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For a quarter-century, from the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, no Republican won the presidency without the help of James Addison Baker III. Now, two brilliant observers of the American political scene join us with a biography of the power broker who influenced America’s destiny for generations.
In this livestreamed conversation with fellow journalist Rajiv Chandresekaran, journalists and political analysts Peter Baker and Susan Glasser share stories from their book The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III. They present an enrapturing portrait of a scion of Texas aristocracy who became George H.W. Bush’s best friend on the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club, never having worked in Washington, and within a few years, was leading Gerald Ford’s campaign for president. A lost art in today’s nation, they argue that Baker governed as the avatar of pragmatism over purity and deal-making over division. He ran Ronald Reagan’s White House, rewrote the tax code, assembled the coalition that won the Gulf War, brokered the reunification of Germany, and helped bring a decades-long nuclear superpower standoff to an end. Presented as a case study in the acquisition, exercise, and preservation of power in late twentieth-century America, Baker and Glasser examine the story of how Washington once worked—and consider how it has transformed into an era of gridlock and polarization.
Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, a political analyst for MSNBC, and author of Days of Fire and The Breach. Susan Glasser is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of its weekly “Letter from Trump’s Washington” as well as a CNN global affairs analyst. Their first assignment as a married couple was as Moscow bureau chiefs for The Washington Post, after which they wrote Kremlin Rising.
Rajiv Chandresekaran is a senior correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the author of Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan and the award-winning Imperial Life in the Emerald City, an account of the troubled American effort to reconstruct Iraq.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.