Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hillary brings back memories of Al Haig

It appears that President-elect Barack Obama will cave into the wishes of his party's elders and nominate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next Secretary of State. On the surface, naming Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State looks to be a wise political move.

However, it seems like President-elect Obama is facing a situation like then President-elect Reagan faced in the late fall of 1980. (Since Obama expresses some respect and admiration for Ronald Reagan, perhaps he will note this.)

Ronald Reagan was elected, like Obama, from the outside of his party and Washington circles. Party elders pointed him to nominate General Al Haig as Secretary of State. Haig had a long resume, like Senator Clinton. Haig had been a decorated and successful military officer but was perhaps better respected as Nixon's last chief of staff. The chattering classes of Washington saw Haig as the guy who actually ran the White House in Nixon's last days as Nixon supposedly drank heavily and denied things around him, and as Gerald Ford was brought up to speed. To the Washington elites in media and partisan circles, Al Haig was the old man to bring sense to things as much as Hillary Clinton seems now as the old lady to bring sense to things.

The problem with Al Haig was that he could not tow the line, so to speak and be a team player. General Haig was used to calling the shots and shaping policy, be it as a General or as perhaps the most powerful Chief of White House staff in American history. Haig reveled in being the man in charge. It was evident when President Reagan was shot in March of 1981 when Haig made his infamous remarks about being in charge at the White House. It continued when Haig wanted to go his own way when Reagan friend Margaret Thatcher chose to fight for some tiny island invaded by Argentina. General Haig resigned his post in late 1982, frustrated and in disgrace.

Enter the scene of 2008. President-elect Obama has big pressure to bring in Hillary Clinton into the Secretary of State's post. However, Clinton, like Haig, is used to having a big say in things from the White House. As perhaps the most powerful First Lady in history, it just does not seem logical that Mrs. Clinton will conform to Obama policies without a dust up of sorts.

In his defense, President-elect Obama faces one helluva situation. Like President-elect Reagan before him, he all but has to pay some tribute to a respected party stalwart, knowing full well that stalwart will be hard to work with and will likely be removed by 2010.

What is doubtful is that Mrs. Clinton will have the honor of General Haig. When Haig realized his situation, he saluted and resigned. The President-elect had better know Mrs. Clinton will fight for every day in power.

To show how things could go, here's a video from the movie "The Day Reagan was shot." I would guess that Hillary would go even more overboard to take charge.

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