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Instead Of Grant
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Kennedy A Better Choice For $50 Bill

By James Donahue

Congressman Patrick McHenry recently introduced a bill to replace the image of President Ulysses S. Grant with the face of the late President Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. This is the second time in recent years that a Republican legislator has proposed giving Reagan this honor.

We are glad to report that the proposal does not appear to be getting support in the Democrat controlled House and will probably die a quiet death.

While Mr. Reagan was a popular president in his day, we suggest that it is too early to declare him a “great” president and worthy of this kind of veneration. When you look back in history, Grant probably did not deserve it either.

We suggest that if we are ever going to remove the whisker-faced old general with that of a proven great American leader, a better choice for the accolade would be the late President John F. Kennedy.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Kennedy brought us through one of the more trying moments in American history. This was the Cuban missile crisis which brought us within a hair’s breath of a nuclear war with the old Soviet Union. Had it not been for Kennedy’s skills in international and military diplomacy, we might not have escaped it.

Also like Lincoln, Kennedy was a martyred president, shot in the third year of his first term. Like Lincoln, Kennedy worked to grant equality to black Americans, promoting the civil rights legislation that eventually became law during the presidency of Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson.

The dark blotches in Kennedy’s term were his decisions to carry on with two military issues launched under the Eisenhower Administration. Kennedy’s failed Bay-of-Pigs invasion of Cuba was a CIA plot to stage an overthrow of Fidel Castro. Like President Barack Obama’s decision to continue a Bush launched war in Afghanistan, Kennedy erroneously continued a limited engagement in Vietnam, supporting the South Vietnamese in their struggle against the Communist Viet Cong. Like Obama, Kennedy allegedly had plans to reduce the level of the U.S. engagement in Vietnam and start bringing troops home. He did not live to accomplish this. Johnson escalated the war instead.

Mr. Kennedy created the Peace Corps and launched America’s space program, setting a goal for man to reach the moon.

Kennedy successfully pushed for and got a limited treaty between the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom to stop above ground testing of atomic bombs. It was the first of several nuclear treaties with the Soviet Union to follow.

The nation’s economy was in a slump when Eisenhower left office. Kennedy’s loosened monetary policy designed to keep interest rates down worked. The economy turned around and prospered during his administration.

In contrast, Reagan’s sweeping supply-side economic policies, known as “Reaganomics,” reduced business regulation, cut taxes and spurred economic growth. But his policies, continued under the two Republican Bush Administrations, and the Democratic Clinton Administration, are now blamed for the extreme economic crisis the nation now struggles to repair.

While Reagan, a former Hollywood actor, was remembered as a fine orator whose foreign policies helped bring an end to the Cold War, there was a scandal linked to his administration as well. His second term was marred by the Iran-Contra scandal involving a secret sale of arms to Iran to secure the release of hostages and finance the Nicaraguan contras.

Grant, whose mug has appeared on $50 paper bills since 1914, was considered a brilliant general who led the Union Army to victory during the American Civil War. He also led reconstruction of the southern states by signing and enforcing civil rights laws after he was elected president.

But Grant’s administration also was caught up in economic turmoil and scandal. When the banks were hit by the Panic of 1873, Grant appointed corrupt and incompetent men to high political offices and failed to hold them accountable. He consequently went down in history as one of the nation’s worst presidents.

It may have been Grant’s association with Lincoln and his success in leading the northern states to victory during the Civil War that encouraged the U.S. Treasury to put his face on $50 Federal Reserve Note in 1914. Before that, the note featured the face of William H. Seward, the Secretary of State during the Lincoln Administration.

There have been other faces on the $50 bill over the years. Seward held the honor from 1881 until 1914. Before that it was Silas Wright, a former New York Congressman. The honor also was held by Edward Everett, a former Secretary of State; Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Henry Clay, who also served as Secretary of State.