by Frank Donatelli , Foundation Board Member
There have been few men with a longer record of service to their country than Alexander Haig, who passed away this weekend. Al Haig had distinguished careers in the military, in government, and in business and was a prominent member of that generation of Americans who always looked to give back to the country where they achieved such great success.
Al Haig fought in two wars – Korea and Vietnam and was decorated several times for bravery in both conflicts. He was also a successful businessman running United Technologies Corporation and serving as a board member of America Online and Newsmax Media, publisher of the conservative web site.
But it was his career in government that made him most famous. He served as Deputy National Security Advisor for President Nixon and later as Supreme Commander of NATO in the 1970s.
Nixon turned to Haig at the height of the Watergate scandal in April, 1973 as other aides were leaving the White House and being indicted. Haig kept the White House functioning for the next 18 months through the White House tapes controversy, the Senate Watergate Hearings, the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, and finally Nixon’s resignation in August, 1974. Perhaps there has never been a more tumultuous time in America and Haig guided the Nixon ship of state through to the end resulting in the first presidential resignation in American history, but also upholding the Constitution’s separation of powers and the rule of law.
Haig also served as President Reagan’s first secretary of state. He and the president got along well, but clashes with staff and other administration officials and his preoccupation with rank and titles finally resulted in Haig’s resignation in June, 1982. His statement to the media, “I am in control here in the White House” on the day of the assassination attempt on Reagan in March, 1981 would become part of his public record for the rest of his life.
Haig made his only bid for public office in 1988 when he sought the Republican presidential nomination. In October, 1987, Haig and the other seven men seeking the GOP nomination that year were scheduled to meet with Reagan to discuss the upcoming campaign. That morning, the stock market collapsed, dropping over 20% and the meeting had to be canceled. I finally reached Haig after he had flown to Washington from New Hampshire where he had been campaigning. “Well, you guys cost me a day on the campaign trail,” he told me. After further discussion, he did acknowledge that politics was the last thing the President needed to be doing on a day of economic turmoil. The week before the New Hampshire balloting in February, 1988, he dropped out of the race and endorsed Senator Bob Dole.
Partisan politics was probably the one thing Haig was not suited for, but his otherwise stellar record in business, government and the military reveal a real legacy of towering accomplishment and devotion to his country. All Americans owe Al Haig a debt of gratitude for making America a stronger and more stable nation.