Should Reagan replace Hamilton on $10 bill? http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0608ReaganBill08-ON.html A monetary memorial for Reagan? That's the $10 question USA Today Jun. 8, 2004 07:00 AM WASHINGTON - Former president Ronald Reagan's name has been enshrined on everything from an airport outside Washington to a turnpike in Florida to a mountain in New Hampshire. Now his most fervent fans have a new memorial in mind: the $10 bill. Once Reagan's body has been interred on Friday, leaders of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project will launch a campaign in Congress to put Reagan's visage in the space now occupied by founding father Alexander Hamilton. "Hamilton was a nice guy and everything, but he wasn't president," says Grover Norquist, who heads the legacy project as well as an influential conservative group called Americans for Tax Reform. "As a board member of the (National Rifle Association), I can also tell you that he was a bad shot." Hamilton may be remembered most for a fight he lost - a duel of honor against Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804 that left him fatally wounded. But Hamilton was also a Revolutionary War hero, George Washington's chief of staff, an author of the Federalist Papers and a Treasury secretary who created many of the financial and economic systems that survive today. Unlike Reagan, however, Hamilton lacks a modern-day political constituency - one reason that the $10 bill is being targeted. The Federalist Party that Hamilton helped forge is defunct. The Republican Party that Reagan helped restore to power now controls the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who as majority whip is the No. 2-ranking Republican in the Senate, says he'll sponsor the proposal when the time is right. Robert Stevenson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says "there could be a head of steam" behind the idea, especially right after Reagan's death. Democrats aren't quite ready to embrace the idea. "Ronald Reagan did many things during his presidency that deserve to be remembered," says Todd Webster, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, "and Democrats and Republicans will discuss how best to honor his legacy." If Democrats stall, Norquist says the group has a fallback: the dime. The Bush administration would be urged to take the less controversial step of putting Reagan's face on half the dimes minted. Franklin Roosevelt, who now has the dime to himself, would be featured on the other half. The idea of replacing FDR entirely had enough opposition - even from Nancy Reagan - that the group scaled back a bit. The Reagan Legacy Project is accustomed to uphill struggles. Its first victory, in 1998, came after a bitter battle to rename Washington's National Airport. Since then, it has sought to get something named after Reagan - a school, a highway, an aircraft carrier - in every state, every county and each of the formerly communist nations of the world. By law, decisions on the currency are up to the Treasury secretary - that is, to Hamilton's successors. Anne Womack Kolton, a spokeswoman for the current occupant of that job, John Snow, says any discussion of changing currency is "premature." But Norquist reports that he already has met with Snow and senior White House officials. "Everybody thought it was a good idea, and nobody thought it was a bad idea," he says, although no commitments were made. There is at least one person who thinks it's a bad idea. Ron Chernow, author of "Alexander Hamilton," an acclaimed biography published this spring, protests that the proposal to bump Hamilton off the $10 bill would rob an overlooked patriot of a well-deserved honor. "I hope the country finds a suitable way to commemorate Ronald Reagan, but I don't think it would be appropriate to do it by downgrading Alexander Hamilton, who has suffered from too much historical neglect, and who is finally and belatedly starting to be appreciated by posterity," Chernow says. Even Reagan might have objected, he suggests: "Hamilton was the prophet of the capitalist system that Ronald Reagan so admired." The timing is ironic, he says. The 200th anniversary of the duel in Weehawken, N.J., that cost Hamilton his life is July 11. "A lot of Hamilton admirers felt the time had come to do justice to his memory."