Alexander Haig

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Alexander Haig (December 2, 1924 - February 20, 2010) was a four star general who served as White House Chief of Staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (1973–74) and Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan (1981–82). He also served a NATO commander from 1974-1979. In 1988 Haig unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

In 1981, after President Reagan was injured during a failed assassination attempt, Deputy press secretary, Larry Speakes was asked who was running the government. Speakes responded, "I cannot answer that question at this time."

Haig, monitoring an unusually high level of Soviet submarine activity off the East Coast, observed Speakes remarks on television while chairing a National Security Staff meeting in the White House Situation Room. Vice President George H. W. Bush was in an aircraft with unsecured voice communication. Haig felt the need to reassure the White House press and the rest of the world that the U.S. military had not raised its alert status.

Haig told reporters:

Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.

Critics of Haig seized upon his statement to allege a power grab.

Haig later resigned the Reagan administration in 1982 after apparent disagreements in foreign policy.

Further reading