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Public Papers - 1992 - August

Remarks on the Resignation of James A. Baker III as Secretary of State

1992-08-13

I have a brief statement to make, and I'll be followed by Marlin taking some questions.

I've asked Secretary Baker to resign as Secretary of State to join me as Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to the President, effective August 23d. He will help me build on what we started by developing an integrated second-term program of domestic, economic, and foreign policies.

This is a pivotal point in America's journey. In the world today, these three topics have become one issue. We must ensure that the United States is unquestionably safe and strong at home and abroad. I also want his counsel and assistance as I seek a mandate from the American people to put this program into action.

Secretary Baker has served our country with great energy, intelligence, and personal commitment over the past 12 years. I won't spend a long time listing his many successes, leaving that record to other statements and to history. But I do want to say a word about my friend.

I've known Jim Baker for 35 years. He is a committed trustee of the American public interest. I know Americans have been proud to see him on TV representing the United States abroad. I know they respect his many skills. I know that they trust his judgment. He's the sort of man you want on your team.

As Secretary of State, Jim Baker has appreciated the unique role and capabilities of American power. He's also understood and acted upon the exceptional appeal and calling of American ideals. He's been bold, quick, and tenacious, and he's achieved important things, willing to see new possibilities and patterns during an epic of revolutionary change. He acted while others were still struggling to comprehend, and he got things done.

He was central to our efforts to assemble an unparalleled U.N. coalition against Iraq. He's made great progress towards transforming victory on the battlefield into a broader peace between Israelis and Arabs. During his tenure we totally transformed our relationship with the Soviet Union, bringing the cold war to a peaceful end. He negotiated deep cuts in the nuclear weapons, conventional weapons as well. In so doing, he helped establish a vastly safer security structure on which to build a new Euro-Atlantic community and protection against the plague of proliferation. In helping to overcome the division of Europe, he helped lead the way for the unification of Germany. He helped silence the wars in Central America by building policies around democracy and the power of the ballot box.

From Tokyo to Toronto, Jim Baker is known for accomplishment. He knows about change, how to distinguish wise moves from foolish ones. He knows about America's Government having helped to develop and implement domestic, economic, and foreign policies. Perhaps most important, he knows our people are the source of our country's strength.

I make this move with full confidence that the State Department will remain under able leadership. Larry Eagleburger, a 30-year veteran of America's foreign policy, a man to whom I feel exceptionally close personally, will serve as Acting Secretary. He will do so with distinction.

I also want to say a word about Sam Skinner. I want to thank him for his dedicated service at the White House over the course of this turbulent year. He recognized right up front the contribution that Jim Baker can make here, given my longstanding personal relationship with Jim. He and I have actually discussed this matter for some time, and he encouraged me to make this change. Sam and I have decided that he can best complement this move by assuming the position of general chairman of the Republican National Committee, and I will recommend to the RNC that this appointment be confirmed. Some may remember the Paul Laxalt role, close to the White House, very helpful at the committee, and that precedent is there.

He's been at my side, Sam Skinner has, in politics and Government, too, for over a decade. He served the public with extraordinary distinction in Illinois and is a respected and highly effective member of my Cabinet. Remember he was responsible, I'd give him a major part of the credit, for passing the historic transportation bill to modernize our National Highway System, a significant accomplishment.

I am personally appreciative of his willingness to assume this new assignment as we move into the general election campaign. I am convinced that this appointment will strengthen the Republican National Committee structure, and Sam will be able to work very closely with Rich Bond who will remain as chairman.

I recognize that many Americans today are anxious. Many have genuine concerns; others have doubts. But over the past 4 years Americans have accomplished results that once seemed beyond possibility. Now we'll focus our attention on the policies at home and abroad that will make the United States unrivaled on all fronts, economically secure for our children, and a safer and better place to live.

That's the end of the statement. Marlin will be able to flesh out some of the details for you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

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