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.
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.