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Work Hard, Study...and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life Hardcover – October 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (October 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399153772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399153778
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Richard of Connecticut VINE VOICE on October 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You read a book like this to get a feel for what's it would be like to be considered the GOLD STANDARD in electoral politics. Nobody in modern times has had the success or the good fortune to be on the winning side of so many Presidential elections. One of Baker's competitors is James Carville, the man who more than any other, helped Bill Clinton to defeat George HW Bush and his manager James A. Baker III in 1992. It was Carville who referred to Baker as the Gold Standard.

To understand James Baker, you have to understand where he is coming from. He was originally a Houston based "Society Lawyer" from a prominent family which allowed him to attend Princeton University. A "Society Lawyer" simply caters to the needs of very rich people. Whatever it is they need, the lawyer fixes it, quite a nice life if you can do it.

Baker also has a wonderful, gregarious personality. In person, he is charming to a fault, and a total class act. You have to like the guy. The question one needs to ask is how did Baker parlay a general legal practice in Houston, and morph it into becoming probably the second most important person in government under two successive Presidents.

Even more interesting is how did Baker survive his entire tenure in Washington without being either destroyed, or contaminated by the system. He was able to walk away from his experiences, which were quite extensive, without anybody laying a glove on him.

I was involved in a conversation with former President Nixon on this topic many years ago. The President felt that there were only 250,000 people in the United States that counted. These people own the media, the corporations, they control the institutions, and they have the wealth.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Thomas Senese - Author. on October 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In reflecting upon the life of James Baker through his second memoir 'Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep Out of Politics!' the one thing that continued to stay in my mind is Baker's openess that one of the reasons why he stayed in politics was 'power'. What a refreshing statement: the Truth! This is not so minimal a statement when reading the many self-serving political memoirs published, particularly from the Reagan-era politicians who have published throughtout the years. The life of Jame Baker is quite remarkable, and the sharing of his life and decisions as shared in this memoir are encompassing of service to this nation well done. I may not necessarily agree with all the decisions made by Baker during the years he served 3 different presidents, but I do respect the man and the integrity of this book. There rings certain truths throughout, and his openess about 'power' provide a sense of credability to his perspectives.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on October 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I did not know a great deal about James Baker before I read this book, but I mean it as a compliment to the clarity of his reminiscences when I say I think I do now. In the field of political autobiography, it is not always the case that one emerges knowing more about the author and subject than when one began. From the pages of his book I discern that James Baker is not without wit, albeit at times a distinctly biting one. He is also less a statesman than a politician, and less a politician than a man with protective loyalty to his friends. He is perhaps above all someone with a talent for inserting himself into a situation and calling on a lifetime's worth of well-placed contacts when there is a need to get things done. In short, to his party and to its inner circle, Mr. Baker is invaluable.

James Addison Baker began his adult life as an apolitical Texas Democrat, and emerges today four decades after he took up campaigning as a form of therapy (after his wife's passing) as an elder tactician of the Republican Party. His is the sort of book that will deservedly please Republicans, understandably miff Democrats, raise a few eyebrows and hackles here and there among independents, and ultimately I fear its anecdotes about such varying matters as families ties surpassing race, the "real" way politics in America works, his compliments on the brilliance of Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush, as well as others with whom he has served---in short the best part of the book---will unfortunately be lost on many who purchase it for strictly political reasons.

Let me point out now that this book is NOT about Baker's political neutrality, nor was it expected to be, but one of its strengths is that I think James Baker wrote candidly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. Joseph on February 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you enjoy politics, you will like this book. If you are a Republican, you will love this book. James Baker is a remarkably talented and highly successful man. This book takes you through his life as a Marine, Lawyer, Politician, Campaign Manager, Chief of Staff, Treasury Secretary, Sec. State, Troubleshooter and Wise Man. It is also personal with reflections as a son, husband, father and friend. In all of these diverse roles, he demonstrated many qualities: character, honesty, toughness, kindness, generosity, loyalty and impressive productivity.

Of all the stories in politics, I was struck by two. The first involved Dan Quayle; Baker felt that when Bush 41 ran for reelection, Dan was a drag on the ticket and if he had graciously offered to resign in favor of a better Veep, Bush 41 may have won reelection. Dan refused to take the hint and the rest is history. Quayle's wife, Marilyn scores a contemptuous footnote because she sneered dismissively at Bush 43's frat boy presidential qualifications. The second story involved Al Gore. Baker did not take kindly to Gore's attack on his and Bush 41's integrity during the 92 reelection bid. Gore made wild unsubstantiated charges regarding Saddam Hussein, a bank and Bush/Baker. Payback came by way of Baker's role in the 2000 Florida recount.

The book has a lot of humor. One story relates to a picture that he gave Gorbachev after Iraq invaded Kuwait. It showed Saddam on one side and a condom on the other. The inscription read: "For the prick who did not know when to withdraw." Baker says Gorby laughed uproariously. Other fascinating anecdotes abound, both personal and professional. I enjoyed this book very much and my respect for Jim Baker, which was high to begin with, has grown immeasurably.
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