James Baker came to town this week to open Baker Botts’ new office in Abu Dhabi. I helped write a quick profile on him. I would’ve liked more time to work on it – he’s been involved in so much in both domestic politics and international affairs – but the editors, understandably, wanted it turned around quickly. Timeliness and all.

I woke up at 530 a.m. my time on Thursday to call Lawrence Eagleburger Wednesday night to ask him about his time serving with Baker. He was very gracious with his time, pausing only to get a cigarette from his wife, and joking that maybe Baker was still at it even at age 80 because of an “overactive thyroid.” Eagleburger succeeded Baker as secretary of state and I learned from him that he was the only career foreign service officer to ever hold that position. I couldn’t put that into a profile of Baker but I did find it interesting.

In any case, this sums up what Baker saw in 12 years working for two presidents. Amazing times.

When the then president Ronald Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton in 1981, Mr Baker was the president’s chief of staff. On the October day in 1987 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 22 per cent, he was the secretary of the treasury. When the Berlin Wall came down two years later, Mr Baker was the secretary of state, the last one of the cold war.

And in the summer of 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, he was the official responsible for selling to the UN a resolution on the use of force against Iraq. He also built a team of 34 nations to enforce that resolution.

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