Mittens was a bully in high school? Who could have guessed that?
And now he’s lying about it? Who could have guessed that?
The Washington Post story of a preppy high schooler named Mitt Romney unable to tolerate the nonconformist behavior of a “presumed homosexual” was verified “by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another.”
John Lauber made the mistake of coming to the elite, all-boys prep school one day, “with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye.” Little did he know that the son of the Michigan governor would take it upon himself to make the world safe for tie-wearing and briefcase-carrying future vulture capitalists everywhere.
The young Romney demonstrated his fledgling leadership skills by leading his prepped posse in an assault against Lauber, tackling him and pinning him to the ground:
As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
Oh, but the story was fifty years ago, says the Romney campaign today. These and other stories “seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
No memory? You don’t remember that you held a kid down and forcibly cut his insubordinate hair? John Lauber doesn’t remember the incident either. But that’s because he’s dead. Is Romney dead, or is it just his sense of decency that has passed on to the Mormon version of heaven?
Yesterday on The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, I heard Ed Gillespie, senior adviser for the Romney campaign, say this:
Governor Romney doesn’t remember that incident at all. It’s understandable, it was in high school.
You know, come to think of it, I don’t remember all the times I bullied people in high school either. But maybe that’s because I didn’t bully anyone in high school. I didn’t assault anyone with scissors during a hysterical, homophobic manhunt for my own manhood.
But Gillespie has it exactly wrong. You see, because the incident happened in high school is exactly why it is not understandable that Romney doesn’t remember it. High school has a way of staying with you, for good or for ill.
When I was in Fort Scott Senior High School, most decidedly not a fancy prep school, I had a horrendous case of acne and hair down to my shoulders, curly and fuzzy and culturally defiant, which, of course, was the point. Naturally, with hair like mine, going to school in a rural town of 9,000 folks earned me a lot of attention, almost all of it negative. And I remember, vividly, the few times that I was actually threatened by bullies, amid the normal day-to-day ridicule.
To be fair, I suppose it is possible that bullying has become so commonplace for Romney that the incident involving John Lauber simply blends in with all the rest. I mean, maybe he really doesn’t remember that first, early assault. Romney said yesterday on Romney-friendly Fox radio:
I had no idea that this person might have been gay.
“This person.” Is it too much to ask of Romney to give John Lauber a name? But keep that statement, as well as his campaign’s statement that he had “no memory” of the incident, in mind as we go on.
As the article points out, I participated in a lot of high jinks and pranks during high school, and, uh, some may have gone too far, and for that I apologize.
Okay. So he acknowledges the substance of the Washington Post story and he is sorry that some high jinks and pranks “may have gone too far.” Now, let’s move on to a later interview he did with Neil Cavuto on Fox TV:
I don’t recall the incident myself, but I’ve seen the reports and [I’m] not gonna argue with that. There’s no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school.
Clearly, Romney says he doesn’t “recall” the incident involving John Lauber. He doesn’t remember it. If it happened, he’s not going to “argue with that.” Now, the problem with all that is earlier in the day, remember he said,
I had no idea that his person might have been gay.
So, how does Romney not recall the hair-cutting assault but does definitely recall that he “had no idea” that John Lauber “might have been gay”? Huh?
There is little if any doubt that Romney did what the sources for the WaPo story said he did way back in high school. And there isn’t much doubt that what Romney is really more defensive about today is the reason he did what he did.
He doesn’t really mind all that much that we think of him as some kind of rules enforcer at an elite, leader-making school in Michigan. But he doesn’t want us to think of him as singling out someone who was perceived to be gay, who dared to be different in an environment where rigidity and conformity and ties and briefcases were the norm.
And while I don’t blame him for wanting to hide that dark truth about his high school days, wouldn’t it have served him—and all of us—better if he had just admitted the incident, apologized to the memory of John Lauber, and then used this moment to tell homophobic Americans that, like that young Mitt Romney, they have some growing up to do?