Flynn’s Resignation - A Haig Moment

The sudden departure of General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor, after less than a month in the job, is all about judgement. The question is not about whether the Logan Act was violated, a dead letter for 200 years, but about whether a bond of trust was violated – with the President and Vice President. Apparently, it was.

Asked about the contents of a call with the Russian Ambassador, General Flynn gave a misleading, either untruthful or “incomplete,” answer. That compromised the Vice President on national television, compromised the President – and most importantly, compromised the National Security Advisor, himself. If the Russians knew his conversation was not as described to the Vice President and President, they could potentially blackmail him. He had to go.

Although parallels are hard to find, this might be an Al Haig moment, bad judgment plus lack of self-awareness triggering presidential removal, masked as resignation. Haig’s departure was a slow motion meltdown.

In 1981, following the assassination attempt on President Reagan that left him hospitalized, awaiting the Vice President’s return, the then-Secretary of State asserted “I am in control here.” He mistakenly recited the chain of succession, inserting himself at the number three role. The actual number three is the Speaker of the House, and number four is President Pro tempore of the Senate. Prickly by nature, this did not sit well with White House leadership.

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Strike two for Haig was a series of low-burning quarrels with Reagan’s Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who enjoyed the President’s confidence and shared his worldview. Perhaps the third strike was a comment he made suggesting that Europe might shake the Soviet Union up with a “nuclear warning shot.” He resigned in July 1982, having served for approximately a year, and was immediately replaced by long-time Secretary of State George Schultz, who would ride out the full two terms.

Judgement is central…