end of the cold war. she became a minor public figure in her own right. she worked with tipper gore on the summit controversial effort in the 1980's to do something about the very inflammatory lyrics and a lot of current music. guest: on homelessness, she was very big. she helped found and was a leader of national homelessness
organization. she devoted a lot to that cause. host: let's hear from chris in huntsville, alabama. caller: and tony blair's autobiography, he tells a story about the first time he ever came to america and in the book he says that when they were getting ready to go over, the tory conservatives assign him to try and convince jim baker to drop his tariffs on international trade issues. studied on the plane ride and he gets there and he tries to prevent the issues to jim baker and baker effortlessly batts it back one by one by one. tony blair is feeling embarrassed. he was trying to get the secretary of the treasury to drop it and baker had no issues and new all the stuff on the top of his head. i just wanted to share that
story. where did he get the nickname the velvet hammer? guest: the reason why he was able to bat back even tony blair come as formidable as tony blair was, is because he was fanatical about operation. he listen to what you call the five p's. hisou said it out loud, staff and kids would roll their eyes. that was one reason why he was so successful. there wasn't a meeting where he didn't have the brief going in. it was done in a way that people work out of their office still feeling ok, even if he didn't give them what they wanted. his cousin gave him that nickname when he came to washington and it stuck. later, it was on a
poster of jim baker. he so smooth that people walk away feeling good even if he has been tough as nails. host: the book is "the man who ran washington: the life and times of james a. baker." we are welcoming your calls. john in southhampton, pennsylvania, republican line. caller: x for taking my call. -- thanks for taking my call. host: you bet. caller: an interesting thing about mr. baker is that he had a little war with the jewish community. we will leave this monies "washington journal" and take you live to conversations on digital politics posted by george washington university.