Reagan on Mt. Rushmore? Why Conservatives Love the Idea

PHOTO Reagan on Rushmore

Ask the most passionate admirers of former President Ronald Reagan to rate the greatness of his legacy, and they'll likely put him in the company of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Some have even suggested the 40th president deserves to literally join the quartet, carved in stone on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

While Congress debated and ultimately rejected that idea in 1999, the concept still tickles conservatives, who see the question -- should Reagan be on Rushmore? -- as an entree to discussing the former president's clout.

"Is he of that stature? The answer is yes," said Grover Norquist, chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project. "Reagan was the most successful president of the twentieth century. He took a country that was in economic collapse and militarily in retreat around the globe and turned it completely around."

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Norquist, who led the effort to rename Washington's National Airport after Reagan, has been using the president's centennial anniversary to make a renewed push to bring the Reagan name and likeness to every county in all 50 states.

"In South Dakota, Reagan deserves a mountain carving of his own, like Crazy Horse," he said, referring to the Native American leader who has a monument down the road from Rushmore.

Reagan already has more than 100 official physical namesakes in at least 27 states and four countries, according to a list compiled by the National Archives through January 2010.

They include nearly a dozen schools, courthouses and post offices, highways, an aircraft carrier, and even hotel suites.

A 5,533-foot peak in New Hampshire's White Mountains was renamed Mount Reagan in 2003.

In the Marshall Islands, the U.S. military tests weapons at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Site.

And in Poland, what was once Central Square in downtown Krakow now bears the Reagan name.

While there is no official data tracking the number of named physical monuments for each of the nine most recent presidents of the past 50 years, anecdotal evidence suggests John F. Kennedy dominates the count.

Reagan on Currency?

Norquist estimates that JFK has between 600 and 800 named landmarks across the country.

And, he said, he's not giving up on his campaign until Reagan has the same.

"These create 100,000 teaching moments for people," he said. "As people fly into Reagan airport and the child says to the parent, 'why are we flying into Reagan airport? Why are we driving on Reagan highway? What is this?' It's a chance for the Reagan legacy to be explained and live on."

So what's next? Getting Reagan's face on currency.

"Within the next 10years, when we have the next Republican president, Reagan will be on the $10, $20, $50 or the dime. I guarantee he absolutely will," says Norquist.

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