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 he 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 him 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.