Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Howard Baker's 30 Years Of Public Service

Posted on February 17, 2005

I'm glad to join with the President Pro Tempore and with the Majority Leader to cosponsor this resolution and I'd like to add just a few words about Howard Baker. When Howard Baker left for Japan, there was an enormous ceremony hosted by the President of the United States in the East Room. It was a signal of the importance of the United States' relationship with Japan. It was a signal of the importance of a long list of United States Ambassadors to the country of Japan. It was also a reminder of the importance that Senator Baker, then Ambassador Baker, would have at this listening-post and action-post in Asia. Howard Baker's coming home deserves a little bit of fan-fare, too. The relationship between Japan and the United States has never been better. A good bit of that credit goes to President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi for their close relationship, but Howard Baker had a lot to do with it. His homecoming helps bring to a close, as Senator Stevens and Senator Frist have said, another chapter in one of the most distinguished public careers in our country. Howard Baker was a very successful senator, and there really wouldn't have been a Reagan presidency as we know it without Howard Baker. I remember Howard Baker telling me that when the tax cuts passed in the early 1980s after the Republican Majority was elected, that he, as the Majority Leader, "took the tax cuts and walked them over to the House of Representatives and handed them to Tip O'Neill." And then, of course, Senator Baker put his own presidential aspirations aside a few years later and served as Chief of Staff for President Reagan. I was living in Australia at the time, and I remember the relief that Australians had in 1987, hearing on the radio that Howard Baker was going to the White House to help straighten out some problems. I saw him up close and I've seen him up close for a long time. I came here to this body in 1967 as his legislative assistant, one year before our President Pro Tempore became a member of the Senate. Howard Baker was not a shy first-termer. We sat around in the staff seats in the back and waited until he and Ted Kennedy, then another young senator, took on Everett Dirksen and Sam Ervin on "one man, one vote." The youngsters beat the oldsters on that vote. He ran for Leader twice, I think, in the first six years. In 1977, he changed the name "Minority Leader" to "Republican Leader" on the wall out here. He began to talk about the second best view in Washington being from the Leader's office, and we knew he was thinking about trying for the first best view in Washington, which is from the White House. When he accepted this post in Japan at President Bush's request, some people said to me, "Why in the world would Howard Baker do that, after all that he's already done in his life?" I was not one bit surprised that he did it. Howard Baker has always had the bit in his teeth. And he's done everything that he's ever done with consummate skill. He's the reason I'm in public service today. We once said there was a whole generation of us - former Senator Fred Thompson, the late Howard Liebengood, a number of us - who were a generation of people inspired by Howard Baker. Now there's a second generation, including our Majority Leader. There really wouldn't be a two-party system in Tennessee without Howard Baker. We used to say the best thing about Howard Baker was that when people saw him on TV, he always made Tennesseans look good. We can now say that about the country. When people see Howard Baker around the world, he makes us Americans look even better. He represents the best of us. We welcome him home just in time for his 80th birthday on November 15, and just in time, I'm quite confident, to prepare for another sparkling chapter in one of our country's most distinguished public careers.