If you think the country is politically divided now, what do you think 1787 might have felt like?
At that time, the United States was a collection of loosely connected states at odds with each other. And the country’s founders, against all odds, found common ground led by George Washington.
The first president is the subject of the new book, “To Rescue the Constitution: George Washington and the Fragile American Experiment.” It’s the latest in a series of presidential books written by Fox News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier.
As someone who’s sat down with many government officials — including a recent one-on-one with former President Donald Trump — Baier said when it comes to battling fiction with fact, it takes a lot of preparation.
“It's a challenge … it’s kind of like nailing Jell-O to the wall depending on the question,” he said. “But for the most part it’s about research, and I have a great staff. We look into how he’s answered things before, how he’s talked about things before. That leads to the next question.”
Today’s political climate can be difficult to navigate as more and more Americans feel the country is in its most fractured period. As a journalist covering these major issues the nation's democracy faces, Baier said he believes there are lessons to be learned from history and Washington’s approach to conflict.
“We've had moments in our history that have been really dark,” he said. “And it gives us perspective that maybe it’s not as bad as we think it is. The other thing to learn is that he was always striving for common ground between people and let people dissent. Dissent is baked into the cake of our democracy.”
It’s this demeanor that Baier discusses in his new book, digging into the narrative of Washington as the person who had to manage the multiple voices of dissent that frequently arose along the journey to shaping the United States.
Baier also illustrates a time when Washington needed to pull together a “ragtag” army of soldiers who lacked proper training, had inadequate uniforms and bloody feet as they walked through the snow into battle.
“He manages to figure out how to train them, how to get the money, even though it was not coming in fast enough, and convinced them that they can win,” Baier said.
In addition to being America’s first president, Washington was an Army general in the Revolutionary War and presided over the Constitutional Convention. While he was not known to speak up often, Washington was the person many looked to for support. Baier explains this three-tiered call as Washington’s steps to rescuing the constitution.
Despite this, Washington’s name, like the names of many others he worked alongside, is tied to slavery and its preservation for so many years.
“It is ironic and sad in a way that this document is about preserving liberty and granting liberty to our country and yet, they’re talking about that group of folks, slaves, as three-fifths of a person,” Baier said. “Washington acknowledged that that was a problem. They thought that they would address it, but not at that Constitutional Convention, and obviously wouldn’t be addressed for decades after that.”
Baier sees Washington as the pivotal figure in the country’s origin.
“Without Washington we wouldn’t have a country, I’m convinced of that.” Baier said.