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THE GIPPER IN RUSHMORE GRANITE?

Some conservatives, certain of Ronald Reagan's place in history, are talking up the idea of finding a place for him, too, alongside the granite faces of four great presidents at Mount Rushmore.

And they think they've gotten a wink from the man himself.At least Reagan smiled when an artist's sketch was presented last summer showing him alongside the Rushmore visages, says R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., a promoter of the movement to add Reagan.

"He seemed pleased," said Tyrrell, editor-in-chief of American Spectator magazine, a monthly conservative review.

Tyrrell sounds half serious - and half unserious - about the idea. But people are taking him entirely seriously, he said.

Tom Griffith, executive secretary of the Mount Rushmore Society, is seriously trying to spike the idea.

"It won't happen," he said.

The society raised the funds for the original project 60 years ago. The faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, drilled and dynamited into a mountainside of the Black Hills in South Dakota, are the largest carved figures anywhere; Washington's is as high as a five-story building, bigger than any sphinx in Egypt.

"The simple fact is there is no more suitable rock to carve anyone at Mount Rushmore," Griffith said in an interview from Rapid City, S.D.

"Why fool with a masterpiece?" he asked. "Would you paint another figure next to the Mona Lisa?"

Retorts Tyrrell: "Small-minded people, typical small-minded people."