I’ve been ambivalent about the Washington Post story of Mittens’s alleged preppy-days bullying. Although it’s sourced well enough to be true, probably, and reveals a very ugly side of Mittens, it was 50 years ago. People do change, and there’s plenty of more current stuff with which to bash Mittens.
However, I agree with Joan Walsh that his reaction to the story was bizarre.
And I remember the 1960s well enough to know that homosexuality was not “the furthest thing from our minds.” Not the first thing on our minds, maybe, but we were hardly Victorians about it.
Whatâ€™s giving the story legs isnâ€™t merely the homophobic hair-cutting episode, which a lawyer friend of Romneyâ€™s termed â€œassault and battery,â€ not â€œhijinks.â€ Itâ€™s Romneyâ€™s callous reaction. His campaign first tried to shrug off the story with an insincere non-apology, but when the details of Horowitzâ€™s tale got peopleâ€™s attention â€“ the â€œterrifiedâ€ classmate John Lauber â€œwith tears in his eyesâ€ as Romney chopped off his hair with a scissor; the callow preppie leading a sight-impaired teacher into a set of closed doors â€“ the candidate made his own statement. And what a statement it was.
After Foxâ€™s Brian Kilmeade shared the Lauber story, Romney actually chuckled, and said:
You know, I donâ€™t, I donâ€™t remember that incident. Iâ€™ll tell you, I certainly donâ€™t believe that I or â€“ I canâ€™t speak for others â€“ thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds in the 1960s.
You really have to listen to it to hear that the callow preppie hasnâ€™t changed much in 50 years. As I noted yesterday, itâ€™s rather brazen to say he doesnâ€™t â€œremember that incident,â€ but to immediately volunteer that he didnâ€™t think â€œthe fellow was homosexual.â€ How could Lauberâ€™s being gay have anything to do with an incident he says he doesnâ€™t remember?
The story is that in 1965 Mitt was a senior at a preppy private high school. A junior boy showed up after spring break with longish (drooping over his eyes) bleached blond hair. Remember that in 1965 the Beatles released Rubber Soul and the Rolling Stones hit the charts with “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” The Brylcreem look was for old men and losers.
But Mittens couldn’t deal with a blond Beatle bob on a boy, so he led a posse of other boys to tackle the shaggy one and hold him down while Mittens clipped off his hair with scissors. One of the participants remembered it as “viscous.”
In an interview with Fox Radio on Thursday, Romney laughed as he said that he didnâ€™t remember the incident, although he acknowledged that â€œback in high school, you know, I, I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize.â€ He continued, â€œI participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for that, I apologize.â€
There is so much wrong with Romneyâ€™s response that I hardly know where to start.
One, the incident as described was not “hijinks.” It was assault. Second, how could he not remember that? Third, this was a classic unapologetic apology. But most of all,
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. …
…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.
This really does remind me of Dubya making fun of Carla Fay Tucker or giggling about the death penalty in a debate with Al Gore.
There is something seriously twisted about Mittens.
Update: I’m not the first one to notice this resemblance, but I couldn’t find a decent “comparison” graphic, so I made one myself: