Feature

Reagan: The new face on the $50 bill?

A group of GOP congressmen has introduced legislation to have the image of Reagan’s face enshrined on the $50 bill, displacing that of Ulysses S. Grant.

Former President Ronald Reagan may be gone, said Jennifer Harper in The Washington Times, but his face could soon find “a newfound currency.” A group of 14 GOP congressmen, led by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), has introduced legislation to have the image of Reagan’s face enshrined on the $50 bill, displacing that of Ulysses S. Grant. “Every generation needs its own heroes,” said McHenry, citing a poll that ranked Reagan sixth in a list of America’s greatest presidents, and Grant a lowly 29th. That may even be a little generous, said Rupert Cornwell in the London Independent on Sunday. Grant was certainly a great military commander, but in the U.S., soldiers don’t traditionally end up on bank notes. Compared with Ronald Reagan’s, or anyone’s, Grant’s eight long years in the Oval Office “were, to put it politely, mediocre.”

McHenry and his cronies “need a history lesson,” said Grant biographer Joan Waugh in the Los Angeles Times. If Ulysses S. Grant had not won the Civil War, there wouldn’t have been a United States for Reagan to preside over. As president, Grant “worked tirelessly” over two terms to realize Lincoln’s vision of a peaceful and unified America, “even as the country’s enthusiasm for biracial reconstruction of the South faded away.” Grant certainly gets a “bad rap” these days, said Gabriel Winant in Salon.com. There are rumors he drank too much, and there were ethical scandals involving other members of his administration. But the attacks on Grant’s presidency have mostly come from Southerners who resent Grant’s role in defeating the Confederacy and promoting the cause of racial equality as president. For Republicans to be echoing those sentiments now “doesn’t look great for the GOP.”

The best argument against McHenry’s proposal, said the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer in an editorial, may be that Reagan would have objected to it. He was a “polite man who appreciated American history,” and never would have wanted to bump the man who saved our Union off the $50 note. Besides, Reagan’s fan club in Washington has already succeeded in naming an airport, a highway, and a federal building after him. I can think of a better argument against changing the $50 bill, said S.E. Cupp in FoxNews.com. Unless McHenry and his colleagues in Washington can figure out how to stop spending so much money, all our bank notes may soon be adorned with “little pictures of Chairman Mao.”

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