At Election Time, Profs Consider the D.C. Life
Vice President George Bush called Harvard "the boutique of liberal ideas" this summer in the course attaching the "L-word" to his Democratic rival, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.
The Democratic nominee graduated from the Law School in 1960, taught at the Kennedy School of Government for three years, and draws many of his top campaign advisers from the University.
Cantabridgians, from President Bok to Kennedy School Dean Graham T. Allison '62, first actively disputed the notion that the University is a vast Democratic think tank united behind the Dukakis campaign.
"Maybe in the context of all the colleges in the country we are on the liberal side, but I would never say that we are more liberal than any other institution like Yale, for instance," Bok said in a recent interview. "What does that mean? What are the criteria for 'liberal'? I wouldn't even know how to figure that out."
And they raise another question. If Dukakis draws on a Harvard "boutique" for his ideas, as Bush charged, recent events have raised another question--what is the appropriate term for the many advisers within the University working for Bush in his bid for the White House?
But, as the election enters its final weeks these quarrels become less important and the big riddle campaign watchers now ponder is which ivory-tower advisers will become Washington-bound paper pushers and which will continue to publish papers.
In this election year, attention has focused on the Kennedy School, where Dukakis served as a lecturer between his first two terms as governor. And recently Bok and Allison have joined in the speculation about which K-School profs would join their former colleague should he win in November.
Bok, who is himself considered a possible political appointee in a Democratic administration, says that he and Allison "discussed whatever plans we can so we won't be left short of faculty members or have to fold or anything."
Many cite the story of Dukakis' staffing decisions in 1982, when he was re-elected governor after a three-year stint at the Kennedy School, as evidence of what might happen this time around if the Democrats take the White House. Allison says that he was forced to personally negotiate a hiring freeze with Dukakis after the gubernatorial election because the former lecturer lured away so many of his K-School colleagues.
Allison and Ford Foundation Professor of International Security Joseph S. Nye are the two most mentioned possible Dukakis appointees this election. Allison announced last summer that he would resign his post as dean, effective in the 1989-'90 academic year. Many speculated at the time that Allison was trying to free himself for a Washington job in a Dukakis administration.
But Allison, who is mentioned as a possible national security adviser or secretary of defense, disavowed any intention to join the migration to Washington should Dukakis, a close personal friend of the dean's, win.
Nye refuses to comment on his job prospects in a Democratic administration, but the professor, who is on leave this semester, has been a top foreign policy adviser to Dukakis. Nye, who was an undersecretary of state under President Jimmy Carter, traveled to North Carolina to brief the governor on foreign policy issues before last week's presidential debate. Observers have mentioned Nye as a candidate for top posts including Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.
Academic Dean Albert Carnesale, who has advised Dukakis on nuclear power issues, including the controversial evacuation plans involving the Seabrook, N.H. nuclear power plant, is also mentioned as a possible appointee, as is Lecturer in Public Policy Robert Reich, an economist with strong ties to the Democratic party.
On the other side of the political fence, Institute of Politics Director Richard L. Thornburgh is currently on leave to serve as attorney general, and many say that the former Pennsylvania governor will be asked to stay on, should the Republicans retain control of the White House.
Kennedy School Lecturer in Public Policy Richard N. Haass has already been tapped as a foreign policy adviser to the Bush campaign, presumably with the promise of a post after a Bush victory.
And Professor of Government Roger Porter, a Reagan White House appointee, may be asked back to Washington in the advent of a GOP triumph. This semester, Porter is teaching a popular course on the presidency that may presage his return to the capital.
Yet the list of prospective presidential advisers extends beyond the realm of the Kennedy School. First, there are the expected names: for Dukakis, Professor of Law Susan Estrich, his campaign manager, and Professor of Law Christopher Edley, his issues director, can be expected to garner Washington titles if their candidate wins.
And for Bush, Associate Professor of Economics Lawrence B. Lindsey, one of the vice president's top economic advisers, said this week that he might consider a move to the capital. Lindsey, who counsels Bush on a variety of taxation issues, is the head section leader for Social Analysis 10, "Principles of Economics," which is one of the College's largest courses. And professors said this week that contingency plans are already in the making to replace Lindsey should Bush tap him for a Washington position.
But as Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61, another top Bush adviser, cautions, a high-profile campaign role does not mean that a scholar will necessarily be offered--or accept--a government post.
Feldstein, despite a mention by Bush in last Sunday's presidential debate, said this week that he is "not expecting to leave, no matter what the outcome" of the presidential election.
The professor, who served as the head of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, refused to elaborate on his decision not to seek a job in Washington should Bush win. But he has already taken on spring semester obligations, including advising at least one senior thesis, which make it unlikely he will depart for D.C. at least in the short run.
And another Economics scholar, Ropes Professor of Political Economy Lawrence H. Summers, one of Dukakis' chief economics advisers, echoed Feldstein's comments, saying he too was planning to stay in Cambridge. Summers said he has accepted four or five senior theses as part of his spring semester commitments on campus.
But even as the speculation continues, many influential campaign officials echo Bok's attitude toward a possible position in a new presidential administration: "The thought never crossed my mind."