Alexander Haig resigned as secretary of state because:
* he disagreed with President Reagan on the Soviet gas pipeline;
* he opposed a tough line on Israel;
* he was refused permission to go to Israel;
* he was refused permission "to go to the source" in Cuba;
* he was undermined on China policy;
* he was "sandbagged" by the White House "gang of four";
* he wouldn't negotiate with a "company commander";
* he failed to persuade the White House that "vicar" really means "pope";
* he didn't like his seat on Air Force One;
* he wants to run for president.
All, one or various combinations of the above have been advanced in newspapers, magazines and networks as reasons for Mr. Haig's decision to quit after 17 months. Nature may be content merely to abhor a vacuum, but the media is compelled to invade it. The result this time has been a torrent of speculation drawn from little more than a trickle of on-the-record information. There was the terse, awkward, but stunning announcement by President Reagan that the resignation had been accepted and that George Shultz was his choice to succeed Mr. Haig. Mr. Haig, in turn, read his letter for the occasion, which was pregnant with "the foreign policy on which we embarked together was shifting from that careful course which we had laid out," but devoid of explanation. That, to date, is the public record, with the addition-- subtraction, rather--of the president's subsequent press conference admonition: "I don't thnk there's anything that in any way would benefit the people to know or that will in any way affect their good judgment." Next question.
Predictably then, the underground explanations emerged. First, nameless White House officials fed the void. More words were devoted to Mr. Haig's hubris than the presumed policy differences and, to the extent they exist, how the administration hopes to reconcile them. Anyhow, enough was put out to sustain the new columns and network specials through the weekend. The Post alone published a dozen stories over two days.
The critics leaked word that Mr. Haig had put himself into a box; that he didn't want to resign so much as threaten to, that he really preferred to stay on the job. "I don't want to resign," he was quoted as saying after informing the president he had already drafted a letter. The president reportedly still hadn't seen it when he made the announcement. The net of these stories was to answer the insiders' question: did he jump or was he pushed. He did both apparently.
To counter this a few days later, "close associates" of Mr. Haig got into the act. The Post reported, according to these similarly unnamed sources, that Mr. Haig had been "sandbagged." One said, "Haig did not realize that complaining to the president meant resignation . . . the complaint was . . . for the purpose of rectification." They attributed to Mr. Haig that he felt he had been "set up," "entrapped" by "a hostile White House staff."
It's been a journalistic circus. Time and Newsweek dispensed long intimate accounts with Mr. Haig on one cover, Mr. Shultz on the other. Columnists and guest columnists have produced historical analogies, the most obvious with Cyrus Vance, who quit in a clean break over former President Carter's effort to rescue American hostages in Iran. This inspired one columnist to compare the differences between Mr. Haig and Mr. Vance to that between Thomas More and Martin Luther. A Post article saw Mr. Haig as "clearly a MacArthur kind of guy," owing to remarks he once made in admiration of that other famous general. Another portrayed Mr. Haig as actor and Mr. Reagan as soldier since they met.
I even find a kindred piece in The New York Times, and that may be good reason to stop here. The reportorial and editorial outpouring on this case grossly exceeds the thimble of official information. The public has been given too much to read and too little to comprehend. Mr. Reagan is in California on vaction. Mr. Haig was last seen playng golf in Virginia. The nation must hope that Mr. Shultz is minding the store that he has yet to be placed in charge of. The situation begs for enlightenment from Mr. Reagan and Mr. Haig. That will take a while. Meanwhile, I'm going fishing.