James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work premiered March 2015.
Watch the behind-the-scenes story of power and diplomacy at the highest levels.
About the Program
“Where are the dealmakers today? Where are the Jim Bakers who know how to cut a deal when a deal needs to be cut?” — Alan Murray, President, Pew Research Center
This 90-minute documentary, narrated by Tom Brokaw, tells the story of James A. Baker III, a remarkable politician and statesman who represents a time when a divided Congress got things done, and when presidents and politicians worked together. Baker, now 84, helped get three presidents elected, served in top posts for two of them, and was a central player in some of the most momentous events of the late 20th century.
Nothing in Baker’s early life suggested such a successful Washington career. He was a 40-year-old Houston lawyer who had never worked a day in government when his good friend and tennis partner, George H. W. Bush, recommended him to President Gerald Ford. Within 18 months Baker had become the chair of Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign. It was a meteoric rise — and Baker was just at the beginning of a public service career that would literally change history.
Learn more about James Baker, and watch clips from the film below.
• As White House chief-of-staff, Baker masterminded the Reagan Revolution and got much of Reagan’s hugely ambitious agenda through a hostile Congress. To this day he is considered the “gold standard” of an effective presidential chief-of-staff.
• As Treasury Secretary, he negotiated the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a legislative feat no one believed possible in a divided government, and arguably the last time the U.S. saw significant tax code revisions all sides could agree on.
• As Secretary of State, Baker was key to bringing the Cold War in for a soft landing — working alongside Mikhail Gorbachev and Eduard Shevardnadze to maintain stability in Eastern Europe. Almost simultaneously, he put together the unprecedented coalition of nations that fought the first Gulf War. On the heels of that success, he organized the Madrid Peace Conference that brought Arab nations and Israel to the peace table for the first time in modern history.
• As George W. Bush’s master strategist in the disputed 2000 Florida election, Baker came out of retirement and back into the spotlight for what may be his most controversial role. Baker craftily steered the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, winning the White House for his close friend's son.
A Closer Look at the Man Who Made Washington Work
More About the Program
James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work is much more than a biography of James Baker. It uses the lens of Baker’s experience and insights to present an exciting and fast-moving analysis of how Baker used his innate political skills, masterful negotiating instincts and a deft diplomatic touch to bring about change on the domestic and world stages.
The film includes commentary from a who’s who of history makers: former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice; and respected journalists Hedrick Smith and Lesley Stahl, to name a few.
James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work is an eye-opening behind-the-scenes story of power, persuasion and diplomacy at the highest levels.
James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work
was produced by John Hesse Productions LLC.
- PBS Video: James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work
- Interview with James Baker from American Experience: Reagan
- PBS News Hour: James Baker's Memories of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
- American Experience: Going Negative? Bush Insiders (including James Baker) and the 1988 Campaign
- American Experience: The Presidents Collection