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Alexander Haig was right (sort of)

February 21, 2010 |  8:56 am

Even in obituaries, Alexander M. Haig got grief for saying, “As of now, I am in control” after the attempted assassination in 1981 of President Reagan (pending the return to Washington of the vice president).

If that didn’t show Haig to be a megalomaniac, as so goes the conventional wisdom, it showed that he was a legal illiterate. Haig prefaced his supposed power grab with this misstatement of the law: “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the president, the vice president and the secretary of State in that order.”

Well, a federal statute -- not the Constitution -- did provide for that line of succession from 1886 to 1947. But at the time Haig spoke, the line of succession was vice president, speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate.

This means that if President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were to die simultaneously, the president would be a former Ku Klux Klansman, West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

At the time Haig spoke, the president pro tem was South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, once a fierce segregationist.

Haig may have been wrong on the facts, but he was right about what should have been.

-- Michael McGough

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