by Rich Abete
This post was originally published on May 14, 2012 on BNV. The impetus for it was the narrative that emerged around that time that Mitt Romney was a bully during his prep school days at Cranbrook. Indeed, strong evidence supporting that notion did emerge in May, but was ultimately brushed under the carpet as “youthful indiscretion.” Some at the time said, “Once a bully, always a bully,” (perhaps me included). But while I am not sure that redemption and transformation are necessarily unattainable for bullies in general, I am certain that Mr. Romney has neither been redeemed nor has he undergone substantive transformation in that regard…although he has of course undergone a complete ideological transformation before our very eyes during the last month (but that’s a different post!). One need look no further than the second presidential debate earlier this month for concrete evidence that Mr. Romney remains a bully indeed.
Specifically, during the course of the second debate, Mr. Romney repeatedly heckled and interrupted the President of the United States. The manner in which he glared at Mr. Obama during the Benghazi exchange, the condescension he exuded and the aggressive body language directed toward the President revealed more than just a competitive nature, but they revealed a powerful sense of entitlement and superiority. At one point, Mr. Romney’s heckling prompted President Obama to suggest, “Please proceed Governor,” just to get him to move on. Regardless of the fact that the President is Mr. Romney’s opponent, his egregious disrespect of the President was inappropriate and bully-like. But more pointedly, Mr. Romney’s complete disregard for the moderator’s direction was over the top, rude and, in a word, bullying. Mr. Romney, without apology, ignored moderator Candy Crowley, aggressively speaking over her on several occasions and showing a contempt for debate rules and her direction.
In addition, Mr. Romney’s (and his wife’s) wholesale dismissal of women’s issues as “unimportant,” his bluster on foreign policy (before embracing President Obama’s positions in the last debate) and his frank disregard for the working poor (and the“very” poor for that matter) are consistent with and further illustrative of a bullying mindset. Here’s what I wrote in May:
Much has been written and said about this issue over the last few days, so I will be brief on the background. In some of the reporting, the implications of what Mitt Romney did almost fifty years ago have been sometimes rationalized as a “youthful indiscretion.” According to five of his former classmates, when Mr. Romney was an eighteen year old senior at Cranbrook, a prestigious prep school, he didn’t like the looks of fellow classmate John Lauber. Specifically, he didn’t like the length of Lauber’s bleach-blonde hair and was reportedly indignant about Lauber’s lack of both decorum and sense of conformity. Lauber was a relatively new student at the school, and was soft-spoken and thought to be gay. Ultimately, Romney and his friends grabbed him, held him down against his will and chopped off his hair with a pair of scissors. Romney was apparently the ringleader of the mission and was the one who did the cutting. The Washington Post described the scene as follows:
“They 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.”
As it turns out, John Lauber was gay. What’s not clear is if Romney and friends did what they did because they were aware of it. In some ways, it’s immaterial.
In a radio interview after the story broke, Romney actually chuckled as he denied remembering the incident as if the “hijinx,” as he has described it, sounded like fun and he was sorry he didn’t remember it. Still chuckling, he apologized if the story was true because it “may have gone too far.” If I’m not mistaken, the appropriate human response to discovering that you were an exceptionally cruel bastard in high school who tortured some gay kid should be horror, or at the very least, remorse. That seems to be the response of his former classmates when recalling the incident (which they state they will not forget), anyway. It is of course also curious how five of his classmates can remember the incident with such clarity, and Romney cannot even recall it. Although that is surely incredible, it’s not really the issue. It may be just a matter of being a politician to deny it, but it is clearly a matter of character to have done it at all.
Some have said that one should not be held accountable for a bad decision that took place so long ago. After all, it’s true enough that many of us made stupid mistakes when we were in high school. But there’s a huge difference between cheating on a test or stealing your parents’ car for the night, and purposefully being the cause of another’s misery. And, not to bring this up again, but seriously, who puts a beloved family pet on the roof of the car (in a kennel) when going on a long trip? And there are more stories of Romney’s “pranks,” like harassing other effeminate male students and leading a blind teacher into a wall. It’s ironic that the Romney campaign’s objective was to humanize Romney by recounting some fun tales of when he was apparently young and engaging. Needless to say, their plan has failed miserably. Instead of showing a more human and fun side of Romney, the stories that did eventually come out showed us a Mitt Romney who seems to be devoid of the capability to feel empathy or compassion for another, be it a human or a dog. If you consider this when examining his apparent absence of convictions and the verbal gaffes that more often than not are insensitive to less fortunate folks, it starts to add up.
According to many developmental psychologists, personality and character are pretty well formed by the time one is in Kindergarten, never mind a senior in high school. The more we get to know Mitt Romney, I suspect the clearer it will become that he remains just a spoiled rich kid with a huge sense of entitlement and little concern for anyone but himself.