Wonderfully Meta

Monday, February 22, 2010

Alexander M. Haig Jr., the four-star general who served as a confrontational secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan and a commanding White House chief of staff as the Nixon administration crumbled, died Saturday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, according to a hospital spokesman. He was 85.

Mr. Haig was a rare American breed: a political general. His bids for the presidency quickly came undone. But his ambition to be president was thinly veiled, and that was his undoing. He knew, Reagan’s aide Lyn Nofziger once said, that “the third paragraph of his obit” would detail his conduct in the hours after President Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981.

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.

Those are the top three grafs of the NYTimes obit of Alexander M. Haig Jr. Graf two has a quote explaining what will be in graf three! I can't decide if this is strange or wonderful.

The A.P. decided to forgo the dead man's wishes (prophecies? manipulations? understanding of the obituary formula?) and put it in graf one.

The Washington Post put it in graf two.

Relatedly, I'm surprised the Post had to run the AP story at all. You'd think they'd of had Haig's obit edited and ready to go, considering he was hospitalized before he died and considering the Post's deep connection with all things Watergate.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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