James Baker III
You know when Election 2000 was really over? When the Bush campaign sent James Baker lll to Florida on their behalf for the recount. It had been stolen earlier when Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris spent serious bucks to hire a new company several months before the election to remove from the voting rolls around 90,000 legal voters - mostly Democratic and African American. That's how the election was stolen, and you might not accept it, but your grandchildren will read about it as a historical fact - if they bother to look.
But back to James Baker and let's skip the 3rd part. As he told Imus the other morning, he's really the 4th anyway. I guess even his name needs a recount. At any rate, many people believe he made all the difference down in Florida - he's that good - and I respect him for it. I don't like many of the current Bush team, but I always liked James Baker. Incidentally, my peers in the States would sometimes ask me what oil company executives were like. Believe me at the top of the heap, the ones I met - my father and his buddies - were a very entertaining bunch. They were impressive like James Baker. When my Dad would drop by my school and take my college buddies out, they would talk about him for months. These high-caliber executives can often be amazing people, and you could tell Imus was pretty impressed with his guest.
So what did Baker say that contrasted so well with the current Bush administration? First, back when he was 40, working as a lawyer, he lost his 38-year-old wife to cancer. He was despondent and his tennis doubles partner suggested jumping into politics as a way to handle the grief. His doubles partner would become the first President Bush. At the time Baker was a Democrat whose grandfather had told him to avoid politics, but he changed parties, and jumped in, and the rest really is history.
Imus asked Baker if the Israel-Palestine issue were settled, would that end the problems in the Middle East? That's a pretty astute question because it drew out quite a revealing answer. James Baker said that it would be a huge step in the right direction, and that we aren't doing enough to make it happen. Then he took on the Bush-Limbaugh doctrine that diplomacy means appeasement, although he didn't use that phrase. He said when he was Secretary of State, Syria was on the list of terror-sponsoring nations. He visited Syria 15 times, and got them to meet directly with Israel on the 16th time. He said the idea of only talking to your friends is ridiculous and that you have to talk with your enemies.
There are several reasons - in my opinion - why this administration doesn't do that: 1. They're chicken hawks and they have to compensate by being phony tough guys who use the military to act out.
2. Diplomacy is hard work, and these guys are not into governing hard. President Bush rides his bicycle, but he's not bearing down on anything else. The rest is spin and the facade of governing, as exposed by Katrina. 3. Finally, it wouldn't work if their people did it, because their people don't have the personal skill of James Baker. That's why they've asked him to come back, but he says he's too old, and that's too bad. It doesn't matter if you hate the Republicans or not, here's a man with great statesman-like ability, and this Bush administration has exactly zero of those.