James Baker, the veteran Republican statesman, said President Donald Trump’s administration had gotten a lot more wrong so far than it’s done right.
In a wide-ranging interview with Politico, the former top official under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush criticized the Trump administration’s relationship with Mexico, Israel, NATO allies and the GOP-majority Congress.
“We have allies that are just scared to death,” said Baker, who feared that Trump was trading away sanctions against Russia for “nothing.”
Baker — who served as Reagan’s chief of staff and treasury secretary, and then as Bush’s chief of staff and secretary of state — reluctantly voted for Trump, but he wasn’t impressed so far with his White House operations.
“The White House that they have constructed has a lot of chiefs,” Baker told the website. “In this White House, it seems to me, you’ve got at least four, maybe five, different power centers, so we are just going to have to wait and see how it works in practice.”
Baker has compared Trump to Reagan, saying he’d been suspicious of the former movie star-turned-president until helping him wield the levers of power in Washington — and he hoped the current president would also surround himself with establishment veterans.
“Ronald Reagan’s administration had a lot of people in it who had been there before, and we knew how Washington worked and what didn’t work,” Baker said. “Consultation and not surprising people is important if you want them to support the policy, and Ronald Reagan was very good at understanding that.”
He urged Trump to recall the title of the book that established his reputation.
“The art of the deal is understanding what the political constraints are on the person across the table,” Baker told Politico. “That’s a really important relationship and we shouldn’t lose it.”
Baker wasn’t ready to write off the Trump administration as a disaster just yet.
“It’s not unexpected you have these kind of kinks,” he said. “The important thing is you learn from them.”