On October 8, 2020, the George & Barbara Bush Foundation hosted an exceptional discussion featuring New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker and New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser. Their new book, The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III, is an unmatched case study in the acquisition, exercise, and preservation of power. The story is told through an account of one of the most significant and influential leaders in modern American government never to serve as president of the United States.
James A. Baker III
For a quarter-century, no Republican won the presidency without him and none ran the White House without his advice. From the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, he was the indispensable man for four presidents. Above all, he understood how to make Washington work at a time when America was shaping events around the world.
A scion of Texas aristocracy, he had never worked in Washington until a devastating family tragedy struck when he was thirty-nine. Within a few years, he was leading Gerald Ford’s campaign. In his lifetime, Baker managed five presidential races and won a sixth for George W. Bush in a Florida recount. He ran Ronald Reagan’s White House and became the most consequential secretary of state since Henry Kissinger. Ruthlessly partisan during campaign season, Baker governed as the avatar of pragmatism over purity and deal-making over division, a lost art in today’s fractured nation. On the homefront, he negotiated with Democrats and rewrote tax codes. Meanwhile, abroad, this extraordinary man assembled the coalition that won the Gulf War and orchestrated the reunification of Germany. If that wasn’t enough, his wisdom and firm hand helped end a decades-long nuclear superpower standoff.
The Man Who Ran Washington is a page-turning portrait of a power broker who influenced America’s destiny for generations. This masterly biography by two brilliant observers of the American political scene is sure to become a classic.
Michael Beschloss, an award-winning presidential historian, moderated the evening’s discussion. Beschloss is also a scholar of leadership and the bestselling author of ten books. His most recent publication, Presidents of War, is highly acclaimed and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.