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

Doubleday. Sept. 2020. 720p. ISBN 9780385540551. $35. BIOG
Journalists Baker (New York Times chief White House correspondent) and Glasser (staff writer, The New Yorker) spent seven years researching and writing this sweeping biography of a figure they refer to as the ultimate “deal-maker” in modern American politics. James Baker (b. 1930), no relation to the author, has an impressive political résumé, starting with his stint as undersecretary of commerce in the Ford administration, and, later, running Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign. Baker subsequently served as chief of staff and secretary of the treasury during the Reagan administration, then as secretary of state and chief of staff for close friend George H.W. Bush. Beginning with Baker’s early life as the scion of well-connected Houston lawyers, the book proceeds to cover his law career and gradual entry into politics, along with his ability to wield power. The authors interviewed Baker, and talked with numerous friends and associates to present a well-documented, engaging read. The private life of Baker also emerges here: his domineering father, the early death of his first wife, his relationship with his four sons, and, especially, his close bond with Bush.
VERDICT Indispensable reading for anyone interested in late 20th-century U.S. politics.
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