This Boils Down to Character, Morals and Social Conscience...
And Romney Doesn't Have It.
R–money's Dark Incident
Every once in a while a story comes along that captures a candidate and what he represents. And The Washington Post just did that by revealing a dark incident from Mitt Romney's past.
At 18, he led a group of boys who hunted down younger student John Lauber because he seemed gay to them. They held Lauber down, screaming and crying, while Romney cut off his dyed-blonde hair. It's something that haunted Lauber and those who participated in his assault decades later.
But Romney laughed it off in a radio interview last week. And the right-wing media is pushing the Romney campaign's spin that this bullying story is nothing.
Romney's right that this election isn't about what happened 48 years ago. It's about the man who, in business, picked on struggling companies, fired their workers, pocketed the profits, and then dumped the companies back out riddled with debt.
It's about a man whose policies would take from those struggling in a tough economy, to give to those on top. Because after 48 years one thing hasn't changed for Romney: there are people who count and people who don't, like young John Lauber, or the 99% of us who get beat up by Romney's policies.
By CHARLES M. BLOW
Published: May 11, 2012
That's the image that emerged of a high-school-aged Mitt Romney from a Washington Post article this week that recounted allegations of his mean and even violent behavior as a prep school student in Michigan.
The allegations include shouting "atta girl!" when a "closeted gay student" spoke out in class and walking a blind teacher into a closed door after which Romney is reported to have "giggled hysterically."
But nothing is more disturbing than an alleged attack on John Lauber, "a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney" who "was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality."
Lauber bleached his hair, which apparently "incensed" Romney.
So one day Romney reportedly led a "posse" of other boys "shouting about their plan to cut Lauber's hair." According to the article, the boys came upon Lauber, "tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors."
One of the boys involved described Lauber as "terrified." Another schoolmate said that Lauber was "just easy pickin's." Another called the incident "vicious."
In an interview with Fox Radio on Thursday, Romney laughed as he said that he didn't remember the incident, although he acknowledged that "back in high school, you know, I, I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize." He continued, "I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for that, I apologize."
There is so much wrong with Romney's response that I hardly know where to start.
But let's start here: If the haircutting incident happened as described, it's not a prank or hijinks or even simple bullying. It's an assault.
Second, honorable men don't chuckle at cruelty.
Third, if it happened, Romney's explanation that he doesn't remember it doesn't ring true. It is a searing account in the telling and would have been even more so in the doing. How could such a thing simply melt into the milieu of other misbehavior? How could the screams of his classmate not echo even now?
Fourth, "if someone was hurt or offended, I apologize" isn't a real apology. Even if no one felt hurt or offended, if you feel that you have done something wrong, you can apologize on that basis alone. Remorse is a sufficient motivator. Absolution is a sufficient objective. Whether the person who was wronged requests it is separate.
Lastly, this would have been an amazing teaching moment about the impact of bullying if Romney had seized it. That is what a real leader would have done. That is what we would expect any adult to do.
A 2010 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 77 percent of Americans believed that bullying is a "serious problem that adults should try and stop whenever possible." Romney passed on that chance.
While I have real reservations about holding senior citizens to account for what they did as seniors in high school, I have no reservations about expecting presidential candidates to know how to properly address the mistakes they once made.
This is where Romney falls short, once again.
There was a malicious streak at the core of the high-school boy in these accounts. Romney's muddled and confusing explanation and half-apologies only reinforce concerns that there is also something missing from the core of the man: sincerity and sensitivity.
Targeting the vulnerable is an act of cowardice. The only way to vanquish cowardice is to brandish courage. Romney refused to do so. This is an amazing missed opportunity to exhibit a needed bit of humanity by a man who seems to lack it.
People understand regret. Romney may have been applauded if he had chosen to express some to redeem himself, but he didn't. He chose obfuscation and obliviousness. Romney has an uncanny ability to turn a bad thing into a worse thing by failing to be forthright.
Americans want to know that the boy from that prep school grew up in knowledge and wisdom and grew deep in compassion and empathy. We want to know that his shoulders are now wide enough to bear blame and his heart is big enough to seek contrition.
Americans want a president who doesn't target the weak, but valiantly seeks to protect them.
That is what courage looks like.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)