Anyone who has turned on the TV or the computer in the past two days has probably heard about the Romney bullying story originally reported in the Washington Post. For anyone who doesn’t know, the article was an in-depth investigative piece about the “pranks” Mitt Romney pulled when he was in high school.
The most glaring incident was when Mr. Romney held down John Laubner, a misfit classmate a year below him, and cut off his blond-dyed hair while he cried and screamed for help. According to his classmates, Romney said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”
To be honest, stories like this make me somewhat uncomfortable; I don’t think past behavior should necessarily disqualify you from public office, especially when that behavior occurred over 40 years ago. Everyone has moments in their past that they’re not proud of, and people change; Mr. Romney has proven to be willing, even enthusiastic, about changing his positions. So I guess it’s possible that he’s changed since then.
What I really have a problem with is Mr. Romney’s apology, which he gave in an interview with Fox News Radio on Thursday. “As to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why, I’m afraid I’ve got to say sorry for it.” He also said, “I had no idea what that individual’s sexual orientation might be.”
Not only does Mr. Romney fail to explicitly acknowledge that his treatment of Laubner was wrong, he minimizes it by calling it a “prank”. “Pranks”, Mr. Romney? This wasn’t a prank. Pranks are funny, this wasn’t. He doesn’t even mention Laubner’s name, further distancing himself from the incident.
Does Romney really expect us to believe that he doesn’t remember anything? In the words of my Mom, “Unless you’ve bullied a lot of people, you don’t forget the one time you did.”
Is this evidence of Mitt Romney’s malleable relationship with his convictions, or of a lifelong inability to commiserate with those whose circumstances are different from his own? When we vote for the next President of the United States, do we want someone whose impulse is toward compassion and honesty, or someone who displayed a marked lack of empathy and good judgment?