About James Addison Baker, III
James Addison Baker, III (born April 28, 1930) is an American attorney, politician and political advisor.
Baker served as the Chief of Staff in President Ronald Reagan's first administration and in the final year of the administration of President George H. W. Bush. Baker also served as Secretary of the Treasury from 1985–1988 in the second Reagan administration, and Secretary of State in the George H. W. Bush administration. He is also the honorary chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Early life and education
James Addison Baker was born in Houston, Texas at 1216 Bissonnet, to James A. Baker, Jr. (1892–1973) and Ethel Bonner (born Means) Baker (August 6, 1894 – April 26, 1991). His father was a partner of Houston law firm Baker Botts. Baker has a sister, Bonner Baker Moffitt.
Baker attended The Hill School, a boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Princeton University in 1952. Afterwards, he earned a J.D. (1957) from The University of Texas at Austin and began to practice law in Texas.
Baker served in the United States Marine Corps (1952–1954), attaining the rank of First Lieutenant and later rising to Captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
From 1957 to 1969, and then from 1973 to 1975 he practiced law at the law firm of Andrews & Kurth.
Early political career
Baker's first wife, the former Mary Stuart McHenry, was active in the Republican Party, working on the Congressional campaigns of George H. W. Bush. Originally Baker had been a Democrat, although he had been too busy trying to succeed in a competitive law firm to worry about politics and he considered himself apolitical. His wife's influence led Baker to politics and the Republican Party. He was a regular tennis partner with Bush at the Houston Country Club in the late 1950s. When Bush decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 1969, he supported Baker's decision to run for the Congressional seat he was vacating. However, Baker changed his mind about running when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She died of breast cancer in February 1970.
Bush then encouraged Baker to become active in politics to help deal with the grief, something Bush had done when his daughter, Pauline Robinson (1949–1953), died of leukemia. Baker became chairman of Bush's Senate campaign in Harris County. Though Bush lost to Lloyd Bentsen in the election, Baker continued in politics, becoming the Finance Chairman of the Republican Party in 1971. The following year, he was selected as Gulf Coast Regional Chairman for the Richard Nixon presidential campaign. In 1973 and 1974, Baker returned to full time practice of law at Andrews & Kurth.
Baker served as Undersecretary of Commerce under President Gerald Ford in 1975, and ran Ford's unsuccessful re-election campaign in 1976. In 1978, Baker ran unsuccessfully to become Attorney General of Texas, losing to future Governor Mark White.
In 1981, Baker was named White House Chief of Staff by President Ronald Reagan, in spite of the fact that Baker managed the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford in 1976 and of George Bush in 1980 opposing Reagan. He served in that capacity until 1985. Baker is considered to have had a high degree of influence over the first Reagan administration, particularly in domestic policy.
In 1982, conservative activists Howard Phillips, founder of The Conservative Caucus and Clymer Wright of Houston joined in an unsuccessful effort to convince Reagan to dismiss Baker as Chief of Staff. They claimed that Baker, a former Democrat and a Bush political intimate, was undermining conservative initiatives in the administration. Reagan rejected the Phillips-Wright request, but in 1985, he named Baker as United States Secretary of the Treasury, in a job-swap with then Secretary Donald T. Regan, a former Merrill Lynch officer who became Chief of Staff. Reagan rebuked Phillips and Wright for having waged a "campaign of sabotage" against Baker.
Baker managed Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign in which Reagan polled a record 525 electoral votes total (of 538 possible), and received 58.8 percent of the popular vote to Walter Mondale's 40.6 percent.
During the Reagan administration, Baker also served on the Economic Policy Council, where he played an instrumental role in achieving the passage of the administration's tax and budget reform package in 1981.
Baker also served on Reagan's National Security Council, and remained Treasury Secretary until 1988, during which time he also served as campaign chairman for George H. W. Bush's successful presidential bid.
President George H.W. Bush appointed Baker Secretary of State in 1989. Baker served in this role through 1992. From 1992 to 1993, he served as Bush's White House Chief of Staff, the same position that he had held from 1981 to 1985 during the first Reagan administration.
