All Eyes on James Baker's Iraq Panel

The result was perhaps Baker's biggest failure. He never provided strong leadership or a winning strategy in the fall campaign, and Clinton won handily. It was widely assumed that Baker had never wanted to return to politics, and much preferred the diplomatic arena to grubbing for votes.

But in the days after the November 2000 election, he made a comeback of sorts by heading up George W. Bush's efforts to win Florida's disputed electoral votes. He has provided private counsel to Bush since then, and the president readily accepted the formation of the Baker-Hamilton panel to advise him on Iraq.

Does that mean Bush will accept that advice? ABC's George Stephanopoulos reminded Baker last month that the administration rejected some of his advice before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Baker said, "Well, I'm not sure that they will listen to our advice now except that we are a bipartisan group that was formed at the urging of Congress. The administration approved of the formation of the group and has been assisting us."

Baker also noted the importance of compromise within the panel: "We've got a lot of good Republicans and Democrats on this commission, and we are determined to come up with a consensus report. If we come up with a report that has dissenting views...nobody will pay any attention to it."

This was classic Jim Baker. The pragmatist. The practitioner of the art of compromise.

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