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Letter to the Editor: Nothing Like Haig

To the Editor:

The May 30 Gazette Packet describes how Councilmember Justin Wilson jokingly addressing Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg as “Alexander Haig” while she was presiding at a Council meeting during a short absence by the Mayor. Wilson then turned to the audience and continued to joke that he was old enough to remember Haig.

He must not remember Haig very well. If he really did remember him, he would never have called Allison Silberberg by that name even in jest.

Haig first came to public notice as a general in the U.S. Army who served in very high military posts, including commander of all forces in Europe. After his military career, he was appointed Secretary of State in the first Reagan administration. While Haig was serving, a would-be assassin shot President Reagan and seriously wounded him near the Washington Hilton Hotel.

A short time later Haig went on television to explain what had happened and to announce that the President was undergoing surgery at George Washington Hospital Center. He ended his remarks by saying “I am in charge here at the White House.”

Unfairly or not, that one sentence is what most of us remember about General Haig. It was a glaringly inaccurate statement. Under the Constitution of the United States as amended, the Secretary of State never assumes any Presidential authority. If President Reagan had remained incapacitated for any length of time, the vice president, or if he were also incapacitated, the Speaker of the House, would have acted as President.

So any implied comparison between our elected vice mayor, who would by law succeed our mayor if he died or became unable to serve is way off the mark. At the time Mr. Wilson made his joke, Ms. Silberberg was performing a traditional duty of vice mayors, presiding at council while the mayor was away from the dais. So for Mr. Wilson and all others, being Alexandria’s vice mayor, awarded that office for being the highest vote getter in the last election, accords that office holder at least a small amount of deference from the rest of us.

Katy Cannady

Alexandria