So this morning I was reading the WSJ online and saw the update that Al Haig had died. Haig was a staple in the news of the 70’s and the 80’s, coincident with my own growing awareness that the world had a lot of moving parts.
I remember at 16 watching the news in horror when Reagan was elected (in my youth I was an unabashed liberal…later I then went zealous conservative after Reagan…now it is more muddled, so leave me alone). Anyway, I found out about Al Haig on the news of the senate hearing confirming him as the new Secretary of State. I heard he had something to do with Nixon. That was bad.
I remember about a year later or so when I was walking through the Rec Complex at my high school, Fairfield Prep, I heard that President Reagan had been shot. People were watching it on little motorola TV’s. Then at the nightly news I saw the infamous Al Haig statement. “I’m in charge in at the White House until the Vice-President gets back” or whatever he said.
We were all of course mortified that someone shot the president, but more mystified by his statement. It became a joke. Any time the leader of some event or the captain of team was late, someone would shout out, “I’m in charge, I’m in control”
In later years, I’d use the same comment in emails whenever I was the only manager in the building for whatever reason. “Being that this is my Al Haig moment…” A few people got the joke…
A few years ago, I was listening to NPR and they played the tapes of the conversation between Cap Weinberger and Al Haig about what should be said to the press to reassure them that the wheels of government were ok. In the end they did both think that what he was about to say rang true and would not be controversial: That the White House was all set, that someone was taking care of things and that they were in contact with the Vice President…with that context it didn’t sound like the power-grab that the press played it up as.
Anyway, I guess I’ll hang up that joke for now. It might spill out some day again. And even less people will get it.