We Need a New Generation of James Bakers

Former Secretary of State James Baker, Leo McGarry in the flesh, spoke at my 2008 Texas Tech commencement ceremony. In a recent Texas Monthly interview, he spoke about why Washington no longer works. He mentions redistricting, before pointing to the media-generated echo chamber of manufactured outrage:

[W]hen I was trying to get things done for the American people, the press were at least trying to report on events reasonably and objectively. They were observers, not players. Today the press are players. If you tune in to MSNBC, you’d think you were listening to the house organ of the Democratic party. If you tune in to Fox, you know you’re listening to the house organ of the Republican party. That makes for good ratings, but it doesn’t make for good governance.

This morning, Secretary Baker penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed that addressed four glaring weaknesses in the Iran nuclearjamesbakertime102210 deal:

  1. Disputes over the timeline for phasing out sanctions
  2. “Verification mechanisms”
  3. “Snapback provisions” which would grant the authority to reapply sanctions
  4. “Iran’s refusal so far to provide historical information about its nuclear-enrichment program so that there is a baseline against which to measure any future enrichment.”

This is the most thoughtful critique of the deal that I have encountered, motivated by progress rather than partisanship:

I commend the president and his national-security team for trying to solve this difficult problem short of military action. A nuclear-armed Iran threatens the security of the Middle East and the world. A nuclear-arms race in that volatile part of the globe would be disastrous. Military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities should remain our last resort, as it would strengthen the hard-liners in Tehran and could have other unfortunate and serious consequences.

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