WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Reaganites of long memory, recalling all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that the liberal intelligentsia displayed while the 40th president of the United States restored the economy and made ready the embalming of communism, are by now agreeably surprised by the nation's spontaneous reverence for the deceased president.
Even Bill Clinton has expressed a desire to eulogize in the hallowed precincts of the National Cathedral, though his selfless offer has been declined. Possibly the demurral was made on moral grounds. Bill's treatment of the Ten Commandments as a buffet makes some churchgoers uneasy.
At any rate, caught in the spirit of bereavement and of patriotism, Americans of all political persuasions are competing to come up with suitable ways to memorialize the Old Cowboy. Most frequently heard are suggestions to place Ronald Reagan's handsome face on the 10 dollar bill or on Mount Rushmore. The Rushmore proposal is an old one, one that I had a hand in creating and that The Washington Times transformed into a national cause.
It all began on July 26, 1988, when I had President Reagan as my guest at a small dinner party in my home. Through his two terms he had had me over to the White House regularly. An interest of his, rarely acknowledged by his critics, was writing and reading. Now with the publication of "Reagan, in His Own Hand" and "Reagan: A Life in Letters," we know that the president was a competent writer, both of letters and radio scripts.
Moreover, he was an avid reader, with newspapers and political intellectual reviews often on his reading table. In reciprocation of his hospitality to me, I promised an evening with some clever libertarian-conservative writers, and up the road he came on July 26 with 300 or so of his favorite security men.
Vic Gold, an old friend of mine, suggested we make the evening memorable by giving our guest a drawing of Mt. Rushmore with his face on it. The president accepted the bibelot graciously, and the evening continued with lively conversation. The president expressed his insight that the Russian people had a yearning for religion. He talked about Hollywood and politics. He corrected me when I remarked that while convalescing from his gunshot wound he lifted weights and put an inch of muscle on his chest: "An inch and a half, Bob."