From Publishers Weekly
Baker's grandfather, a prominent Houston lawyer, told his grandson to avoid becoming a politician—hence the title of this memoir. Baker intended to follow that advice, but, at age 40, he switched course after his wife died of cancer, leaving behind four sons. George Herbert Walker Bush persuaded the widower to change parties and work on Bush's Republican Party senatorial campaign to take his mind off his grief. Eventually, Baker played political and policymaking roles in the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, with nearly four years as Bush's secretary of state, including during the first Gulf war. More sweeping and less formal than Baker's 1995 memoir of his international adventures, The Politics of Diplomacy, this is also haphazardly organized despite its chronological approach. Baker seems to idolize all three presidents he served directly, though he alludes to character flaws and questionable decisions. His defense of the status quo is likely to please loyal Republicans, annoy loyal Democrats and make independents wonder. (Oct.)
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Prominent Republican James Baker recalls his life in politics in this candid memoir. Crediting tennis partner George H. W. Bush for drawing him into the arena after the death of his wife in 1970, Baker starts with his first political posts in the Ford administration and proceeds to the disputed presidential election of 2000, in which Baker directed the Republicans' legal strategy. Those interested in political gossip will relish these stories as Baker's replies to various tell-alls written by veterans from the Reagan era, while those intrigued by the practicalities of power might see in Baker's career an example of how to succeed in American democratic politics. However frequently Baker praises public service in this memoir, he as often admits that the need for power is what motivated him. This honesty lends credence to his anecdotes, many of which originate in the presidential campaigns Baker managed for Ford, Bush, and Reagan. One regularly wades through lists of staffers, ritual praise attached, to reach Baker's operational points, which are well worth the attention of the politically savvy of either party. In the main, Baker's accounts reinforce the tough nature of politics but resist easy cynicism about the occupation, from which Baker emerged with his reputation for integrity intact. Readers who relish political revelations will enjoy this insider's backward glance. Gilbert Taylor
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