Center for American Progress

Honoring The Memory: “Trivializing” Ronald Reagan

Honoring The Memory: “Trivializing” Ronald Reagan




Despite objections from prominent Reagan aides, top conservatives – even Reagan himself – the "Reagan Legacy Project" is moving forward with efforts to rename anything and everything after the 40th President. As Reagan’s biographer said, the effort "trivializes" Reagan and negates his legacy.

REAGAN SPEECHWRITER SAYS GIPPER WOULDN’T WANT IT: When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) proposed renaming the Pentagon after Reagan, one of the 40th President’s top speechwriters said it was a bad idea. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a White House speechwriter and special assistant to Reagan from 1981-88, said he was against the proposal because "I don’t think Reagan wanted to have a huge military establishment. That wasn’t his goal." [Source: CQ Daily, 6/9/04]

REAGAN WANTED WAITING PERIOD FOR NEW MALL MEMORIALS: "There’s even a proposal to create a Reagan Memorial here on Washington’s Mall. The only problem? A 1986 law forbidding any monument on the Mall for someone who hasn’t been dead for 25 years. And who signed that law? Ronald Reagan." [Source: NBC News, 5/25/01]

REAGAN BIOGRAPHER SAYS EFFORT ‘TRIVIALIZES’ REAGAN: "Reagan biographer Lou Cannon said he believes Reagan "would be very uneasy about [the proposal to rename airports after him].’ He added: ‘They’re doing something that Reagan himself would not have wanted done, and they’re doing something that is unnecessary. The conservative movement may be in trouble, but I don’t think Reagan’s reputation is.’ Cannon said the Legacy Project’s zealous efforts "trivialize" the two-term president and former California governor." [Source: Washington Post, 6/17/01]

REAGAN AIDE SAYS RENAMING CRUSADE DISHONORS REAGAN: "Critics of the commemoration crusade include Reagan loyalists like Lyn Nofziger, a former aide who commented, ‘It is silly in the extreme. Reagan didn’t care about such things. He was a modest man.’" [Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press, 6/10/01]

TOP CONSERVATIVES SAY RENAMING CRUSADE DISHONORS REAGAN: Marshall Wittman, an analyst with the conservative Hudson Institute said the effort to rename everything for Reagan "is all very un-Reagan and it actually trivializes his legacy." Similarly, columnist George Will said the renaming frenzy "is the spirit of Leninism and Saddam Husseinism, and all the other countries in which the maximum leader smears his image all over the place in his name." He those who are pushing the renaming issue "have the mentality that led to the lunatic multiplication of Lenin portraits, busts and statues throughout the ‘Evil Empire.’" [Sources: Chattanooga Times Free Press, 6/10/01; MSNBC 5/23/01; Augusta Chronicle, 4/29/01]

TOP CONSERVATIVES ATTACK JFK TO POLITICIZE ISSUE: "Democrats refrained from criticizing [Reagan renaming] efforts outright, saying it was not the time to engage in a contentious debate over how to remember the 40th President." Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the second ranking Republican in the Senate, lashed out at efforts to memorialize President John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated. McConnell criticized Democrats after President Kennedy’s death for supposedly wanting "everything renamed for him." [Source: CQ Daily, 6/9/04]

HONORING THE MEMORY: Currency Proposals Negate Reagan’s Words Conservatives in Congress continue to push to put President Reagan on the $10 bill, the $20 bill or the dime. The proposals come even though Reagan himself often praised the presidents currently on the currency and despite Nancy Reagan’s pleas to stop. They also come even though the proposals could cost taxpayers and consumers tens of millions of dollars – something surely anathema to Reagan’s calls for less government spending.

REAGAN OFTEN PRAISED ALEXANDER HAMILTON: Conservatives are pushing to have Reagan replace former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on the $10. They believe the proposal has "the best chance of clearing Congress because it does not involve displacing a former President." However, it was Reagan who repeatedly praised Alexander Hamilton, and invoked his words in speeches. As California governor, Reagan gave a speech for Barry Goldwater on 8/27/64 saying, "Alexander Hamilton said, ‘A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.’" On 2/26/81, Reagan called Hamilton a man "of enormous intellectual capacity and courage." On 9/15/82, Reagan called Hamilton "one of our greatest Founding Fathers" and praised Hamilton’s declaration that "a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will." Similarly, on 12/10/85, Reagan said, "let us rededicate ourselves to the advancement of human rights throughout the world, recalling the words of Alexander Hamilton that ‘natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent creator to the whole human race…and cannot be wrested from any people without the most manifest violation of justice.’" [Source: CQ Daily, 6/9/04; Reagan speech, 8/27/64; Reagan speech, 2/26/81; Reagan speech, 9/15/82; Reagan Speech, 12/10/85]

REAGAN TOUTED JACKSON FOR HIS COMMITMENT TO AVERAGE PEOPLE: Other conservatives are proposing to replace President Andrew Jackson with Reagan on the $20 bill. However, Reagan often praised Jackson for his commitment to the common man. On 3/15/82, Reagan said, ""The first United States President to be born in a log cabin, Jackson spoke for the average citizen and fought the vested interests. And just a short time ago, before coming here, I was proud to lay a wreath on his grave. It was Jackson who reminded us that ‘One man with courage makes a majority.’ Throughout his stormy life he lived by that motto, defending his honor, our Union, and the inalienable rights of every American citizen, regardless of station." On 9/24/85, Reagan visited Jackson’s home and said "Andrew Jackson started here, and he was a President who cared about the average American." [Sources: Reagan speech, 3/15/82; Reagan speech, 9/24/85]

DIME – REAGAN’S PERSONAL HERO WAS FDR; NANCY REAGAN CRITICIZES PROPOSAL: Conservatives continue to push a proposal to replace President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the dime with Reagan, even after it was criticized by Nancy Reagan. She said, "I do not support this proposal and I am certain Ronnie would not. When our country chooses to honor a great president such as Franklin Roosevelt by placing his likeness on our currency, it would be wrong to remove him and replace him with another. It is my hope that the proposed legislation will be withdrawn." According to the St. Petersburg Times, Ronald Reagan himself "frequently referred to Franklin D. Roosevelt [as] the hero of his youth." Time Magazine noted that Reagan had a "penchant for quoting Roosevelt." In 1982, Reagan called FDR "one of history’s truly monumental figures…an American giant, a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times." [Source: CNN, 12/5/03; St. Petersburg Times, 8/28/88; Time Magazine, 2/1/82; Reagan speech, 1/28/82]

CHANGING CURRENCY INCURS HUGE COSTS: According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the "last money makeover cost $765,000 plus two million pamphlets and thousands of videos and compact discs" and also "a $53 million publicity contract." Additionally, "it can cost $600 per vending machine to replace outdated currency acceptance units." [Sources: U.S. Banker, 12/03; Columbian, 7/26/00]




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