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Loss of 'great American' Alexander Haig mourned

Alexander Haig (1987)
Mr Haig stepped out of the public eye in 1988 after a failed presidential bid

By Madeleine Morris
BBC News, Washington

The former US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, exemplified America's "finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service," according to President Barack Obama.

The accolade set the tone for the plaudits that have come in for the man who was a four-star general before he turned to politics and served three presidents.

The current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said she was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr Haig's death at the age of 85.

"He served his country in many capacities for many years, earning honour on the battlefield, the confidence of presidents and prime ministers, and the thanks of a grateful nation," she said.

Haig never wanted anything for himself. He would deal with difficult situations not only with courage but with good humour. He did not think of himself, he thought of America
Henry Kissinger
Former US Secretary of State

Although he is perhaps best known for his gaffe saying he was "in control" of the White House following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981, it was his role in the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal that is being seen as his biggest achievement.

"With Nixon embroiled in his Watergate defence, Haig took on an expanded role, handling many of the president's governing chores, and earning the sobriquet, 'the thirty-seventh-and-a-half president'," said Politico.com.

Commentators on cable news channels praised the way Mr Haig helped persuade Nixon to resign the presidency, allowing for a peaceful transfer of power.

Speaking on Fox News, Henry Kissinger, who served with him during Nixon's administration, described him as "a great American", and said his countrymen could learn from his former colleague.

"They can learn that the greatest honour is service to one's country and for the defence of freedom," he said.

"Haig never wanted anything for himself. He would deal with difficult situations not only with courage but with good humour. He did not think of himself, he thought of America," he added.

Mr Haig stepped out of the public eye in 1988 after a failed bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

But despite not having a public role for two decades, his death immediately became a top trending topic on Twitter.

"A life-long patriot and servant to the cause of democracy is gone. He will be missed," tweeted MarcusBowen.

Although his time in power was frequently controversial, Dan Kennedy commented in his Media Nation blog: "My strong suspicion is that his contributions to the nation were never fully understood or appreciated."


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