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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Secretary of State James Baker scolds Congress

Former Secretary of State James Baker spoke at St. John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie


You know you're out of power when your limousine is yellow and your driver speaks Farsi, said former Secretary of State James Baker Sunday morning when addressing the Adult Forum at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square.
With apologies to his Farsi friends, he added.
Secretary Baker, 81, came to the church to talk about "Faith, Public Service, and Public Policy," and attending his presentation was his "very best friend in life," President George H.W. Bush, who sat in the President's Pew with Mrs. Bush.



President George H.W. Bush at St.John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia
Leslie















Former First Lady Barbara Bush at St. John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie


Mr. Baker, tanned and relaxed, spoke and answered questions (nothing was off-limits, he said) for about 50 minutes and frequently interspersed his comments with praise for President Bush.
The secretary supports the nomination of Mitt Romney because Gov. Romney represents the best chance the Republicans have to defeat President Obama next November, he said.
"Governor Romney would be far and away the strongest candidate in the fall."
The election will be determined by independent voters in critical swing states [Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, and some say Nevada] since the coasts will go Democratic and the heartland will vote Republican.
"A contested primary is good for the candidate in the general election."

The 13-year Capitol Hill veteran who worked for President Gerald Ford, President Ronald Reagan, and President Bush said people everywhere desire affirmation, recognition, and fulfillment, not just D.C. power brokers. Power can be "intoxicating and addictive," but it alone does not "bring the fulfillment that many people think it does."

When asked about the possibility of American troops going into Yemen, Somalia, or other African nation, Mr. Baker said "our economy is in the tank, and we don't have the money to go" and "be the policeman of the world." He talked about "wars of choice" versus "wars of necessity." 

He commended President Obama, the Navy Seals, and the military for taking out Osama bin Laden, and he cited last week's successful rescue of an American in Somalia. He made no negative remarks about the president but he had a few for members of Congress.
Harmony is lacking in "the cynical world we live in today, especially in the city of Washington, D.C. ," and the blame rests with both parties. It is time to redevelop a bipartisan approach to government. "We all have to start to return some sense of comity." Washington gridlock is caused by one party wanting to increase spending, and the other party wanting to cut it.
"The parties must find a way to compromise" which "is not a dirty word..... We need to start focusing on the Number One Problem: we are broke."
Besides the economy, Mr. Baker said another major problem in the U.S. is the proliferation of media outlets and the "talking heads" who stimulate divisiveness that sells. "Comity does not sell." He mentioned cable channels and the Internet where anyone can put anything up, true or not.
Redistricting is another problem and another divider.
When one party gets in office, it redistricts to favor itself, and the reverse happens when the other party wins. Democrats tend to nominate candidates who are left of center, while the Republicans nominate candidates right of center, leaving out the center which is disappearing. Mr. Baker said he has no remedy since redistricting is constitutionally protected, and suggested it's easier if one party controls the House, the Senate, and the White House, then "maybe something can be done, but President Obama had that for two years."
Answering another question, he said he believes the Arabs and Israelis will reach a peace agreement, likely not this year, but later, but not too much later, since 80% of the Israelis want peace although the present Israeli government "is unwilling to lean forward for peace."


About the Iranians, he said he thought they were too smart to block the Strait of Hormuz since it would be an act of war and a violation of the international sea agreement which would likely compel the U.S. to act. He  has no insider information but thinks and hopes the Iranians are merely talking rhetoric and they "may be posturing a little bit."


Former Secretary of State James Baker at St. John's-Lafayette Square/Patricia Leslie

Mr. Baker spoke sincerely about his faith and friendship.
To "live a life of faith doesn't come easy" and "takes some serious hard work." Baker said he was not a saint unless a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.
Friends, friendships and lasting personal relationships that enrich lives and help individuals find their way are the most important ingredients to a satisfying life, he said, acknowledging several times the help his wife, Susan, has provided.
He quoted a favorite Biblical passage of his mother who lives "through the communion of saints": Proverb 3: 5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. "
"Faith and friends bind people," the secretary said.

Coming up at St. John's:
February 1, 12:10 p.m. Cupid's Heart, a half-hour harp and organ concert by Rebecca Smith and Michael Lodico
February 12, 10 a.m. John Milton Cooper, Jr., author, history professor, and former fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, will talk about Wilson's presidency at the Adult Forum
February 19, 10 a.m. Kristie Miller, author of Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson's First Ladies, will speak at the Adult Forum
February 26, 10 a.m. Gigi Bradford, writer, editor, and chair of the Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Board, will discuss similarities between faith and poetry at the Adult Forum

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