Former Sec. of State "disturbed" by developments in Syria

(CBS News) James Baker served as Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush and as Treasury Secretary under President Reagan and joined "CBS This Morning" on Friday to discuss the mounting crisis in Syria and the looming "fiscal cliff" in the U.S.

Speaking to the possibility that the Assad regime in Syria is preparing chemical weapons for possible use to quell the opposition party, Baker called any evidence pointing to this as a reality "quite disturbing" and reminiscent of 1980, when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own people -- the Kurds -- in Iraq.

Baker said that the Obama administration's strategy with regard to Syria, which has involved a number of stern warnings from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "is the right course to follow," but added that the warnings could be more effective if they came with more concrete consequences communicated.

"Any time the President of the U.S. threatens something, he better damn well be prepared to follow through with it," Baker said, touching on a possible credibility problem that could arise if Obama does not act. He added that "it wouldn't be at all bad for the Syrians to understand what the extent of the consequences are."

Turning to issues at home, Baker touched on the "fiscal cliff" debate raging in Washington, claiming to be "plenty concerned" about the country being in "extraordinarily bad shape economically," but also encouraged to hear Thursday night that President Obama and Speaker Boehner have agreed to "sit down and try to negotiate this out quietly and confidentially."

Baker said that this style of private negotiations was common practice and effective when he was in office, and that in Congress, there needs to be "one big grand bargain," instead of the piecemeal concessions that have characterized many recent budget bills.

"There ought to be a rule that nothing is decided until everything is decided," Baker insisted.

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