The James Baker Monument: Five Things It Needs
, there will be a reason to visit downtown Houston: A statue honoring former Secretary of State James Baker will be unveiled Tuesday.
Why Baker? As the monument's official website so modestly puts it, he's "A Magnificent American."
Some people might choose a different word to end that phrase; before George W. Bush and his insane clown posse came along and showed how bad things could really get, Baker and his crew were a nightmare for non-Republicans. His schmoozy charm with the media helped deflect any blame elsewhere, though. The New York Times' Maureen Dowd still has a crush on him, we think.
If you're going to build a monument to James Baker, here are five things it most definitely, absolutely needs:
5. A "Fuck the Jews" sign somewhere
One of the great political quotes of the first George H.W. Bush administration, Baker was talking with a colleague about what they planned to do in the Middle East. His subtle, nuanced view: "Fuck the Jews, they didn't vote for us anyway." Just as the Lincoln Monument contains the Gettysburg Address, the Baker Monument also must have his deathless contribution to American political rhetoric.
Baker was a big fan of the controversial sleeping pill, whichTime magazine calls
"a chemical cousin" of Valium and Librium. "Time for a blue bomb," he'd cheerily announce before taking one. Side effects of Halcion include agitation, depression, violent behavior and confusion, which also were side effects of the Reagan-Bush years.
3. A tribute to his campaign genius
Baker was a master of a) dirty campaigning, and b) never getting called on it. The 1988 presidential race included the notorious Willie Horton ad, which the Bush campaign was officially offended by and could do nothing to stop, and then-President Ronald Reagan cracking jokes about (sleazy) rumors that Michael Dukakis had mental-health treatments in his past. Baker, of course, had nothing to do with any of this; he just ran the campaigns.
2. Baker the Detective
As defeat loomed in 1992, a panicky Bush re-election crew, led by Baker, desperately sought a magic bullet of scandal that would bring Bill Clinton down. Rumors circulated that at one point as a college kid, Clinton had written the U.S. State Department inquiring how he could renounce his American citizenship because of his disgust with the Vietnam War. (The fact that Clinton no doubt had his eyes set on the White House even at that early point, and would not have committed such political suicide, didn't occur to anyone.) Baker had been a Secretary of State, so he knew full well the honorable American tradition that the State Department stays out of electoral politics. So he pressured staffers to frantically hunt through the file room looking for the alleged letter.
1. The Man Who Gave Us W
The monument must, in some way, pay homage to the fact that Baker is the man who gave us W the president. You can't really blame Baker for this -- he was a lawyer doing his best for his client. His client just happened to be W in the Florida recount, and Baker completely de-balled and destroyed his Al Gore counterpart, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
Bonus result for Baker: W's disastrous reign made Baker's antics look positively benign in hindsight. A win-win! For everyone but the country and the world.
The unveiling is 11 a.m. Tuesday at the corner of Smith and Preston. It's hosted, for some reason, by CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.