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Able Baker (James) and Charlie (Rose)

10.23.2006 04:57 | DISPATCHES

Able to fix almost anything, James Baker has let his smugness get the better of him.

For a man with a reputation for working behind the scenes as a consigliere, especially to George H.W. Bush, James Baker has sure been in the spotlight a lot recently. Guess a book tour has the power to drag anything out of the shadows.

But it's odd because it comes at a time when he's been assigned a sensitive mission by Congress. Baker, of course, is heading up the Iraqi Study Group. It's kind of like an expedition sent out to rescue the Bush administration, which has lost its way in the wasteland of Iraq.

For one serving in that capacity, Baker's recent appearance on "The Daily Show" was entirely too unseemly in its merriness. He was also the subject of a two-part interview by Charlie Rose.

While unavailable for free viewing on the Web, a friend caught at least one of the shows. He provided a revealing glimpse -- which eluded commentators both print and Web -- into Baker's role breaking up the 2000 election deadlock in Florida. 

"Back in the 1992 presidential race," my friend wrote, "Al Gore, as 'Clinton's hit man, had criticized Bush 41 and Baker for possible 'criminal' wrongdoing in Iraq-gate [US officials illegally arming Iraq prior to the Gulf War]. Baker was very stung by the accusation, and determined to get even."


In Florida, the strategy Baker used was, in my friend's picturesque language, "to throw every type of legal spaghetti he could think of at the wall and just see what stuck." In fact, to this day the halls of justice remain defaced by the mess he helped create.


My friend quoted Baker: "I didn't get mad." Rose finished his sentence: "You got even." Both of them, my friend said, laughed.


It's one thing for Baker to admit that he was happy Gore lost, but what kind of statesman has no qualms about owning up to revenge was a motivating factor in his actions? The kind of statesmen whose law firm, Baker Botts, as Joshua Holland mentioned in his startling AlterNet article, "Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil" is representing the Saudi monarchy in a suit brought by the families of 9/11 victims.


Let's hope Baker is able to exercise a little more discretion when, as he's been authorized to do, negotiating with Iran over Iraq.


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