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Feb 21, 2010

Alexander Haig (1924 - 2010)

Lyn Nofziger, a White House aid to Ronald Reagan, once said that “the third paragraph of his obituary” would detail Alexander Haig's conduct in the hours after President Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981.

And here it is:

"That day, Secretary of State Haig wrongly declared himself the acting president. “The helm is right here,” he told members of the Reagan cabinet in the White House Situation Room, “and that means right in this chair for now, constitutionally, until the vice president gets here.” His words were taped by Richard V. Allen, then the national security adviser."

Reagan was shot, but not killed, kids, and I was there. Sort of. Reagan was shot in March '81 ("Please tell me you're all Republicans" he told the doctors in the hospital---that's the spirit, President Obama), and I arrived on the scene in May '96, for a workshop at the Hilton Hotel. It was the night of the White House Press Corps dinner, and Wolf Blitzer and this woman, she who always sits in the first row in a red dress and gets the first question during a WH presser (Dr. Alzheimer will remember her name), were standing in animated conversation outside our conference room. I could have touched them. I could have asked for an autograph.
We left for dinner downtown. Outside, hunks with sunglasses and big earpieces(white, thick spiraling cables) had descended upon the scene, and were directing towing trucks with spiraling gestures. The trucks were hoisting  vehicles still parked around the hotel. Crowds had gathered. Somebody helpfully explained to me the implications of roadside bombs and the President's plan to attend the dinner. There must have been hundreds of secret service agents, all listening ostentatiously to their earpieces, all gearing up for the big event, the President's Arrival. 
We waited for the president. We waited more. Clinton was always late. Finally the motorcade arrives, hunks on bikes, ambulances, limousines, more hunks on bikes, cars, trucks, more ambulances, larger limousines, ever larger limousines. Suddenly, the motorcade stops, with the largest limousine right in front of the entrance. We would see the President!
Then, without prior warning, the president's limousine backs up into a concrete cubicle next to the entrance. A steel shutter comes down.
And that was that.
They had built a special access garage for the president right where Reagan had been shot in '81.

Learning from history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...Helen Thomas...