Ronald Reagan was quoted as telling his Cabinet appointees yesterday that they are to ignore all political considerations in doing their jobs, and "operate as if there is no next election."
The president-elect, meeting formally for the first time with his Cabinet designees, said he didn't want them to be "yes men" or a "rubberstamp Cabinet," according to his press secretary, James S. Brady.
"I have to tell you there is one no-no," Brady quoted Reagan as saying. "The no-no is to discuss the political ramifications of anything. We are to operate as if there is no next election. Decisions should be made on the basis of what is good for the nation, not their political ramifications."
Reagan made his reported remarks during a two-hour meeting at the State Department during which both he and Vice President-elect George Bush laid out their vision of how the new administration will work. It was Reagan's last appearance in Washington before leaving for his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., where he is to stay until Jan. 14.
Reagan spoke for about 25 minutes before turning the meeting over to Republican congressional leaders and the men he has picked as his top White House advisers.
Although Reagan entertained much of the same group at a dinner at Blair House Wednesday evening, it was the first chance he has had to speak formally to his entire designated Cabinet. Only Rep. David Stockman, named to become director of the Office of Management and Budget, was absent. He was testifying on Capitol Hill.
"It's important to know our charge isn't just to be better caretakers, but to change the direction of government," Brady quoted Reagan as saying.
Brady, in a press briefing and later interview, said that Reagan promised he would be accessible to all of his Cabinet members, some of whom he barely knows, and that he urged them to speak out in Cabinet meetings on subjects outside of their own departments.
"What he is sketching is a working mechanism where it's a board of directors concept in which everyone is encouraged to speak out in areas that don't necessarily happen to be their own," Brady said.
He quoted Reagan as saying: "We want to have lively debate and discussion. It's my belief that we do share a basic philosophy of government. . . . We may differ at how we arrive at the end result, but I want free and open discussion."
Reagan reportedly said that he thinks the people he picked for the Cabinet share his belief that government has become too intrusive, that government takes too high a percentage of the gross national product and that government is largely to be blamed for the sad state of the economy.
Reagan, by Brady's account, did not discuss any specific policy initiatives he plans to make. But he did have some nice words for his favorite whipping boys during last year's campaign -- the bureaucrats who populate Washington.
Here Reagan reportedly referred back to his experience as governor of California. "The bureaucrats, often maligned, really want to do a good job," Brady quoted Reagan as saying. "If they are given good programs to work with and if they're given the leadership that they need, their intentions have been good and they'll rise to the challenge."
Upon arriving in Los Angeles for his last six days in California before he moves to Washington to prepare for his Jan. 20 inauguration, Reagan told reporters that his economic advisers are unanimous in urging that a tax cut not be postponed.
Reagan and his advisers agree that they must put together an economic package containing tax cuts and spending cuts and get it to Congress "as quickly as we can," he said.