Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alexander Haig, 1924-2010. R.I.P.

Alexander Haig died today after being admitted to John Hopkins Hospital last month. He was 85.

Haig is best remembered as Ronald Reagan's first Secretary of State. After the attempted assassination of Reagan in March 1981, Haig held a press conference at the White House and said, "I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the vice president." Of course, all that is remembered are the first five words.

It might very well have sealed his fate. Less than 18 months later, Reagan accepted Haig's resignation and was succeeded by George Shultz who would remain in the post for the duration of the Reagan presidency. Haig wanted to succeed Reagan in the Oval Office but his campaign for the GOP nomination in 1988 never got off the ground.

Haig spent most of his adult life in the military. He served under Douglas MacArthur in Korea, worked under Robert McNamara at the Pentagion and would eventually command a batallion of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. It was while in command of that batallion that Haig would earn the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor during The Battle of Ap Gu. He was subsequently promoted to Colonel.

Despite his high profile association with Reagan, Haig was much closer to President Nixon. This began with his role as a military advisor to Henry Kissinger. Haig was later promoted to General and became Vice Chief Staff of the Army, the second highest ranking officer in the U.S. Army.

Haig would eventually become Chief of Staff but not of the Army. Nixon appointed Haig as White House Chief of Staff in the spring of 1973 right in the midst of the Watergate scandal and would shepherd him to his resignation. He remained in that role briefly when Gerald Ford ascended to the Presidency but would go to Belgium where he assumed charge as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Toward the end of his tenure, Haig survived an assassination attempt by the terrorist Red Army Faction. After a stint in the private sector, Reagan appointed Secretary of State apparently on the advice of Nixon.

In 1984, Haig published an account of his time at the Reagan White House titled Caveat: Realism, Reagan & Foreign Policy. Needless to say, Haig did not have kind words for the Reagan Administration. But that didn't stop Reagan from winning 49 out of 50 states that November.

In more recent years, Haig hosted World Business Review, a series of paid advertisements profiling business leaders. He would later host a similar program called 21st Century Business.

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