A letter from a reader about Baker '52, bicker, and diplomacy

July 22, 2007:

I was astounded to read, at the finish of his PAW interview (A Moment With, April 18), that James A. Baker '52 defended the selective eating club system of his (and my) time with the canard that it was based on the same principle of selectivity that the University used to promote and tenure faculty as well as to admit students. Surely a former secretary of state, treasury secretary, and White House chief of staff cannot believe that Princeton chose its professors (but maybe its students in 1948, when he was admitted) in a process in any way similar to the manner in which the bicker was conducted.

Then I re-examined his statements on the Iraq Study Group report, of which he was a major architect. Reflecting on talks that might take place among the United States, Syria, Israel, "and those Palestinian representatives who recognize Israel's right to exist," he fails even to consider the possibility of dealing directly with Hamas, though there are respected observers who believe that the democratically elected Hamas is not a monolithic organization but, rather, has a political wing that might be amenable to recognizing Israel. His inclination is to deal with Damascus, betting on Syria's willingness to manipulate Hamas in our (read Israel's) interest, though Syria is currently aligned with Hamas' less-moderate military wing. Of course, Baker is privy to far more information that I will ever have.

More surprising is his assurance that the Bush administration – and who of us can forget that Baker spearheaded the legal efforts in 2000 that wrested Florida from Gore to Bush? – has begun to embrace the Iraq Study Group report. This is the report that recommended the withdrawal of combat units by the end of the first quarter of 2008, as now embodied in legislation emerging from Congress, which the president inalterably opposes.

President of Ivy Club? Yes. World diplomat? You decide.

San Francisco, Calif.

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