Howard Baker didn’t fill a room with his physical stature. He wasn’t a tall or burly man. He was short and perhaps one could call him of slight physique.
The Republican senator from Tennessee was a giant nonetheless. Baker died today at age 88.
With his death, the ranks of senators who know the fine art of legislating have grown a bit thinner.
Baker uttered perhaps the most memorable line not made by President Nixon during the Watergate hearings of 1973-74.
Baker served as vice chairman of the Senate select committee looking into the Watergate scandal. His presence on the panel was meant to preserve a bipartisan atmosphere at the hearings and meant to convey to the world that the Senate intended to conduct this investigation with dignity and decorum.
He then posed this question of a witness: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”
As we all would learn in due course that President Nixon knew plenty about the cover-up of the break-in at the Watergate office complex in June 1972.
Baker was among those senators of his time would could work across the aisle comfortably. He reached out to Democrats while working closely with his fellow Republicans. He understood the fine art of compromise and that one need not sacrifice principle if he or she intended to get something approved by Senate.
Sen. Baker served in the “world greatest deliberative body” with high honor and distinction.
Another of the Senate’s great statesmen has left us.