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Inside Politics

Professor says Bush revealed National Guard favoritism

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A business school professor who taught George W. Bush at Harvard University in the early 1970s says the future president told him that family friends had pulled strings to get him into the Texas Air National Guard.

Yoshi Tsurumi, in his first on-camera interview on the subject, told CNN that Bush confided in him during an after-class hallway conversation during the 1973-74 school year.

"He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam draft, he had his dad -- he said 'Dad's friends' -- skip him through the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard," Tsurumi said. "He thought that was a smart thing to do."

While the campaign has not responded directly to Tsurumi's allegations, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said last week, "Every time President Bush gets near another election, all the innuendo and rumors about President Bush's service in the National Guard come to the forefront."

Bush has said in the past that neither he nor his father sought special treatment for him. "Any allegation that my dad asked for special favors is simply not true," he said in 1999.

Tsurumi said Vietnam was a top topic among the 85 students in his class, when he was a visiting associate professor at Harvard from 1972 to 1976. He now teaches at Baruch College in New York.

"What I couldn't stand -- and I told him -- he was all for the U.S. to continue with the Vietnam War. That means he was all for other people, Americans, to keep on fighting and dying."

Tsurumi got to know Bush when the future president took his "Economics EAM" (Environmental Analysis for Management), a required two-semester class from the fall of 1973 to the spring of 1974, Bush's first year at Harvard's business school.

Bush had transferred to Air National Guard reserve status before he enrolled in the MBA program. He had enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in May 1968 and trained to fly fighter jets until he was suspended from flying status in August 1972 for failing to submit to an annual physical, according to Bush's military records released earlier this year.

Tsurumi said he remembers Bush because every teacher remembers their best and worst students, and Bush was in the latter group.

"Lazy. He didn't come to my class prepared," Tsurumi said. "He did very badly."

Tsurumi concedes that he disapproves of Bush's politics. He wrote a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper, the Scarsdale Inquirer, that derided the president's claims to "compassionate conservatism."

"Somehow I found him totally devoid of compassion, social responsibility, and good study discipline," Tsurumi said. "What I remember most about him was all the kind of flippant statements that he made inside of classroom as well as outside."

Tsurumi says he is not working for any Democratic group for the Kerry campaign. "The only activity I do is to vote for him," Tsurumi said.

But Tsurumi has been speaking out against Bush by giving newspaper and radio interviews.

The professor's comments come as a former Texas politician, former state House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, has said it was he got Bush into the Guard.

Barnes, a Democrat supporting John Kerry, says he called the head of the Texas unit in 1968, at the request of a Bush family friend. Bush's father was then a U.S congressman.

CNN's Jonathan Wald and Jennifer Icklan contributed to this story.


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