Al Haig will be back
Washington — The news reports about Alexander Haig often carry the implication that this is the end of the Haig story as far as his involvement in public life is concerned - that he now will fade away into the relative anonymity of private life. No doubt in some big industrial position.
But this is not so, say some of General Haig's intimates. They see him back in the thick of public life again within a year or two. Not back in the Reagan administration. But possibly running for governor or senator should an opportunity arise.
And more than anything else, these confidants say, Haig's ambition for several years has been - and remains - to be in the White House in the No. 1 job.
According to this view, the secretary of state job was for Haig only a stepping stone to the presidency. And, despite what looks much like a forced resignation, Haig probably has made enough out of the experience at State to move closer to his ultimate political goal.
At least he has received national name recognition. That he didn't have when he left his NATO command a number of months prior to the 1980 election with a run for the presidency on his mind. His old friend, Melvin Laird, told him at that time that he would have difficulty getting the presidential nomination because he was not well known - and because he had not built up a political base anywhere.
The emerging consensus of observers here is that Haig's departure was due more to his inability to be a team player than to his handling of his job. While critics may question Haig's policy views in one area of the world or another, they tend to give him a reasonably good grade for the way he performed.
On his return from NATO, Haig met with a press group. He had the presidential gleam in his eye at the time. And he seemed incredulous, even miffed, at the unwillingness of the reporters to take his presidential ambitions seriously.
From the mountain peak at NATO the pre-sidency had looked possible. But now, once more in civilian clothes, Haig realized he was face to face with reality. And he accepted it, hinting no more about getting into the race.
But Haig's presidential ambition continued to burn brightly, and it still does. It stems partly from having actually been a de facto president in the waning days of Watergate, when with deftness and political acumen, he engineered the exit of Richard Nixon. For Haig it was a heady power trip. He loved it. And he would like to have his hand at that tiller once again.
This reporter first met Haig at a war college seminar at Ft. McNair where he was a last-minute substitute for Henry Kissinger. The officers were obviously disappointed when Haig, not Kissinger, walked on the stage. But Haig did an outstanding job, touching on every important area of global policy with authority and knowledge. He won a standing ovation.
Haig obviously could have fared much better as secretary of state. He will not be remembered as the shaper of any highly successful foreign policy initiative. But he has escaped being called a failure as secretary of state. Political observers think he did well enough to be able to build on his performance - and try to vault to something else.