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November 16, 2011

Well, who should play Ronald Reagan?

While some see President Reagan as the man who won the cold war, others remember him as having changed the economy at home.  Some might paint him as a kind of Scrooge, the character so well portrayed by Michael Caine (or, to keep in the Reagan Era,  very un-Reagan-like actors Bill Murray or George C. Scott.)

But President Reagan wasn’t all about war and money.  He was one of the most charming Presidents in the 20th century, far more charming than many actors are off the set.

Ronald Reagan’s favorite book was the Bible, and he also had a favorite comic, Peanuts.  Peanuts features the unfortunate child Charlie Brown, the kind of ordinary kid who looks at life’s small mishaps and says “why me?”

Charlie Brown is not intended to see himself as a loser like today’s “Wimpy Kids”, but more of an everyman, someone who is aware of his own relative insignificance.  Charlie gets along alright with all his friends, but is constantly struggling to keep up.  He’s surrounded by people more ambitious than himself, a sister who has great musical ambitions, a girl next door who fancies herself as the world’s greatest psychiatrist, not to mention his friends who defend their blankets with near quixotic vigor.

Even Charlie’s dog, Snoopy, harbors the ambition of being a great novelist.  Could this be how President Reagan saw himself, an everyman surrounded by ordinary people with great ambitions?

Reagan loved to eat brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  And he’d enjoy a swim or a tour on the golf course.  His likes and hobbies reflect those of middle America.  It’s not impossible to imagine that as a child, he could relate to Charlie Brown.

Rather than actor Jack Nicholson, Reagan was more like the golfer of similar name (Jack Nicklaus).  President Reagan did seemingly routine things in a way that didn’t stand out much, yet people liked to see their president do them.

That kind of ordinary good guy, seemingly boring but quietly heroic, is hard to portray on film.  Russell Crowe did it in Cinderella Man.  Kevin Costner came close in The Bodyguard.  But neither quite has Reagan’s winning smile, the one that aged with a legion of friendly wrinkles.

Bob Hope might have been a good choice, had he been alive.

Well, one eighties icon is still with us.  (No, not Madonna, although after Travolta playing a woman in Hairspray, she might play Reagan some day.  There are Japanese plays where all the characters are played by women, after all.)

I’m thinking of a man who represents everything good about Reagan  America.  He may not look like Ronnie, but then, no one ever will.  He has his fatherly presence, and he is an actor who has played more important roles.

Bill Cosby could not only take the role of Reagan in a film, Cosby could take over Reagan’s old role of running the country.  Sure, he may be best known for being “only a comedian”, but the last four clowns to disgrace the White House have turned the country into a joke.

One thing (future President) Bill Cosby said convinces me he has what it takes.  “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

(Stay tuned for more Presidential biographies, jobs for graduates, answers to your questions on pen names and much more.  Different Ptara time, same Ptara website.)

[This was written in 2011, before the high profile court case against Bill Cosby, and before any allegations came to our attention.  We have left it up for historical reasons. ]