Until today, I haven’t thought of Mitt Romney as a cruel person.
Insensitive? Perhaps. Completely out of touch with the vast majority of working Americans? Definitely. Willing to serve the interests of malicious parties if that’s what it takes to get elected? Absolutely. I’ve thought all these things about the presumptive Republican candidate. But I have never really thought of the man as overtly cruel.
Today, I have a new perspective on Mitt Romney, and it is not a flattering one. Perhaps you might think it was a recent story in the Washington Post that led me to rethink the issue of his character? According to the Post, Romney led a bullying incident in his youth. Apparently, Mitt Romney found the young man’s hair unacceptable. So, he took it upon himself to rally a number of classmates, tracked down the younger student, tackled him, and cut his hair while the young boy screamed for help.
That’s pretty cruel, isn’t it? You might think it was this story that has me rethinking the character of the presumptive Republican candidate.
Well not quite. See, I’m not in the habit of holding what middle-aged people did back in high school against them. Short of a dead body or a crashed car at least, I am generally willing to give folks the benefit of the doubt for their youthful conduct. …Hell, I can even forgive a crashed car. There is just too much ground between this incident and today’s politics to make this story a clear case against voting for Mitt Romney. I would normally have been willing to believe that Romney was no longer the sort of person to attack and humiliate an individual just because that person was gay, …or that he had weird hair.
Until, that is, the Romney camp opened their mouths and weighed in on the issue. In an interview with Fox News, Romney has said he doesn’t remember the incident. He and his wife have also taken to playing up the story that Romney was a bit of a prankster in his youth, all part of an obvious attempt to minimize the issue. Romney tells us he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but if he has he is certainly sorry.
Mitt is hypothetically sorry for anyone he might have inadvertently hurt, but he assured us he didn’t mean to.
Which is utterly pathetic.
This response isn’t simply minimizing the damage to Romney’s campaign, it is minimizing the damage done by such incidents. I understand Romney’s desire to do the one, but the other is completely unacceptable. Hell, there are genuine questions about the accuracy of the Post article. Romney could reasonably quibble with a number of the specifics. I’m not entirely sold on some of the details in the Post article (the exact role of sexual orientation in this incident is certainly questionable). Instead, he seems to suggest that this sort of thing just doesn’t matter.
In this response, Mitt Romney has shown us the heartless little bastard who once attacked and humiliated a classmate over his hair is still with us. Is that too strong? Well then, he has certainly shown that such incidents don’t warrant a place in his memory, and that they count as little more than practical jokes in his book. But (you may ask) what if he really doesn’t remember? Well then I should think a little more surprise might be in order. He could at least acknowledge the gravity of the charge.
In likening this event to a harmless prank, Mitt Romney has shown us what such a thing would mean to him now, and that is not much. He hasn’t been accused of an overly raucous joke; he has been accused of an action clearly intended to leave a lasting, miserable, impression. He has lots of room to maneuver on this, at least he had, but what he came up with was as dismissive a response as any bully has ever given to the suffering of his victims.
Mitt Romney will be the spokesman for homophobia in the coming election, among other things to be sure, but that will clearly be part of his job. It is expected of Republican Presidential Candidates. Until today I had no idea just how well qualified Mitt Romney will be for this aspect of his coming task.
What Romney is accused of doing may have happened long ago, but we should all be able to address the question of whether or not it is acceptable in a straight-forward manner. As the accused party in this instance, Romney has a responsibility to own up to what he did, defend his actions, or apologize for them in clear terms. Whether or not you personally care about such things, well that is a decision we will all have to make for ourselves.
Mitt clearly doesn’t.