Voting for President of the United States seems to be the only position where having “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express” the night before qualifies you. The more of an outsider you are, the more capable many people think you are as a fixer. Imagine this same philosophy being applied to your realtor, stock broker or brain surgeon. No experience? Perfect!
As a young staffer, LBJ brushed his teeth five times every morning and every night. Same with showering. It wasn’t his commitment to hygiene. Like most staffers in those days, he lived in a building on the Hill with many other young staffers and each floor shared a large bathroom. By being in there during high traffic periods he met dozens of staff members of both parties – relationships he used his entire political life, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which both received heavy bipartisan support. If you want to make Washington work, you need to understand how it works. Just ask Jimmy Carter. Washington Street, where the state capitol of Georgia is located in Atlanta, is not Washington, DC.
There are few people who have understood Washington better than James A. Baker III. For a quarter century, no Republican won the presidency without his help. And once they won, he provided indispensable advice. Thomas E. Donilon, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, called Baker “the most important unelected official since World War II.”
With my co-host, CNN Legal Contributor Michael Zeldin, we interviewed co-authors Peter Baker of the New York Times and Susan Glasser of The New Yorker on their new book, The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III. The co-authors generously spent a half hour with us, sharing stories and talking about the man, who at 90, is as sharp as ever. You will most certainly enjoy the listen.