Al Haig Dead at 85
Al Haig, Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of State, former NATO commander, and 1988 presidential aspirant has died at 85.
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who served Republican presidents and ran for the office himself, has died.
The Haig family says he died Saturday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from complications associated with an infection. He was 85.
Haig’s long and decorated military service launched the Washington career for which he became better known. But he never lived down his televised response to the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Hours after the shooting, then-Secretary of State Haig went before the cameras intending, he said later, to reassure Americans that the White House was functioning.
“As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice president,” Haig said.
That line, for which he is best known, was always misunderstood and a source of great jocularity. But anyone who has served as a military officer understood it implicitly. It’s simply drilled into you from cadet days that, if someone more senior isn’t around, you’re in charge and have responsibility for the situation. Haig wasn’t claiming that he was next in line for the presidency, merely assuring the audience that there was no void in the leadership of their government. Until someone more senior showed up, Haig had it under control.
It was not only the right thing to say but factually correct on every level.
Of course, it’s usually reported that he said merely “I am in control here,” implying that he didn’t realize the VP was senior to the Secretary of State. Even the correct version is sometimes criticized because the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 put the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate between Haig and VP Bush. But Reagan and Bush weren’t dead; they just weren’t in the room.
Even Haig’s military career is often misremembered because he was thought of as a “political general” who owed his rapid advancement to Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. But he was a genuine war hero, earning the Distinguished Service Cross as a battalion commander during the battle of Ap Gu. And, while he earned his stars in Washington, he later served with distinction as Supreme Allied Commander.