President-elect George Bush turned to an old tennis partner and longtime political ally, James A. Baker III, for the chief foreign policy job in the new Republican administration.
At his first news conference as president-elect, Bush announced Wednesday morning that he would nominate Baker, his campaign chairman, as secretary of state. The appointment had been widely expected.The partnership between Bush and Baker dates back to 1970, when Bush asked Baker, still grieving over the death of his first wife, to help him in his run, albeit unsuccessful, for the Senate from Texas. From that evolved an 18-year political alliance.
Bush told reporters Wednesday that Baker had "distinguished himself in every position he has held in the Reagan administration."
Baker served as chief of staff during the first four years of the Reagan administration and then in a celebrated job switch took over the Treasury post in 1985 when former Treasury Secretary Donald Regan became chief of staff.
Baker resigned from the Cabinet in August to take over as Bush's presidential campaign chairman. He was succeeded at Treasury by Nicholas Brady, who is widely expected to retain that post in a Bush administration.
Bush saluted Secretary of State George Shultz for giving the country the "highest possible standards of public service" during his tenure at the State Department.
Shultz in turn saluted the man designated to succeed him. At a Washington news conference, Shultz said Baker "will hit the ground running."
"His close, warm and productive relationship with President-elect Bush makes him just the guy to serve as the president's chief foreign policy adviser, and as chief spokesman for the president and for our nation's interests in the new and bright era we have entered," Shultz said.
While Baker is chiefly known for his skills in negotiating deals with Congress, Bush cited his experience in foreign affairs gained as a member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.
"His 71/2 years as a member of the National Security Council, his proven skills as a negotiator and the personal respect in which he is held will allow him again to demonstrate the highest standards of performance as our next secretary of state," Bush said.
Both Baker, 58, and Bush, six years his senior, came from wealthy families. Both went to prep schools in the East and both graduated from Ivy League Colleges - Baker from Princeton and Bush from Yale.