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Harvard's Not-so-Liberal Boutique Goes to Washington

Campaign Winners

By Kelly A. E. mason

At the height of last summer's presidential campaign, then-Vice President George Bush charged that his opponent, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis--a Law School graduate and former Kennedy School lecturer--had spent too much time in the "liberal boutique" that is Harvard.

But despite his Harvard-bashing campaign rhetoric, Bush relied heavily on his own cadre of ivory tower advisors, even citing by name Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61 during his first televised debate with Dukakis.

And after the campaign, Bush selected more than his fair share of aides from the "boutique."

Steven R. Singer, director of press relations for the Kennedy School, says he sees some irony in the selections.

"Despite Bush's campaign rhetoric to the contrary, the Bush Administration made a sincere effort to find the best people," says Singer. "We're pleased they found them at the Kennedy School."

The first find was Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh, who replaced the controversial Edwin Meese III in August and was retained by Bush shortly after he was elected president. The director of the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics (IOP) for a little over a year, Thornburgh was even touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate before former President Ronald W. Reagan tapped him for the Justice post.

Thornburgh's assistant, IOP Deputy Director David R. Runkel, became acting director of the Kennedy School's "bridge to the outside world," but he, too, was soon called to Washington--as a spokesperson for the attorney general's office.

After the election, the two Republicans were joined by a new influx of Harvard scholars--this despite the widely circulated joke that when the bus came to Harvard Square last January to transport academics to the capital the scholars would find only a jeep.

IBM Professor of Business and Government Roger B. Porter was one of those Harvard affiliates who took the jeep from its Cambridge depot. An expert in presidential politics, Porter has has taken a two-year leave of absence from the Kennedy School to serve as Bush's chief advisor for domestic policy. And Richard G. Darman '64, a former lecturer in public policy, currently heads the Office of Management and Budget.

Presaging their rise to power in the Bush Administration, the two professors had planned a Kennedy School class in the early '70s which would have been called "The Management of Federal Policy Making."

The list of Cambridge-Washington connections does not end with Darman and Porter, however.

Kennedy School Lecturer in Public Policy Robert D. Blackwill is also working in the capital, as a special assistant to the president for national security affairs and as the National Security Council's senior director for European and Soviet affairs.

The response to this influx of Harvard Republicans in Washington has been predictably modest, given the campaign rhetoric.

"It's true that there are a substantial number of Harvard people [in the administration]," acknowledges Undersecretary of the Treasury for Finance Robert R. Glauber, himself a Harvard Business School professor.

But he continues, "The K-School has had more of track [to Washington]. We've had a few people, but it has not been a well-worn track" from the Business School to the government.

Despite Glauber's nonchalance, Harvard's business scholars are more than adequately represented in Bush's Treasury Department.

Former Professor of Business Administration David W. Mullins can also count himself in the B-School contingent, having this year become assistant secretary of the treasury for domestic finance.

Yet still, numbers, says Assistant Professor of Economics Lawrence B. Lindsey, are not the issue. "They picked the right group of people from Harvard," says Lindsey, who is working in the White House as associate director for domestic economic policy.

Chief of Staff for the Vice President William Kristol '73 says he thinks that the people chosen for posts in the administration were selected because they were overwhelmingly qualified in their field, rather than for any Harvard connections.

"I'm here from my own connections. The Kennedy School did not place any of us," Kristol says.

Kristol, who taught at the school of government from 1985 to 1986, says he agrees with Bush's assessment of the institution.

"[Some of us] agree with the president's comments about Harvard...It is certainly very, very true that many Democrats and liberals come out of Cambridge and Harvard," Kristol says.

Assessments of the school aside, there are those at Harvard who would argue that by perenially placing its high-powered politicos in Washington--no matter what their party affiliation--the University must confront an almost-continual outflow of some of its most prominent scholars.

University policy does seem to allow, and even encourage, its professors to serve in government. For example, the Kennedy School guarantees two-year leaves of absences to those who chose to serve.

Singer says he believes it benefits the school to have its professors in the administration, adding that it is good publicity for the school.

"Our mission is excellence in government. It only makes sense to us that our faculty be actively involved in what we teach and study," Singer says.

Professors' descriptions of the impact of their Washington sojourns seem to bear out this assertion.

"Clearly I'm not doing a lot of research here, but what I'm doing now can help me do better research back at school. And being a B-School professor has been very effective preparation," Glauber says. He adds that he will return to teaching at the end of his two years as long as he is "still alive."

"The things you know, the perspective you have has to change dramatically with government service," Glauber says.

Lindsey, who also plans to return to teaching, says he believes that government service changes and improves the teaching experience.

"[Cross-over] is very useful in both jobs. Serving in politics helps you see the real world implications. Serving in academia provides people time for reflection," Lindsey says.

During his time in office, though, Lindsey, who taught introductory economics with Feldstein, says he cannot maintain many ties with the school.

"There are ethics laws which govern my ability to communicate with Harvard, and severely limit it," Lindsey says.

But whether or not Republicans are willing to acknowledge the extent of the Bush Administration's Harvard connections, most observers say Harvard has benefited in at least one sense from the GOP victory.

Concludes Kristol, "There certainly would be many more leaves of absence if Dukakis had won. The school should be happy Bush won."

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