James A. Baker III: An Unexpected Political Life

ByABC News
October 5, 2006, 4:05 PM

Oct. 5, 2006— -- Few people have lived the life that James A. Baker III has. He stumbled into politics on the recommendation of his tennis partner as a way to distract himself from the pain of the death of his wife, and built a career serving six American presidents.

In his recently released book, "Work Hard, Study ... and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life," the former secretary of state recalls the details of his life and times with Presidents Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

James Baker was interviewed on ABC News Now's "Politics Live" by Sam Donaldson. The two discussed personal stories from Baker's remarkable political career and touched on recent political developments too.

Baker on Today's Politics: The Foley Scandal

When questioned about the resignation of former Rep. Mark Foley, Baker was quick to admonish Foley.

"This is an outrageous thing that has happened. Foley should have resigned as he did. He should be investigated. If crimes were committed, he should be prosecuted."

Baker also responded to the fact that some in the House leadership, such as Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., may have known about Foley's behavior and should accept partial responsibility or punishment for any involvement.

Baker said that he doesn't think anyone should step down until the investigation is completed. "There should not be a wholesale dumping on the leadership until the investigations, which the leaders themselves called for."

Baker on Reagan's Legacy

Baker was Reagan's White House chief of staff, and later his Treasury secretary. When asked about Reagan's legacy, Baker insisted that "history is going to treat him extraordinarily well," and he recalled a story that showed Reagan's ability to poke fun at himself.

Reagan had given Baker a picture he had drawn, and the president signed it with the inscription "Dear Jim. You see, I don't sleep in all the Cabinet meetings. Sometimes I do this." The presidential doodle hangs on the wall in the James Baker Institute to this day.