My father has a saying when he wants to compare the metal mettle of one person to another. For instance, watching a New York Giants football game, he might say, “Eli Manning couldn’t carry Johnny Unitas’s shoes!” That’s the comparison that occurred to me when I learned about a new proposal by some dim-witted Republican congressman to replace the image of Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill with that of Ronald Reagan.
Could there be a more appropriate embodiment of the chicken hawk nature of today’s Republican Party than this proposal? Not only does it scream empty symbolism, it also seeks to honor a man known as a tough talker (Reagan), while casting onto the junk heap of history one of the nation’s truly great soldiers (Grant). When his country called, Ulysses S. Grant answered by putting on a uniform and going to the front lines. With the exception of Lincoln, no one was more responsible for keeping the United States united than Grant. Grant is a genuine hero. Reagan’s military career — and at least he actually has one, which is more than can be said for most of today’s saber-rattling right-wingers — mostly involved public relations.
(For more about Grant, check out this op-ed piece in today’s New York Times.)
We’ve already immortalized Reagan by naming an airport after him. This is a fitting symbol of the modern Republican party, since airports are the hub of the new American cowardice, the place that shakes whenever Al-Qaeda sneezes. Just leave it at that.