During the GOP primary for governor, former Secretary of State James A. Baker was one of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's highest-profile backers in her bid to oust Gov. Rick Perry. But that was then. On stage tonight at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library auditorium, when asked by Texas Tribune CEO and Editor in Chief Evan Smith if he'll now come out for Perry against the Democratic nominee, former Houston mayor Bill White, Baker said, "I'm a Republican, and I don't want to see Republicans lose 11 seats in the Congress because of redistricting."
Hardly a ringing endorsement. Pressed further, he said, "I'm going to support the Republican nominee, and I think it's going to be Gov. Perry." Of course, Perry is certainly the Republican nominee, having won more than 50 percent of the vote in the GOP primary.
When his enthusiasm for Perry was questioned by an audience member, Baker turned up the heat. "I've always supported him," he said. "I'll continue to support him." Explaining his primary pick, he said, "I happen to think Kay Bailey Hutchison would make a damn good governor of Texas. That doesn't say anything about a lack of support for Gov. Perry in the general election."
Just in case there were any doubts, Baker added, "He would be my preference over any Democrat who was running."
As notable as Baker's support for Perry is his apparent support for the overwhelming majority of Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda. Baker said he agreed with Obama's handling of Iraq, his handling of Israel's controversial stance on the building of settlements in Jerusalem, and his handling of Afghanistan (with the small exception of the president's "date certain" for withdrawal). Asked which of Obama's foreign policy decisions he disagreed with, Baker cited last year's leadership crisis in ... Honduras. The Obama administration called it a "coup," but Baker says he's not sure it was one "in the traditional sense."
Wednesday night's event was co-presented by the Tribune, the Center for Politics and Governance at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. Check back for full video of the conversation next week.