On January 9, 1991, during the Geneva Peace Conference with Tariq Aziz in Geneva, Baker declared that "If there is any user of (chemical or biological weapons), our objectives won't just be the liberation of Kuwait, but the elimination of the current Iraqi regime...." Baker later acknowledged that the intent of this statement was to threaten a retaliatory nuclear strike on Iraq, and the Iraqis received his message. Baker helped to construct the 34-nation alliance that fought alongside the United States in the Gulf War.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.
Baker blocked the creation of Palestine by threatening to cut funding to agencies in the United Nations: As far back as 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) issued a "declaration of statehood” and changed the name of its observer delegation to the United Nations from the PLO to Palestine.
Secretary of State James Baker warned publicly, “I will recommend to the President that the United States make no further contributions, voluntary or assessed, to any international organization which makes any changes in the PLO's status as an observer organization."
In 1993 Baker became the founding chair of the James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
In 1995, Baker published his memoirs of service as Secretary of State in a book entitled The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992 (ISBN 0-399-14087-5).
In March 1997, Baker became the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara. In June 2004 he resigned from this position, frustrated over the lack of progress in reaching a complete settlement acceptable to both the government of Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front. He left behind the Baker II plan, accepted as a suitable basis of negotiations by the Polisario and unanimously endorsed by the Security Council, but rejected by Morocco.
In addition to the numerous recognitions received by Baker, he was presented with the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for public service on September 13, 2000 in Washington, D.C..
Baker served as chief legal adviser for George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign and oversaw the Florida recount. A 2008 film Recount covers the days following the controversial election. During the making of the film Baker was interviewed. Baker was portrayed in the film by British actor Tom Wilkinson.
On September 11, 2001, Baker watched television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington DC, where Baker and representatives of Osama bin Laden's family were among those attending the annual conference for the Carlyle Group. Baker is Senior Counselor for the Carlyle Group, and the bin Ladens are among its major investors.
State of Denial, a book by investigative reporter Bob Woodward, says that White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, urged President Bush to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Baker following the 2004 election. However, another G. H. W. Bush Administration veteran, Robert Gates, was appointed instead, and only after the 2006 elections. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.
In December 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Baker as his special envoy to ask various foreign creditor nations to forgive or restructure the approximately $100 billion in international debts owed by the Iraq government which had been incurred during the tenure of Saddam Hussein.
On March 15, 2006, Congress announced the formation of the Iraq Study Group, a high-level panel of prominent former officials charged by members of Congress with taking a fresh look at America's policy on Iraq. Baker was the Republican co-chair along with Democratic Representative Lee H. Hamilton, to advise Congress on Iraq. Baker also advised George W. Bush on Iraq.
The Iraq Study Group examined a number of ideas, including one that would create a new power-sharing arrangement in Iraq that would give more autonomy to regional factions. On October 9, 2006, the Washington Post quoted co-chairman Baker as saying "our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run'".
Other advisory positions
Baker has formal involvement with the country of Azerbaijan as he serves on the Honorary Council of Advisers for the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.
Until 2005 he was senior counsel to the Carlyle Group and is currently a senior partner at the law firm of Baker Botts.
World Justice Project
James Baker serves as an Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project. The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.
Baker met his first wife, the former Mary Stuart McHenry, of Dayton, Ohio, while on spring break in Bermuda with the Princeton University rugby team. They married in 1953. Mary Stuart Baker (Mary Stuart was her full first name) died of breast cancer in February 1970.
In 1973, Baker and Susan Garrett Winston, a close friend of Mary Stuart's, were married. They have six sons and two daughters.
On June 15, 2002, Virginia Graeme Baker, the 7-year-old granddaughter of Baker, daughter of Nancy and James Baker IV, was the victim of suction-pump entrapment in an in-ground spa. To promote greater safety in pools and spas, Nancy Baker gave testimony to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and James Baker helped form an advocacy group, which led to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act (15 USC 8001).