Monday, February 22, 2010

Remembering Al Haig

Al Haig's life, 85 years of ambition rewarded and thwarted, has been recalled on his passing this weekend in the context of presidential crisis. His role in the resignation of Nixon, and his actions in the aftermath of Reagan's attempted assassination, are the defining moments of his career. They have made him symbolic of the uncertainty of power when a president is weakened, whether he is regarded as a shepherd of stability, ensuring a painless transition from Nixon to Ford, or a usurper of the constitution and "power-crazed general", breathlessly declaring himself "in control" while Reagan was in surgery.

Two authors, each plugging a book, offer new(ish) perspectives on the soldier-statesman. Paul Kengor, the conservative chronicler of Reagan's faith and Cold War victory, suggests that Haig was a dove in the belligerent first years of the Reagan adminsitration. Tom Schachtman, who seems to be quite an eclectic author now attending to neo-conservative infighting, argues that Haig purposefully undermined President Nixon for his own power-seeking agenda.

Personally, I will always remember Al Haig as Richard Dreyfuss.

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