Grover G. Norquist, chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project, is a man with a rapid mission. He and his colleagues want to place the former president’s name on one location after another, while the ailing Gipper is still alive and accorded public sympathy for his condition. For once Reagan passes, he joins other deceased Presidents on a more level playing field for such honorifics. Historically, places are named after Presidents have left this world.
Norquist scored big in 1998 when he pushed through Congress the renaming, at some millions of dollars cost, National Airport in Washington, D.C. to Reagan Washington National Airport. The hapless Democrats, beset by Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal, never thought of countering with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, or a certain winner, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The four star General was commanding the war in western Europe against Hitler, while Ronald Reagan was in Hollywood making wartime training films.
The next naming success by Norquist was the largest new government office building in town, an architectural blah with large costover-runs. Some conservatives were embarrassed by the building’s excessive costs. But then Ronald Reagan sent annual budgets with huge built-in deficits through Congress, according to the Wall Street Journal, which tripled the federal deficit during his eight years from about $900 billion in 1980 to over $3 trillion before he left office. He added more deficit dollars than all the previous Presidents put together.
Most recently on March 4th an aircraft carrier, still under construction, was named USS Ronald Reagan. Now Mr. Norquist and allies are turning their attention to two new locations. One is the ten dollar bill, presently printed with the picture of Alexander Hamilton. They want Reagan’s smiling visage to replace Hamilton and are seeking a Congressional enactment to get this done. They expect the Democrats to
The next project is more audacious ? carve a piece of Mount Rushmore next to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. On this move, geology comes to the rescue of the Democrats. No way, says Senator Tim Johnson (Dem. S.D.). This slab of pegmatitic granite, he is advised by Douglas A. Blankenship, a geomechanics consultant in South Dakota, is too veined with cracks, and too crowded to take another 60-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide head. Oh well.
Ever glancing for another location, the Reagan Legacy Project has latched on to what is known as the 10th Street Overlook, a circle near L’Enfant Plaza in the nation’s capital. Many millions of dollars have been raised by Reagan fans to build a monument at that location.
There is one hurdle, however. For thirty years, the retired District of Columbia historian, Louise Hutchinson, has been trying to place a monument there to America’s first black man of science, the remarkable Benjamin Banneker, who was born free in 1731. Among his many achievements was the first surveying of the 10 mile square that would become Washington, D.C.
Ms. Hutchinson managed to get the Overlook named Benjamin Banneker Overlook Park, but cannot get enough funds raised to implement her dream. Much of Washington, D.C.’s oldest government buildings, including the Congress, relied heavily on black slave construction workers. There are precious few monuments to African-Americans in this predominantly black city.
The amazing aspect of these fervent Reagan namers is that their hero never had that kind of ego or hubris. Reagan may have been corporate-centric but he was not ego-centric. Rather, he was a jolly, shoulder shrugging amiable politician. He made people laugh about very serious matters.
In the classic book, “Reagan’s Reign of Error”, by Mark Green and Gail MacColl (Pantheon, 1987), there is a collection of many of the Gipper’s gaffes, such as;
“We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet”
“Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal”
“A fearless mass waiting for handouts”, referring to California’s elderly on state medicaid
In 1980 he said “Our military is absolutely incapable of defending this country.”
He once said that eighty percent of pollution comes from trees and other vegetation. Twice he publically stated that a Trident nuclear missile once launched could be recalled.