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What we can learn from President Reagan’s contrarian Cabinet appointments

by AirTalk®

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April 1981: American statesman Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States, at a cabinet meeting in the family quarters of the White House, Washington DC. Keystone/Getty Images

As we learn more about President-Elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, we look back at former Republican President Ronald Reagan’s early days in the White House.

Today, Reagan is one of our nation's most revered public figures, but when the former Hollywood actor came into the White House in 1981, he brought with him potentially controversial conservative agenda to cut social programs and reduce government oversight. To do so, Reagan appointed officials that disapproved of the agencies they were ultimately going to lead. Notably, Anne Anne Gorsuch Burford, known for her strong opposition to federal energy and environmental policies, was named the head of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Reagan also ran on a platform to eliminate the Department of Education, created just years ago by his predecessor Jimmy Carter. William Bennett, Reagan’s Education Secretary, launched the most sustained verbal attack ever made by a high official on the federal student-aid program, according to the New York Times.

What happened to these agencies under Reagan once these leaders joined the cabinet? Did the officials achieve what they set out to do? Host Larry Mantle re-visits the policies and politics from the Reagan era and dissects what they say about the future under a Trump presidency.


Sean T. Walsh, Republican political analyst and partner at Wilson Walsh Consulting in San Francisco. He has served on the White House staff of Presidents Ronald Reagan.

Craig Shirley, author of  three books on former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, including Last Act: The Final Years and emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (2015).

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