Memories of Bush at Harvard Business School


Richard Moore

Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2004 20:21:07 -0400
From: "Charles D. Johnson" <•••@••.•••>
o: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Bush at Harvard Business School

This speaks for itself.  It came out in


by Mary Jacoby

Sept. 16, 2004  |  For 25 years, Yoshi Tsurumi, one of George
W. Bush's professors at Harvard Business School, was content
with his green-card status as a permanent legal resident of
the United States. But Bush's ascension to the presidency in
2001 prompted the Japanese native to secure his American
citizenship. The reason: to be able to speak out with the full
authority of citizenship about why he believes Bush lacks the
character and intellect to lead the world's oldest and most
powerful democracy.

"I don't remember all the students in detail unless I'm
prompted by something," Tsurumi said in a telephone interview
Wednesday. "But I always remember two types of students. One
is the very excellent student, the type as a professor you
feel honored to be working with. Someone with strong social
values, compassion and intellect -- the very rare person you
never forget. And then you remember students like George Bush,
those who are totally the opposite."

The future president was one of 85 first-year MBA students in
Tsurumi's macroeconomic policies and international business
class in the fall of 1973 and spring of 1974. Tsurumi was a
visiting associate professor at Harvard Business School from
January 1972 to August 1976; today, he is a professor of
international business at Baruch College in New York.

Trading as usual on his father's connections, Bush entered
Harvard in 1973 for a two-year program. He'd just come off
what George H.W. Bush had once called his eldest son's
"nomadic years" -- partying, drifting from job to job, working
on political campaigns in Florida and Alabama and, most
famously, apparently not showing up for duty in the Alabama
National Guard.

Harvard Business School's rigorous teaching methods, in which
the professor interacts aggressively with students, and
students are encouraged to challenge each other sharply,
offered important insights into Bush, Tsurumi said. In
observing students' in-class performances, "you develop pretty
good ideas about what are their weaknesses and strengths in
terms of thinking, analysis, their prejudices, their
backgrounds and other things that students reveal," he said.

One of Tsurumi's standout students was Rep. Chris Cox,
R-Calif., now the seventh-ranking member of the House
Republican leadership. "I typed him as a conservative
Republican with a conscience," Tsurumi said. "He never
confused his own ideology with economics, and he didn't try to
hide his ignorance of a subject in mumbo jumbo. He was what I
call a principled conservative." (Though clearly a partisan
one. On Wednesday, Cox called for a congressional
investigation of the validity of documents that CBS News
obtained for a story questioning Bush's attendance at Guard
duty in Alabama.)

Bush, by contrast, "was totally the opposite of Chris Cox,"
Tsurumi said. "He showed pathological lying habits and was in
denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would
even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was
famous for that.

Students jumped on him; I challenged him." When asked to
explain a particular comment, said Tsurumi, Bush would
respond, "Oh, I never said that." A White House spokeswoman
did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In 1973, as the oil and energy crisis raged, Tsurumi led a
discussion on whether government should assist retirees and
other people on fixed incomes with heating costs. Bush, he
recalled, "made this ridiculous statement and when I asked him
to explain, he said, 'The government doesn't have to help poor
people -- because they are lazy.'

I said, 'Well, could you explain that assumption?' Not only
could he not explain it, he started backtracking on it,
saying, 'No, I didn't say that.'"

If Cox had been in the same class, Tsurumi said, "I could have
asked him to challenge that and he would have demolished it.
Not personally or emotionally, but intellectually."

Bush once sneered at Tsurumi for showing the film "The Grapes
of Wrath," based on John Steinbeck's novel of the Depression.
"We were in a discussion of the New Deal, and he called
Franklin Roosevelt's policies 'socialism.' He denounced labor
unions, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Medicare,
Social Security, you name it. He denounced the civil rights
movement as socialism. To him, socialism and communism were
the same thing. And when challenged to explain his prejudice,
he could not defend his argument, either ideologically,
polemically or academically.

Students who challenged and embarrassed Bush in class would
then become the subject of a whispering campaign by him,
Tsurumi said. "In class, he couldn't challenge them. But after
class, he sometimes came up to me in the hallway and started
bad-mouthing those students who had challenged him. He would
complain that someone was drinking too much. It was innuendo
and lies. So that's how I knew, behind his smile and his
smirk, that he was a very insecure, cunning and vengeful guy."

Many of Tsurumi's students came from well-connected or wealthy
families, but good manners prevented them from boasting about
it, the professor said. But Bush seemed unabashed about the
connections that had brought him to Harvard.

"The other children of the rich and famous were at least well
bred to the point of realizing universal values and standards
of behavior," Tsurumi said. But Bush sometimes came late to
class and often sat in the back row of the theater-like
classroom, wearing a bomber jacket from the Texas Air National
Guard and spitting chewing tobacco into a cup.

"At first, I wondered, 'Who is this George Bush?' It's a very
common name and I didn't know his background. And he was such
a bad student that I asked him once how he got in. He said,
'My dad has good friends.'" Bush scored in the lowest 10
percent of the class.

The Vietnam War was still roiling campuses and Harvard was no
exception. Bush expressed strong support for the war but
admitted to Tsurumi that he'd gotten a coveted spot in the
Texas Air National Guard through his father's connections.

"I used to chat up a number of students when we were walking
back to class," Tsurumi said. "Here was Bush, wearing a Texas
Guard bomber jacket, and the draft was the No. 1 topic in
those days. And I said, 'George, what did you do with the
draft?' He said, 'Well, I got into the Texas Air National
Guard.' And I said, 'Lucky you. I understand there is a long
waiting list for it. How'd you get in?' When he told me, he
didn't seem ashamed or embarrassed. He thought he was entitled
to all kinds of privileges and special deals. He was not the
only one trying to twist all their connections to avoid
Vietnam. But then, he was fanatically for the war."

Tsurumi told Bush that someone who avoided a draft while
supporting a war in which others were dying was a hypocrite.
"He realized he was caught, showed his famous smirk and huffed

Tsurumi's conclusion: Bush is not as dumb as his detractors
allege. "He was just badly brought up, with no discipline, and
no compassion," he

This article by Mary Jacoby appeared in

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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