Alexander Haig Dead At 85
Alexander Haig was Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of state, and a 1988 presidential candidate. He served as chief of staff to President Nixon during the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation.
Gen. Haig’s influence peaked in his late 40s during Nixon’s last 16 months in office, when brewing developments in the Watergate scandal damaged and increasingly distracted the president. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously told Gen. Haig to keep the country together while he held the world together during one of the greatest constitutional crises in the nation’s history. Special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, and many others, called Gen. Haig the “37 1/2 president.”
Haig’s ties to Richard Nixon resulted in contentious confirmation hearings when Ronald Reagan nominated him to be secretary of state.
Gen. Haig got into a testy exchange with then Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), who pressed him for a “value judgment” about Nixon.
“Nobody has a monopoly on virtue, not even you, senator,” Gen. Haig retorted.
During the Reagan presidency Haig was on one end of a power struggle, culminating in a famous (or infamous) moment after Ronald Reagan was shot.
He tangled with Vice President George H.W. Bush over which of the two should lead a committee charged with crisis management. Then, on March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. nearly assassinated Reagan. Gen. Haig quickly arrived in the Situation Room. Bush was flying back from Texas when Haig went to address reporters in the briefing room.
“As of now, I am in control here in the White House,” Gen. Haig told the nervous country watching anxiously on television, “pending return of the vice president and in close touch with him.”
Haig’s ultimate power struggle was with Reagan himself.
On June 24, 1982, Gen. Haig visited Reagan in the Oval Office and handed the president a list of complaints about the “cacophony of voices” speaking about the administration’s foreign policy. Reagan called him back in the next day and astonished him with a note accepting his resignation.
“The president was accepting a letter of resignation that I had not submitted,” Gen. Haig wrote in his 1984 book “Caveat: Realism, Reagan, and Foreign Policy.”
Haig was nothing if not sure of himself and his rightful place in history.
“If you’re a guy who just comes in and occupies a position and keeps his head down, of course, life can be rather pleasant,” he once told The Post in an interview. “They come and go in all their adulations. But if you have a firm set of ideas, and you want to make a difference, you’ve got to be controversial.”Click here for reuse options!
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