'He was a Texan by choice': James Baker reflects on George H.W. Bush, his presidency

By Dominique Sachse - Anchor, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - Former Secretary of State James Baker said former President George H.W. Bush, who died late Friday at 94, was one of the nation’s best presidents.

Baker reflected on the life and career of his friend during his one-on-one interview with KPRC2’s Dominique Sachse, taped a few days before an event at the center bearing his name at Rice University that featured a conversation with former President Barack Obama.

“I’m convinced, absolutely convinced, that he is the very best one-term president this country has ever seen,” Baker said. “You look at the things he accomplished in those brief four years, particularly on the foreign policy side, but also, to some extent, on the domestic side.”

Baker pointed out that Bush became president after 12 years of Republican control of the White House, something that is nearly unprecedented.

“So, he got an awful lot done,” Baker said.

AP Photo/Shayna Brennan

President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III, left, meet with reporters on the White House Lawn , Friday, May 17, 1991 in Washington to discuss Baker’s recent trip to the Middle East.

Baker said Bush held many titles during his political career – U.N. ambassador, ambassador to China, CIA director – but there was one he valued more than most.

“He was a gentleman,” Baker said. “You know, somebody wrote a book about him, you know, the last gentleman president, and he was.”

Another title he was proud to hold, Baker said, was that of “Texan.”

“Here’s a guy that moved to Houston because he wanted to,” Baker said. “He was a Texan by choice. A lot of us were Texans by birth. He made the conscious decision to be a Texan. He could have been a big muckety-muck on Wall Street with his father’s firm and all that, but he wanted to try his own hand."

Baker said Bush always wanted to get into politics, but he was not without his doubts.

“He looked at me one day and said, ‘Do you think I’m foolish to do this?’” Baker said. “He had no name recognition, but he got out there, and he beat a lot more prominent Republicans.”

Watch the video attached to this story to hear more anecdotes from Baker about his friendship with Bush and his time in the White House.

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