Co-authored by the Chief White House correspondent at The New York Times and the Washington columnist at the New Yorker, this is the story of legendary White House chief of staff and secretary of state James A. Baker III, the man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world.
... among the very best books about American political life in the late 20th century. Making use of a mass of stories and new details, the authors portray Baker against the background of a different era ... The book is hardly a hagiography. Baker was involved over the years in some decidedly nonheroic activities, and his family life was at times messy. The authors include those parts, too ... It’s doubtful that any future historian will be able to gather as much information about Baker as the authors have ... Sometimes, this research served to penetrate Baker’s instinctive caution and caginess ... Above all, The Man Who Ran Washington works so well because of its anecdotes about Baker’s adroitness, for good and for ill.
The core tension that Baker and Glasser must overcome in The Man Who Ran Washington is making James Baker seem relevant today ... a reader can have the impression that the authors’ accounting of Baker’s achievements is tinted in sepia ... Yet the life story of the man Barack Obama’s national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon calls 'the most important unelected official since World War II' is relevant and timely for two reasons. The first is that it provides deep insight into Baker’s strengths at diplomacy — skills that will become even more important as America’s influence ebbs in the coming years. The former secretary of state’s experiences as a public servant offer timeless lessons in how to use personal relationships, broad-based coalitions and tireless negotiating to advance United States interests ... The second reason this book matters now is that even though Baker sees himself as temperamentally and philosophically opposite to Donald Trump, his silence in the face of Trump’s outrages reflects the broader complicity of the so-called 'Republicans who know better' ... Given Baker’s legendary reserve, one of the most touching parts of the book is its examination of the deep, humorous and also rivalrous friendship he maintained with Bush ... the authors do a splendid job reminding readers of the sheer number and weight of decisions that had to be made amid great uncertainty ... The authors rightly highlight the dimensions of Baker’s illustrious career that show so much about what is broken in the current American political system.
... an illuminating biographical portrait of Mr. Baker, one that describes the arc of his career and, along the way, tells us something about how executive power is wielded in the nation’s capital ... comprehensive ... thanks in part to the authors’ dozens of meetings and hours of conversation with their subject, often has the feel of a novel related by an omniscient narrator. The book is far from hagiography, but Mr. Baker is often allowed to communicate his perspective, clearly and comprehensively—the very approach that helped him succeed so spectacularly during his long and impressive run in politics.