Good morning

US ‘shadow president’ Alexander Haig (1973) has died. Younger people may not even know his name, but those of us who were here during Watergate remember him well.

Kissinger, Nixon, Ford, Haig

In the last year of his own presidency, Richard Milhous Nixon, that tragic figure of American history, retired to a wingchair, a phone, a bottle of good whisky and a fireplace. Alexander Haig pretty much ran government and thus the country.

Haig served in Vietnam and was became a four-star general before he retired and served the Nixon White House – first as Secretary of State and later as chief-of-staff.

Nixon has become something of an obsession of mine, perhaps because his life was so monumentally Shakespearean. Perhaps the most complex man ever to sit in the Oval Office. And – had his very dark side not prevailed – he would be remembered as a great president. It’s also interesting that if he were in politics today he would, in terms of public policy, been considered a liberal.

He was a vicious anti-Semite and author of the destructive ‘Southern strategy’, perhaps the most cynical political act of American history. Right up there with Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln and immediately went about undoing as much of Lincoln’s legacy as he could. Reminders of the enormous impact a single person can have on a nation.

A nation that, as it happens, is now enjoying the 134th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

25 responses to “Good morning

  1. Just a great blog! I’m signing up for sure. My husband, a Vietnam Vet, rather dispised Mr. Haig. I’ve come to find a mellower feeling for Nixon over the year. A man controlled by his passions for sure. Thanks for stopping by, and letting me discover another must read blog!

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    • Glad to see you here Sherry. Every once in a while we get a good conversation going.

      Vietnam vets especially disliked Westmoreland, who thought more bombs and bullets would do the job for sure.

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  2. I am surprised the rebranding of Operation New Dawn hasn’t gotten your ire up. (I know I ended with a preposition but “gotten up your ire” just doesn’t seem right.)

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    • OMG, I just googled it and I didn’t even know we’d renamed the war in Iraq. Well, isn’t that special. Now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I may have to explore it a bit!

      And Joe Liebeman wants us to go to war in Iran. Triplets!

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  3. Thanks for thoughts on Nixon. I’ve just started the “Nixon and Kissinger” by Robert Dallek this week. Promising stuff. He talks about Nixon getting fits in the car, kicking the driver seat for some insignificant little personal snub. It’s cartoon-like the whole thing.

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    • If and when you have the time, get NIXONLAND by Rick Pearlstein, probably the newest. It was so good that after reading it from the library, I had to order my own copy.

      I don’t have the Dallek book but it’s WAY up on my list.

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      • I’ve got to follow up here.. Just watched the frost/nixon film (2008), and started on the original interviews as well.
        Interesting stuff.
        The movie is too hollywood, both frost and nixon overdone. The real deal is much better.

        Nixon is impossible to decipher.. bored, humorus, angry, relaxed, mind-drifting, shut off, repetitive, boyish, and lots of the time plain uninterested. And a bit irritated over the vain frost with his gestures and silly sentences.

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        • Two huge egos – one on the way up, one on the way down. Made for interesting theatre. I liked the movie; I’m kind of agnostic on how they portrayed Frost, but Nixon was perfection. It was the man.

          The actor who played Frost also played Tony Blair later on in “The Queen” with Helen Mirren. Interesting path.

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          • I knew I’ve seen him before! As Tony!
            But i still think he’s way too boyish charming in the movie. The original Frost is more adult and unsympathic. Theatrical and pompous. And lots of idiotic questions. Nixon is quite patient in my view, giving him some basic education about dilemmas of power and human nature.

            And i don’t really see the “fight” between them.. You have a young naive journalist who struggles to comprehend big politics and cynic realities, while being very self-concious about his looks and the cameras. Nixon is just thinking out loud, and a bit put off by the “charging” attitude of the other. You could see him thinking “oh my god where do i start on this one..” several times. Latin America for example. And I doubt there was a friendly talk afterwards, like in the movie..

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  4. Richard Nixon may have been somewhat crooked, but the man was actually extremely wise. Some of his writings make so much sense, and show he was a brilliant man. And I believe he was a good man who proved he loved america; and he was overall a credit to his party. For instance, he resigned his presidency, to spare the nation the negativity and embarrasment that impeachment would inevitably bring. Unlike Clinton. And several years earlier, he may have actually beaten Kennedy for the presidential office, but refused a recount in the best interest of the nation. Unlike Gore. And the Kennedy/Nixon race was MUCH closer than the Bush/Gore race. Just goes to show that Nixon had some very fine qualities indeed…

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    • Well, as I said Texan, I am fascinated with Nixon. His intellect was formidable and he was a very very fine strategic thinker – not that he always used that for the good.

      But don’t credit him with resigning out of patriotism. He fought against it till the end. And by the end he was drunk a good deal of the itme and nearly incompetent in his thinking.

      Finally the Republicans in the Senate had to send Barry Goldwater over to the White House to tell him he had to resign or they would have to condemn him publicly. And then, and only then, he agreed.

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      • The Nixon doctrine in the mideast is also very interesting.. So strong support of Iran.. it lingers on still i think.. Brzezniski is even now pointing to Iran as the probable main ally in the region.
        But the Nixon/Kissinger eventual obvious siding with Israel created a big shift though..

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  5. Say what you will Haig committed a huge screw-up but that is what makes history.

    He Moe, I love Nixon myself his quotes are some of the best. Give him a try if you get a chance..

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/r/richard_m_nixon.html

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    • Thanks for the link. I beleive that Nixon will go down as one of the giants – not as a good or bad president but as an historically significant one.

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      • That Dallek-book is great. On the Nixon-Kissinger relationship;

        “Nixon accurately suspected that Kissinger saw himself as a superior intellect manipulating a malleable prsident. He didn’t like Henry’s associations with the Georgetown elite and imagining him sitting around at dinner parties regaling his friends with unflattering tales about the bumbling president. Nixon called him my “Jew boy” behind his back and occasionally to his face, as a way to humiliate him and keep him in his place.

        Kissinger reciprocated the nastiness by privately referring to Nixon as “that madman”, “our drunken friend”, and “the meatball mind”….

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        • . . .and yet they were practically joined at the hip. “What fools these mortals be”.

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          • That was a good one. Reminds me of an old favorite

            But Man, proud man,
            drest in a little brief authority,
            most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
            his glassy essence, like an angry ape,
            plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
            as make the angels weep,
            who, with our spleens,
            would all themselves laugh mortal.

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            • “Measure for Measure” (I had to look it up.)

              I worked in theatre and still stay connected – there’s a big increase lately in Shakespeare performed. Not so much in the big theatres, as in community theatres, small regional theatres etc. Newly popular, which is cool.

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  6. Really? That’s interesting. I’ve never quite connected with Shakespeare, but maybe one day.. Or wait, I like some of the sonnets, and another one from Macbeth;

    “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”

    Nothing. Hehe.

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