Controversy heats up over Haig nomination as secretary of state
President-elect Ronald Reagan pushed what has become a long, drawn-out Cabinet-selection process two steps nearer to completion Dec. 16 announcing the nominations of Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr. (USA, ret.) for secretary of state and construction contractor Ray Donovan for secretary of labor.
Both nominations had been expected -- the Haig selection having been the subject of considerable discussion, speculation, and criticism on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. The controversy over General Haig centered on his role as White House chief of staff in the final weeks of Richard Nixon's administration. He has been widely praised for his service as commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, his last public assignment.
"This is a nomination that should not have been made," said Sen. Alan Cranston (D) of California. "It will provoke a serious controversy that will jar the harmony that has prevailed since Ronald Reagan's election."
Mr. Cranston, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will conduct confirmation hearings, said Haig's role in "matters involving Vietnam, Watergate, and the Nixon pardon . . . must be, and will be, fully explored."
Mr. Donovan was head of the Reagan presidential campaign in New Jersey and is said by sources in organized labor to be a tough but fair negotiator. He is executive vice-president of Schiavone Construction Company of Secaucus, N.J.
John J. Pierson, a local union president in New Jersey who has been involved in labor negotiations with Donovan over the past two decades, said, "He knows the working man's problems."
Haig, who will hold the highest-ranking Cabinet post if confirmed, is not considered an intellectual or an idea man. But persons who know the retired military officer say he is good at using -- and inspiring -- bureaucrats who generate ideas.
"Haig knows how to work the Washington scene, and the State Department desperately needs that," said one congressional staff specialist on foreign affairs. "He'll bring some order and coherence to foreign policy and to State. . . . Everything I've heard about him in Europe in positive."
On the negative side, several senators have raised questions about Haig's role as Nixon's White House chief of staff. He was accused of helping arrange the wiretapping of government officials and journalists in the early 1970s.
But an unpublished interview with Leon Jaworski, the Watergate special prosecutor during much of that troubled period, indicates that while Haig tried to protect President Nixon, he was guilty of no wrongdoing. Some observers, including Mr. Jaworski, say Haig held the country together while engineering the Nixon resignation.
In an interview with the Armed Forces Journal in the spring of last year, Jaworski said he knew of no man who had ever faced tougher demands than Haig did at the time.
"I just saw nothing wrong in what his demeanor and his conduct was throughout his time," Jaworski asserted.
In his book on the subject, Jaworski wrote: "I considered Haig, and still do, one of the unsung Watergate heroes. . . . It is not altogether unlikely that in the final days of the Nixon administration, Haig ran the country."
The nominations of Donovan and Haig bring to nine the number of Cabinet officers Reagan has designated. Remaining to be named are his selections to head the departments of agriculture, education, energy, housing and urban development, and interior.
On Dec. 11 the President-elect announced seven nominees: Donald T. Regan, Treasury; Caspar W. Weinberger, Defense; William French Smith, Justice; Malcolm Baldrige, Commerce; Richard S. Schweiker, Health and Human Services; David A Stockman, Office of Management and Budget; and William J. Casey, Central Intelligence Agency.