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:
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