Remembering Alexander Haig


I visited Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation Director John Taylor’s interesting blog, The New Nixon, this morning to see what he had posted on General Alexander Haig, whom Taylor knew very well.
There are a set of interesting posts that put Haig’s life and role in the context of a tribute to him — the last at the time of this writing by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Here is the set:

Alexander M. Haig, Jr. 1924 – 2010

Henry A. Kissinger: He Lived for His Country
A Moment in History (Nixon Tapes)
President Obama, Secretary Clinton Praise Gen. Haig

President Obama on the death of General Alexander Haig:

Today we mourn the loss of Alexander Haig, a great American who served our country with distinction.
General Haig exemplified our finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service.
He enjoyed a remarkable and decorated career, rising to become a four-star general and serving as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe before also serving as Secretary of State. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued this statement:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
He served his country in many capacities for many years, earning honor on the battlefield, the confidence of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and the thanks of a grateful nation.
On behalf of the men and women of the State Department, I extend my sincerest condolences to Secretary Haig’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them today.

For an alternative perspective, I’d point to Ken Silverstein’s Mother Jones profile of General Haig, “Still in Control,” in his latter years and the business success the general enjoyed opening doors in Washington and through much of the world. I was mentioned in this piece as I had traveled with Haig to Southeast Asia and of course during and after my tenure as director of the Nixon Center.
From my own vantage point, I will miss General Haig who whenever we would meet at some place or another would take a moment to pull me aside and congratulate me on what I and my colleagues had done in Washington. He would always recount some personal story about a person or experience drawn from his past that had some contemporary relevance.
Al Haig will be ridiculed by some for his statement about being in control during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan or for his hand in the political culture of the Nixon White House — but what I think is missing from those appraisals of Haig and some of his fellow travelers was a determined focus on American national interest and keeping the nation stable and internationally credible during a time of crisis and doubt around the world about the U.S.
All one needs is a comparison of Al Haig to Vice President Cheney or his chief of staff, David Addington, and one should quickly see see why Haig was so much better than many in the Cheney-led wing of the Republican national security establishment.
I have to extend my personal condolences to General Haig’s family, which must include Sherwood “Woody” Goldberg, who was Haig’s long-time personal military assistant, political assistant, business associate, friend, confidante, and adopted son by my count.
Rest in peace, Alexander Haig.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “Remembering Alexander Haig

  1. RC says:

    I’m sure there are people who liked him and there are those who didn’t like him. Reading the comments I’ve understood that there are people who hate him. Well, the opinions are different and there is nothing bad about him. As for me, I liked him. I read a story about this man. I downloaded it from pdf search engine and I liked what I’ve read. Well, I’m sure that he was a person who dit take care of his countries. Maybe some of his actions seemed to be wrong but I’m sure he did it for the country’s good.


  2. Miles Digby IV says:

    I will never forget watching Al Haig in his senate confirmations hearings for Sec of State. He did well in the hearings and then they were over. He got up to leave and he escorted his wife up some stairs. They obviously love each other very much.
    Then as my girlfriend (now my wife) and I watched, Gen. Haig did something that was just amazing he gave his wife a little swat of her rear end to get her to speed up. It was such a loving gesture, she did not flinch and was not surprised.
    So for more than twenty years I have been giving my wife “the little Al Haig” swat to keep her moving. A term we use every week.
    Haig was also one of the only folks to come out of the AOL relatively unscathed. I just laughed when I found out that he sold almost all his stock (he was on the board of directors). He got a lot as comp as stock and just sold most of it every year. I think he cleared something like $100 million. While everyone else held on because they were greedy.
    Finally I respected him for his service to our country in Vietnam. Unlike Vice President Dick Cheney he got no deferments. He served and was injured if I remember correctly in a helicopter.
    Either way I always respected his opinion more than other of these “Chicken Hawks”. He is truly the last of a breed. I didn’t agree with him all the time but I always respected him.
    RIP General
    M.D. IV


  3. Patience says:

    It’s worth pointing out (I think) that the Nixon Library & Birthplace is //not// the same thing as the Nixon Presidential Library, and so it is worthwhile to take anything “The New Nixon” blog has to say about the Nixon presidency with a pinch of salt and a shudder of relief that it’s not being funded with taxpayer dollars.


  4. TonyForesta says:

    Haig was a nixionian nazi and fascist whose only
    concerns were domination, supremist ideologies,
    imponderable wealth, and unholy power. If there is
    justice and a god or goddess, this evil,
    treacherous, and fascist beast, will join nixon and
    all the dead fascists in the gop rotting in hell.


  5. Tony C. says:

    “… a great American who served our country with distinction.”
    Well, I suppose it is a form of distinction to have defended the
    rapes and murders of four American nuns by U.S.-backed
    government security forces in El Salvador in the following manner:
    “the nuns may have run through a roadblock or may have
    accidentally been perceived to have been doing so, and there may
    have been an exchange of fire.”
    From his congressional testimony in 1981; more from Robert


  6. PittsburghBoy says:

    I just started reading this blog yesterday and am scrolling back story after story by Steve Clemons. You are so unpredictable and fresh in what you write. Wow. I can’t stop reading it. Kind of like a really great comic and I mean that as a compliment.
    I really enjoy your way of putting things, and you have some crazy commenters, but I like them too.
    You seem to be a successful one-man wrecking crew for the Obama White House team, but you are also trying to help them. Good for you and for us.


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