The media have given Mitt Romney a pass he does not deserve on his explanation for bullying gay classmates as an 18 year-old boarding school senior. Romney was fortunate that the bullying story broke in the wake of President Obama’s declaration of support for same-sex marriage, which the media concluded was the bigger political story and more deserving of follow-up and commentary.
The Washington Post broke the story of Romney’s bullying a younger student, who later came out as gay, because Romney objected to that student’s long and bleached hair. According to named classmates, including some who joined Romney in the attack, Romney announced his intention to deal with the problem with a pair of scissors, and led some classmates in attacking the younger student and pinning him down so Romney could cut his hair while the victim cried and shouted for help.
One participant in the attack who later apologized to the “terrified” victim is quoted as saying, “to this day it troubles me.” “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”
Another classmate and friend of Romney’s who observed the attack described it as “a hack job”. “It was vicious.”
Yet another named classmate and Romney friend who expressed remorse over the attack said of the victim, “He was just easy pickin’s.” This classmate says Romney then led the cheering attackers back to his bay-windowed dorm room.
And what’s Mitt Romney’s recollection of the incident? He claims to have no memory of that or other incidents involving taunting or mocking others, though he doesn’t deny them either. Everyone else who participated seems to remember them vividly, but not Mitt Romney.
Romney admits only to orchestrating “pranks” and “hijinks”, which he concedes “might have gone too far.” Romney offered a classic non-apology to Fox News which was accepted as an apology: “There’s no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school and obviously if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.”
Real apologies do not contain the word “if”.
Romney is suggesting he’s just like anyone else who did dumb things in high school. But most of us remember and regret our stupid acts. And if asked about them we will admit them and apologize. But not Mitt Romney.
What should we deduce from Mitt Romney’s lack of memory of incidents which he personally participated in and instigated? Do you think he is likely to have any memory of mistakes that were made by others in, say, Vietnam or Iraq, or in de-regulating the banks? How will his amazing lack of memory affect future policies?
What should we make of Mitt Romney’s lack of empathy for the victims of his “pranks” and “hijinks”? This is the guy who says because there’s a social safety net, he’s not worried about the very poor. And why should the very successful worry about the very poor anyway? Are we headed for a survival-of –the-fittest, “Lord of the Flies” society under President Romney?
Is there even a worse possibility? Could Mitt Romney in fact have a clear memory of the incidents in question, but be deliberately lying, like former presidential candidate John Edwards, to avoid inflicting political harm to his campaign for president?
Mitt Romney is a lawyer now. He understands that what he did to a younger classmate in boarding school is not a mere “prank”, it’s a crime, a criminal act for which he should have been held accountable. He would have been tried as an adult, not a juvenile. But what kind of discipline did Romney receive for his “prank”? The son of the CEO Governor of Michigan received no punishment at all. And his father was the speaker at his boarding school graduation.
Mitt Romney’s victim, the gay younger student, was expelled from the boarding school for smoking a cigarette. Is that justice, Romney-style?