Alexander Haig asserted before reporters "I am in control here" as a result of Reagan's hospitalization due to Reagan’s attempted assassination March 30, 1981.
He said, “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so.
He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.”
Haig was incorrect in his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution concerning both the presidential line of succession and the 25th Amendment, which dictates what happens when a president is incapacitated.
The holders of the two offices between the Vice President and the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House (at the time, Tip O'Neill) and the President pro tempore of the Senate (at the time, Strom Thurmond), would be required under U.S. law (3 U.S.C. § 19) to resign their positions in order for either of them to become acting President.
This was an unlikely event, considering that Vice-President Bush was merely not immediately available.
Haig's statement reflected political reality, if not necessarily legal reality.
Haig later said, “I wasn't talking about transition. I was talking about the executive branch, who is running the government. That was the question asked. It was not, ‘Who is in line should the President die?’.”