Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Tale of Two Students

While John Kerry and George Bush may have had similar grades as undergraduates, the differences between the two became clear by graduation. Kerry's freshman grades were hardly predictive of his ultimate success. While Bush's academic record remained one lacking in distinction, the Boston Globe reports that, "Kerry received a high honor at Yale despite his mediocre grades: He was chosen to deliver his senior class oration, a testament to his reputation as a public speaker. . . Despite his slow start, he went on to be a top student at Naval Candidate School."

We are well aware of the differences of the two following school. Today's review of the military records shows once again that John Kerry was undisputably a true war hero, while George Bush avoided his duties in the National Guard. After the war, Kerry had a distinguished career, while Bush had a series of business failures which his father's friends repeatedly bailed him out of. John Kerry has had a brilliant Senate career, while George Bush has become one of the worst Presidents in American history, undermining our national security, seriously harming our reputation in the world, and doing long term damage to the economy.

The difference between the two predictable while George Bush was in Harvard Business School, as is seen in this account in the Harvard Crimson from last July. Yoshihiro Tsurumi, a visiting associate professor of international business at Harvard Business School between 1972 and 1976, and now a professor of international business at Baruch College in the City University of New York, said he remembers the future president as scoring in the bottom 10 percent of students in the class. The article goes on to report:

Thirty years after teaching the class, Tsurumi said the twenty-something Bush’s statements and behavior—“always very shallow”—still stand out in his mind.

“Whenever [Bush] just bumped into me, he had some flippant statement to make,” said Tsurumi when reached at his home in Scarsdale, N.Y. “The comments he made were revealing of his prejudice.”

The White House did not reply to requests for comment on Bush’s time at HBS.

Tsurumi said he particularly recalls Bush’s right-wing extremism at the time, which he said was reflected in off-hand comments equating the New Deal of the 1930s with socialism and the corporation-regulating Securities and Exchange Commission with “an enemy of capitalism.”

“I vividly remember that he made a comment saying that people are poor because they’re lazy,” Tsurumi said.

Tsurumi also said Bush displayed a sense of arrogance about his prominent family, including his father, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

“[George W. Bush] didn’t stand out as the most promising student, but...he made it sure we understood how well he was connected,” Tsurumi said. “He wasn’t bashful about how he was being pushed upward by Dad’s connections.”

Tsurumi said that the younger Bush boasted that his father’s political string-pulling had gotten him to the top of the waiting list for the Texas National Guard instead of serving in Vietnam. When other students were frantically scrambling for summer jobs, Tsurumi said, Bush explained that he was planning instead for a visit to his father in Beijing, where the senior Bush was serving at the time as the special U.S. envoy to China.

In addition, Tsurumi is still sore about what he recalls as Bush’s slight to his cinematic taste. When he arranged for students to view the film of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath during their study of the Great Depression, Tsurumi said, Bush derided the film as “corny.”

At the time, Tsurumi said his worries about his student extended no further than the boardroom.

“All Harvard Business School students want to become president of a company one day,” Tsurumi said. “I remember saying, if you become president of a company some day, may God help your customers and employees.”

When he discovered that his former pupil was vying for the presidency in 2000, Tsurumi said he tried to inform the public about his experience with the then-Texas governor at HBS—but got few results beyond hate mail.

“Last election time, if you recall, the American mass media did a shameful job of vetting [the presidential candidates],” Tsurumi said.

As another November approaches, Tsurumi is trying again to air his criticisms of the man he once taught and his actions as president.

“This time it seems to be getting around a bit more widely,” he said. “After three years of dismal record, people seem more inclined to believe that all his failed leadership was apparent during the Harvard Business School years.”

In a July 2 speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, Tsurumi repeated the broadside he has launched repeatedly in the past.

“I always remember two groups of students,” Tsurumi said then, according to published reports. “One is the really good students, not only intelligent, but with leadership qualities, courage. The other is the total opposite, unfortunately to which George belonged.”


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