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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: The Velvet Hammer

By Kevin O'Toole, November 03 2020 12:01 am

A dear friend of mine sent me a book to read – “The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and  Times of James A. Baker III” – a fabulous read!

For those who don’t know him, James Baker managed five (yes, five) presidential campaigns and served as Chief of Staff to the President, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State, to name a few. The duration of his run in Washington, a town known for eating its young, is truly remarkable.

In our national’s capitol and around the globe, Mr. Baker was widely known as the consensus builder and a person who could get things done. All types of world leaders, including kings and queens, constantly sought his counsel. During the years he found him himself at ground zero in historic matters like the Middle East conflict, the unification of Germany, and the reorganization of Russia, all the while remaining beloved by most in Washington D.C.

By all accounts, James Baker was a polished and refined professional. He kept his word, worked extraordinarily hard, and treated all with the utmost respect. Despite his success and power, the world stage was never his goal. He was mostly out of plain view, but everyone who was anyone knew he was the straw that stirred the drink (sorry Reggie). While he converted to work as a Republican, he was widely respected as the uber-statesman and Democrats frequently looked to him. This reputation led to the nickname “Velvet Hammer” – most in politics can understand that imagery pretty quickly.

Who is our modern day Velvet Hammer?

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