"What did the president know and when did he know it?" This was the famous question that propelled this Tennessee Republican Senator into history. Howard Baker, the former Senate Majority Leader, passed away at the age of 88 on Thursday afternoon.
Howard Henry Baker, Jr. was a Republican US Senator, the White House Chief of Staff to Ronald Reagan, and a United States Ambassador to Japan. He was known in DC as the "Great Conciliator," and was very often regarded as one of the most successful senators in terms of negotiating deals, abiding by legislation, and acting on his morals as a conservative.
Baker was a fan of justice, and he emerged as the unlikely star of the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973. He was devastated and "disillusioned" by the entire ordeal.
"I believed that it was a political ploy of the Democrats, that it would come to nothing," Baker told the Associated Press in 1992. "But a few weeks into that, it began to dawn on me that there was more to it than I thought, and more to it than I liked."
Baker became the center of attention, especially for women at the time, with his nonchalant but direct attitude in questioning the White House maids during the interrogation. He played it cool, and won over the hearts of everyone with his intellectual charm and roguish good looks. He was described as "presidential" many times throughout that period.
"Senator Baker truly earned his nickname: the Great Conciliator. I know he will be remembered with fondness by members of both political parties," Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor Thursday, announcing Baker's death to the chamber.
"He built our state's two-party political system, and inspired three generations to try to build a better state and country," Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated in a news release later that same day.
Baker was minority leader when the Reagan landslide swept Republicans into control of the chamber in 1980. To consider his career and to see how all of his admirers still talk with the utmost respect about him is truly endearing. May you rest in peace, Great Conciliator.