James Baker remembers George H.W. Bush's 'consequential presidency'

Former Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff James Baker discusses his friend, and former boss, President George H.W. Bush.
6:42 | 12/02/18

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Transcript for James Baker remembers George H.W. Bush's 'consequential presidency'
We begin with his closest friend. The tennis partner who managed all of George Bush's campaigns, became his white house chief of staff, and secretary of state. James baker, welcome to "This week." Mr. Secretary, I know you had the privilege of sharing the final days and hours with president bush. What can you share about that? Well, the president had a very gentle and peaceful passing. But -- he surprised us. He kept surprising us throughout his illness. Because he would get sick. They would put him in the hospital. He would bounce back. That happened for five or six years, I think. He had a form of parkinsonism that prevented him from getting rid of a lot of fluids. They would build up and impact his lungs adversely. He went through a lot of that. And then -- but he really wanted to live long enough to get back to his summer home in kennebunkport this last summer. Which he did. Then he wanted to live long enough to get back to his home in Houston, which he did. He began to go downhill a little bit rather rapidly after that. He hadn't eaten for three or four days last Friday. By last Friday. And I live -- fairly close to him. And I go over there a fair amount. I went over Friday morning, 7:15. He hadn't eaten for three days. One of his aides said, Mr. President, secretary baker here. Well, he -- he bounced up -- he perked up. He opened his eyes. He looked at me, he says, hey, bake. Where we going? He kept his spirit and sense of humor right to the very end. His passing was very gentle and very peaceful. He had members of his family there. Susan and I were there. And others. Jean baker, his chief of staff. And the doctors. That is a blessing. And I guess you also had the blessing of friendship with him for so long. Have you ever imagined how different both your lives would have been had you not met? Well, I've certainly imagined how different my life would have been had he not been my friend. You know -- I never intended to get into politics and public service, George. I was a lawyer in Houston, Texas. I was content to continue that. Then I lost my wife to cancer at the age of 38. And, Barbara and George were the last people to come see her other than family before she died. And, George wanted -- George came to me and said, you know, you need to take your mind off your grief. How about helping me run for the senate here in Texas? I said, well, George, that's a great idea except for two things. I don't know anything about politics. I was sort of apolitical. Number two, I'm a Democrat. He said, well, we can cure that latter problem. And we did. I changed parties and helped him in that senate race. From there on out, it was an extraordinarily warm and close friendship. And as you said, I think in your introduction, I did lead all of his campaigns for president. We became extraordinarily close. And then he gave me the privilege of serving as secretary of state over this wonderful country of ours at a time of fundamental change. His presidency from a foreign policy standpoint was such a consequential presidency. I can go back and check off all the things that happened. But it was a time of fundamental and radical change in the world. No question he'll be remembered and you'll be remembered for how you managed that situation. I know in a conversation with John Meachem that the president said very matter of factly that he's just going to be an asterisk in history. No, no. I don't agree with that. Yes, he's a one-term president, thanks to you guys involuntarily retiring us from public service. But he's going to be and was a very consequential one-term president and I would argue far and away the best one-term president we have ever had and such a good one that he was in my view one of the very best presidents of all time. And he really got a lot done and he did it with great skill and he knew foreign policy. He understood it. He managed the end of the cold war peacefully. It ended with a whimper and not a bang. And then he did all those other things. Historians are coming around to that view. What single memory will you cherish the most? I suppose one of the most vivid memories I have is sitting in his suite. At the 1980 Republican convention when it looked like governor Reagan, who was going to get the nomination, was going to pick Jerry Ford, my old boss. I had been Ford's chairman in the campaign against Carter in '76. Looked like he was going to come back as maybe vice president for governor Reagan. For president Reagan. We were sitting there. We were the only opponent of governor Reagan in that primary that had any delegates. We had a fairly substantial number of delegates. And the phone rang and a voice dor bush there for governor Reagan? I answered the phone. That was -- that was the moment that I think had that not happened, I really -- I really am convinced there would never have been a bush 41 presidency. If that hadn't happened, there probably would never have been a bush 43 president. Changed the course of history. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us this morning. Thank you, George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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