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“A cobra among garter snakes”
February 20, 2010 6:34 PM   Subscribe

He was... "...the meanest, toughest, most ambitious S.O.B. I ever knew but he'll be a hell of a secretary of state." -- Richard Nixon
Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr.,, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, who served US Presidents Nixon (as a military adviser, deputy assistant for national-security affairs, and chief of staff), Ford (chief of staff), and Reagan (secretary of state), has died at the age of 85. Haig commanded a batallion during the Vietnam War (where he was seriously wounded), managed the White House during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon, and was himself a former Presidential candidate.

He is also known for sparking a minor crisis, after President Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981:
When Vice President George H.W. Bush -- with whom Haig had something of a White House power struggle -- was on a plane flying back to Washington, Haig quickly seized the moment, addressing reporters: "As of now, I am in control here in the White House," he said.


In recent years, he had expressed his concerns about the growing power of the press (YT video) in our society, and their influential role in politics.

Ha'aretz published an editorial by Moshe Arens today, referring to Haig as a "good friend to Israel."

The lighter side:
Long before comedians began poking fun at George W Bush’s inventive neologisms and syntax, they were mocking Haig’s frequent “Haigisms”. He was famous for reviving Winston’s Churchill phrase “terminological inexactitude” — Haig’s offending sentence ran: “That’s not a lie. It is a terminological inexactitude. Also, a tactical misrepresentation.” On another occasion he remarked: “The warning message we sent the Russians was a calculated ambiguity that would be clearly understood.”


From the Boston Globe, Haig's Santa Claus story, which includes a link to their 1998 profile in doc format.
posted by zarq (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
And finally:

.
posted by zarq at 6:35 PM on February 20, 2010


I'M IN CHARGE HERE!
posted by Mayor Peace Love and Unity at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


His middle name was "Meigs"? What the hell?

"Multiple Meigs in the next cell, he hissed at you. What did he say?"
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:39 PM on February 20, 2010


His middle name was "Meigs"? What the hell?

See, now if you lived in Ohio, your frame of reference might be the fort or the county, instead of Silence of the Lambs. :)
posted by zarq at 6:42 PM on February 20, 2010


Isn't he also responsible for the bananaphone meme thing? Could a mod please add that in, or maybe let's just remember to include that the next time he dies.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK what's the opposite of '.' ?
posted by contessa at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


just because I think it still applies, I'm re-commenting:

"Four more years!" I shouted. "My friend General Haig has told us that the Forces of Darkness are now in control of the Nation — and they will rule for four more years!" I paused to sip my drink, then I hit it again: "And Al Davis has told us that whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire!"

I reached around behind me with my free hand, slapping at a spot between my shoulder blades to slow the thing down.

posted by toodleydoodley at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I think of Haig, I think of a Story That Wasn't:

His little contretemps with GHWBush in the aftermath of Reagan's shooting, and his generally acknowledged sharp elbows, and his will to power, etc., all seem so, so trivial in comparison to the malignancy of the Bush II era.

For what it's worth, he was apparently able to recognize the inevitable, and helped persuade Nixon to step down; he also claimed to have pushed Reagan to talk about Iran-Contra.

In his day, he might've been good for a few late-night comedy jokes, and some self-congratulatory lefty humor, but in retrospect, he seems like a relatively benign figure, as members of the military-industrial ruling class go.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:54 PM on February 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


"You hear that, Alexander Haig?"
posted by The Tensor at 7:00 PM on February 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm with darth_tedious: at the time, during what we didn't then yet know was the twilight of the Cold War, Al Haig seemed a dangerous, possibly destabilizing, possibly persinally unstable influence, a dark malignancy haunting the corridors of power.

Since the Bush years, since the ascendancy not of the Nixon apparatchiki but -- so surprisingly -- of Jerry Ford's inner circle of Cheney and Rumsfeld, Al Haig seems almost benign, upright, even grandfatherly.

So, out of a nostalgia for a time when even our bête noires were, seemingly, more understandable, or at least power-hungry pragmatists rather than power-mad zealots, or maybe just because each of these deaths makes my youth a little more distant: .
posted by orthogonality at 7:22 PM on February 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Ku Klux Klan will control you
Still you think it’s natural
Nigger knockin’ for the master race
Still you wear the happy face
You closed your eyes, can’t happen here
Alexander Haig is near
Vietnam won’t come back you say
Join the army or you will pay


Dead Kennedys
We've Got a Bigger Problem Now
In God We Trust, INC.
posted by Huck500 at 7:53 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


compare Haig's resume to Rahm Emanuel, you'll notice some differences.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:04 PM on February 20, 2010


Jonathan Schwarz reminds that Haig also made homophobic jokes about Nixon being a "fag" and defended the rape and murder of American nuns in El Salvador.
posted by mjb at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whenever I hear his name, I think of a line by a comic of the era:
I am Darth Haig. I am in control.
posted by Malor at 8:32 PM on February 20, 2010


Al Haig Tells Satan: "I'm In Charge Now!"
posted by jcruelty at 8:35 PM on February 20, 2010


> defended the rape and murder of American nuns in El Salvador.

There's a follow-on link that offers a quaint and loosely written but useful thumbnail on Reagan-era perception management.
posted by darth_tedious at 8:43 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paging scblackman!
posted by Daddy-O at 8:46 PM on February 20, 2010


It's about goddamn time.
posted by scblackman at 9:01 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK what's the opposite of '.'?

