Former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., a moderate Republican known as the politician who inquired what President Richard Nixon knew during the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings, died in his home yesterday at age 88, according to a statement released by his law firm today. The scion of a political family, Baker served 18 years in the Senate, winning widespread respect from Republicans and Democrats alike and rising to the post of majority leader. He also served as chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, and as US ambassador to Japan from 2001 to 2005,
Baker ran for President once, in 1980. His name was floated over the years for such prestigious positions as Supreme Court justice, vice presidential candidate, and CIA director, but he turned each of those gigs down. He'll be perhaps best remembered for his famous question about Watergate: "What did the president know and when did he know it?" He uttered the line while serving as the top Republican on the Senate committee investigating the scandal. "Senator Baker truly earned his nickname: the Great Conciliator," Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor today, announcing Baker's death to the chamber. "I know he will be remembered with fondness by members of both political parties."