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Baker, Hamilton Two of 'America's Best Leaders'
Head of Fisher House Foundation Also Makes US News' List of Honorees
11/21/2007 11:22 AM ET
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 6: Iraq Study Group co-chairmen former secretary of state James Baker (R) and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee Lee Hamilton (L) conduct a news conference by the The Iraq Study Group on Capitol Hill December 6,2006.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 6: Iraq Study Group co-chairmen former secretary of state James Baker (R) and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee Lee Hamilton (L) conduct a news conference by the The Iraq Study Group on Capitol Hill December 6,2006.

"It became virtually impossible for even the war's staunchest supporters to argue for staying the course" after the release of the Iraq Study Group report, Kevin Whitelaw writes in this week's US News and World Report.

For their efforts to forge agreement for the sake of having a true consensus of the report's recommendations, US News has named the ISG's co-chairs, former secretary of state James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, as two of America's Best Leaders.

Kenneth Fisher, chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, which finances the building of guest housing near military hospitals to accommodate the families of wounded soldiers, also garnered a nod on the list honoring 19 of the country's best leaders.

Over the past two decades, the Fisher House has built more than three dozen buildings to house military families near their wounded loved ones, and has plans for twenty more over the next four years.

Kent Garber writes that Fisher, 49, a senior partner at a Manhattan real-estate firm and architect of the foundation's expansion, is motivated by what he says is a desire to "give back" to U.S. servicemen. "People can be proactive," Fisher says. "You can sit back and play the political card. You can ask, 'Why is the government not doing this or not doing that?' But while you're wasting your time, the need grows and grows."

Whitelaw had Hamilton and Baker each comment on the working style and motivation of the other, and the respect the elder statesmen have for each other becomes immediately evident.

Hamilton says of Baker:

The conviction Jim had was that the Iraq Study Group report wouldn't amount to much if it wasn't unanimous, and it certainly wouldn't amount to much if it split along Democratic and Republican lines. There was a strong urge on his part to understand where the parties were coming from and to try to close gaps and reconcile differences.... If he had not been strongly committed to seeking that unanimity, we just wouldn't have gotten there.

Baker describes Hamilton:

He has had a voracious appetite for knowledge. He is an honest broker. He is a careful listener. He was always a person who would try to bridge the gap. He understood the political restraints the other side had with connection to any negotiation. He is not consumed by ideology, but he would not sacrifice principle for pragmatism.... My definition of leadership has always been that it is not some exalted principle reserved only for those in high authority. My view is that leadership is nothing more than simply knowing what to do and then doing it. And that personifies Lee Hamilton.

That kind of praise, respect, and cooperation crossing the ideological boundary between Democrat and Republican is refreshing and unusual and leaves one wishing Washington, DC had more leaders like Baker and Hamilton.

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