*
posted by The Potate at 9:02 PM on February 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


What is the opposite of  . ? I'll try this.
_
posted by vapidave at 9:04 PM on February 20, 2010


Beer and food is in the fridge and we made up the guest room The Potate.
posted by vapidave at 9:09 PM on February 20, 2010


Phil Nugent has this one, as he so often does :

When Haig ran for the presidency in 1988, he flamed out early on and was rewarded for his many years of faithful service to the party with a speaking slot at the convention that was scheduled far the hell away from the hours that would be covered on network TV.

Political junkies still revere that moment as the one in which Al unveiled his mighty bat metaphor, all about how the Democratic party is blind, flea-ridden, and prone to "hanging upside down in dark, damp caves up to its navel in guano."

Quoting that nugget in his New York Times column on language, William Safire wrote that, upon hearing it, the convention chairman, Robert H. Michel turned to somebody and said, "That's probably why Al Haig is not on the short list for Vice President."

posted by hap_hazard at 9:26 PM on February 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


*
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 9:43 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


*
posted by longsleeves at 9:54 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Day Reagan Was Shot portrays Haig (played by Richard Dreyfus) as sort of a tragic figure; a military hero who stuck to his guns and could have been - maybe should have been - one of the all time greats but who was defeated by his own short temper and massive ego.

Mind you, I don't read it that way. I mean, maybe he did have some tantalizing political opportunities along the way and maybe he did unfairly take all the blame for the Reagan flub, but to me he's just one more war criminal. Hell, had he made it to the White House, he might have shed more blood in Latin America than Ronnie did.

Still, I highly recommend TDRWS just for the insane behind-the-scenes stuff it reveals and some tight writing. And if you're interested in Al Haig, it's must-see DVD.
posted by Clay201 at 11:41 PM on February 20, 2010


*

Summary of some of the above comments: "not as evil as some other Republicans".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:39 AM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


NYT obit (paraphrased):

2nd paragraph: Haig lamented that the third paragraph of his obit would detail the "I'm in charge here" episode following Reagan's shooting."

3rd paragraph: In 1981, following Reagan's shooting, Haig took to the lectern and declared...."

heh
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:53 AM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


From that same article:

A spokesman for Johns Hopkins, Gary Stephenson, said Mr. Haig’s death was caused by staphylococcal infection that he had before his admission to the hospital.

I guess you could call that a chief-of-staff infection.
posted by Malor at 1:57 AM on February 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Malor, buddy, that's just awful.

(I am in awe.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:15 AM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haig is mostly remembered in my country as the US Secretary of State who, alone among democratic dignataries worldwide (even Margaret Thatcher!), refused to condemn the February 23, 1981 coup attempt and called it instead "an internal matter for the Spanish".
He won't be missed in Spain.
posted by Skeptic at 2:23 AM on February 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Political junkies still revere that moment as the one in which Al unveiled his mighty bat metaphor, all about how the Democratic party is blind, flea-ridden, and prone to "hanging upside down in dark, damp caves up to its navel in guano."

Democrats aside, that comment displays a truly profound level of ignorance about bats.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:50 AM on February 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


*
posted by Splunge at 5:46 AM on February 21, 2010


I always felt Al Haig was the real-life version of Captain Kirk, if Kirk had retired from Starfleet and gone into politics: too cocksure by half, given to not-entirely-undeserved self-aggrandizement, but able to see the value of realpolitik. Also, orthagonality's observation that our fears about Cold Warriors like Haig blinded us to the creeping evil of the neocons is dead-on (so to speak)
posted by briank at 7:49 AM on February 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Political junkies still revere that moment as the one in which Al unveiled his mighty bat metaphor, all about how the Democratic party is blind, flea-ridden, and prone to "hanging upside down in dark, damp caves up to its navel in guano."

That this metaphor was considered over-the-top by that poor sap Bob Michel is probably one of the traits that Newt Gingrich and the other Young Turk Republicans seized upon to drum him out of office in 1995.
posted by blucevalo at 9:48 AM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2010


our fears about Cold Warriors like Haig blinded us to the creeping evil of the neocons is dead-on

You know that Haig was one of Newsmax's founders, right?
posted by Skeptic at 10:02 AM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The universe has banished him to the dimension of diaper furries and expired meats. Well done, universe.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2010


Haig's second-most-familiar outburst after Reagan was shot was "FUCK THE POPE!"

I'd give him a asshole with an asterisk, except it already is one....

 *
*

(Close enough for assholes.)
posted by tzikeh at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2010


You know that Haig was one of Newsmax's founders, right?

I could be wrong about this, but I don't believe he was. The company was founded in 1998, and Haig was appointed to their advisory board in 2001.

Haig spoke in later years about the neoconservative movement, and when he did it usually wasn't in positive terms. A repeated phrase of his was that neocons 'think you can spread democracy with a bayonet.' (Sometimes, he said "sword" instead of bayonet.) He referred to them as "ex-Democrats" and said that they were stealing the Republican party from true Conservatives.

His personal feelings about the movement aside, Haig was still connected to them and probably helped their rise to power in various ways.
posted by zarq at 10:25 AM on February 21, 2010


I liked Haig and wished he had been more successful in his Presidential campaign. I also appreciate his military service. And I like the comparison to Kirk above.
posted by davidmsc at 9:03 PM on February 21, 2010


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