William John Bennett (1943-) is a leading traditional values advocate of American conservatism and historian. He hosts a syndicated radio show, "Bill Bennett's Morning," and is a political contributor and Republican strategist on CNN's The Situation Room. He is Washington Fellow for the Claremont Institute and, with Mario Cuomo, co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Bennett was born in Brooklyn. He earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Texas as well as a law degree from Harvard.
From 1976 to 1981 he was the executive director of the National Humanities Center. In 1982, President Reagan named him chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1985, he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Education a post he held until 1988. During his tenure, he took many controversial positions. He opposed federal student loan programs and vilified the teachers' unions as enemies of America's children.
Under President George H.W. Bush he was director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the first "drug czar" (1989-1990).
Bennett wrote the bestseller Book of Virtues (1993), a collection of morality stories that was so successful that it produced several spin-off publications, including Children's Book of Virtues (1995) and Book of Virtues for Young People (1996). In 1998, he published another bestselling book, The Death of Outrage which presented the world with his take on the Clinton scandals.
Political viewpoints and controversies
Bennett is an outspoken promoter of traditional values and opposes same-sex marriage. He also opposes affirmative action and supports school vouchers. As Education Secretary he supported attempts to return to classical schooling.
In 2003, it was reported that Bennett had lost over $8 million in New Jersey casinos over a period of about ten years. Many conservatives rebuked him for his lack of judgment. Bennett responded by saying he had forsworn gambling.