Haig's Coup

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 May 2019

Member Reviews

This is a well researched and very detailed account of President Nixon's last months in office when the people he thought were working in his best interests basically weren't. General Alexander (Al) Haig was brought in as Nixon's Chief of Staff after he lost several key members due to the start of the Watergate scandal to steady the ship, instead he took almost complete control over an increasingly unstable Nixon and in doing so took the opportunity to cover up his involvement in the spying ring at the expense of the president.
This isn't a quick read but the story flows very smoothly for a factually researched book that can often bog you down with notes.
Anyone interested in Watergate, Nixon or just wanting a fascinating look at recent events in history should read this.
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Watergate continues to intrigue

This is a detailed book that is not a quick read. The basic premise is that Al Haig, a military man with ambition who became Nixon’s Chief of Staff, engineered Nixon’s resignation whilst at the same time protected his own culpability in various White House abuses of power.
This is evidenced and repeated throughout the book by drawing on a vast range of players, commentators and documents. If all true, Nixon himself was incredibly naive and ill-served by an aide who seems to have risen without trace to the highest echelons of government.
The contention is also made that ‘Deep Throat’ was not just Mark Felt but an amalgam of characters including Haig – in fact with Haig as possibly the main contributor to Woodward & Bernstein’s unravelling of the Watergate saga.
Reading Ray Locker’s story was unsettling in just how many parallels there seem to be between Nixon/Trump and what transpired on their watch.
At one point, quoting from information given to Woodward by Haig, “…how really out of Hand Nixon was, how he had to be watched.” and that there was “an implied agreement between Haig, Kissinger, and the White House lawyers ‘to talk to each other to make sure Nixon didn’t do anything crazy.’”
Having read many books on Watergate I filled in some more blanks in my understanding, especially with regard to President Ford’s pardon for Nixon.
This was not a great period in American history and many things could have gone wrong with the process to allow Nixon and some or even all of his team to have escaped justice – some would argue that Nixon in fact did.
What I would now like to see is a new version of All The President’s Men that revisits the Watergate saga and provides greater insight and detail on just how Woodward and Bernstein managed to play such a large part in achieving Nixon’s downfall.
This book was provided as an advance copy by the publisher in return for an honest review.
I have posted a review on Amazon (link to follow)
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The shocking and exhilarating in-depth account of a time in history that we might possibly see happening all over again sooner than we think.. The Haig's Coup will have you turning the pages late into the night.
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I was 7 years old in 1981. Prior to this book, I only knew Alexander Haig from his "I'm in control here at the White House" statement after Ronald Reagan was shot - more of a poor phrasing than an actual coup. This book describes Haig's time as Richard Nixon's chief of staff at the end of his presidency, and puts forth his plot to remove Nixon from the White House. "Plot" may be too strong a word, but after reading this I was convinced that he did orchestrate Nixon's downfall, bit by bit, until the president finally resigned from the presidency - going so far as to persuade Nixon to resign in the last few weeks and giving Gerald Ford the options for pardoning him to end the entire "national nightmare.".
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As someone who devoured during the seventies books and articles devoted to Watergate I was naturally intrigued to come across this well researched and fascinating account of someone who played a central role during the period but up to now has escaped largely intact from the opprobrium that was the fate of the other central players. The fall of the Nixon presidency is a subject worthy of Shakespeare with its paranoia, treachery, intrigue and abuse of power and reading this book one saw parallels with what went on in the days of the Tudors or the Medici family. 

This is to say the least a rather unflattering account of the duplicitous and scheming General Alexander M. Haig Jr who's  (according to the central premise of the book) overriding intention on returning to the White House in May 1973 was to make certain Nixon was removed from office thus ensuring that his own spying on behalf of the military would remain undetected. To further this aim it would be necessary among other things to isolate Nixon, remove Agnew and ensure that the existence of the tapes were made public. The final piece of the jigsaw would be an eventual pardon for Nixon.

Another revelation was the close connection between Haig and Bob Woodward who Haig used as a conduit to achieve his objectives. This is a gripping tale and with Haig now revealed as the master Machiavellian manipulator some of the previously unfathomable actions like the "Saturday Night Massacre" now make more sense. This is I think a must for both students of politics and those interested in how power can be used, corrupted and misused. It also shows how much power can be accumulated by an unelected official of dubious morality who sought to put his own interest at the forefront of all decisions.
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A fascinating biography of a real-life ”Cigarette Smoking Man” -- Never in power but always able to manipulate those in power.   Haig struggled to get into West Point, graduated in the bottom third of his class, and would later serve under Nixon. He rose to Brigadier General working under Kissinger in September of 1969, and by October. 1972 he had his fourth star-- skipping the rank of Lieutenant General in the process.  His strategy to power came by gaining trust and turning on others  -- Kissinger and Nixon included.  Haig’s Coup is the history of the last few months of the Nixon presidency and how one man worked to control the chain of events that not only removed a president but also preserved his own record of government service.  A engrossing read,
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I mistakenly anticipated this book would be written to a reader audience such as myself with a basic knowledge of the circumstances and events surrounding the Nixon administration.  I had only recently completed my reading of John Dean's book, Blind Ambition, which I felt did a very good job of painting a frightening picture of Nixon and his henchmen, so I thought I was well prepared for another perspective on the matter.  But I really struggled with Haig's Coup.  I felt the material was presented with very little organization or purpose.  I believe the intent was to describe chronologically the flow of events, yet there was little in the way of guidance by the author as to the what point is being made from paragraph to paragraph, or chapter to chapter.  To me, it seemed the writing could have used another round of editing.  Sadly, this one disappointed me.
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Having read the books by Bernstein and Woodward many years ago I was intrigued by the summary of this biography of General Alexander M. Haig Jr including newly declassified documentation. I wasn't disappointed as this is a fascinating read, showing a different perspective on the Watergate crisis and subsequent fallout. 

The twisting and turning tale shows Haig as a man only out to protect one person in the top echelons of American politics, namely himself and had no hesitation in sacrificing those who knew too much or had conceivably more power than him.

I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Watergate scandal or, more broadly, American 20th century history.
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When Haig enters the scene all hell breaks loose and he's taking men down with him!
This was a heck of a read especially for someone who was just born at the time all this went down.
Ray Locker puts all the pieces together including the tapes and transcripts and behind the scenes actions to show just how crazy it was in the White House under Nixon's reign.
He was basically forced to resign or face impeachment and the Watergate Scandal continued to live on in history books.
So much has been written but many may not recall 'Haldeman and Ehrlichman had enforced the president’s will and protected him from his rivals and his worst instincts for four years.'
The play by play action in this is just incredible.
Thank you to Ray, the publisher, NetGalley, and aldiko for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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