On Friday, the Washington Post published a story about some of Mitt Romney's behavior in high school (although it was published electronically the day before). Some of it was simply what goes on in high school, especially amongst boys. But, Romney's statement that maybe some pranks went a little too far, and he's sorry (even though he "doesn't remember") is a stretch. Getting a group of boys together to track down another boy, then hold him down and cut his hair, even though he was crying and screaming for help, is way beyond a prank. It is assault.
Even though Romney can't remember it, it has certainly stayed with others, including Thomas Buford, the man who held the boy down, who said "to this day it troubles me." Four others corroborated the story, which either means that Romney is lying about not remembering, my belief, or he is so shallow and callous that he actually does not remember assaulting and torturing this boy, which is something far worse.
Now I am not an innocent observer of this, like just about everyone else. There was a boy that we tortured unmercilessly in grade school. I'm not sure we knew the term homosexual, but we clearly had been taught what was acceptable for a boy and what was not, and Paul clearly fell on the wrong side. He was very effeminate, and we called him Pauline and tormented him in numerous other ways, all, I might add, with the teachers having to know what we were doing to him. Although we never physically assaulted Paul, or at least I didn't, like Buford, this troubles me to this day.
Knowing now that a large portion of homosexuals die by suicide, I really wonder if Paul made it out of high school. I also wish I could recall his last name so I could try and track him down and apologize for what we did. I don't know that it would make any difference, but I hope it would.
Even though his campaign initially denied it, I think there is little doubt that this story from Romney's past actually happened, and I am again left wondering whether he is simply lying or if there is something worse about his character that this reveals. He wants to make this a story that doesn't truly reflect who he is today, that it was nearly fifty years ago and he's changed, but that is certainly not what he is demonstrating.
I graduated from high school 22 years ago and I am clearly not that person any more, and I wish I could tell my younger self to stop. But I can also admit and say that I am different. So far Romney is unable to do that, which matches most things in his life. I lived in Massachusetts when Romney was governor and I quickly came to the conclusion that he was an ethical eunuch, that is his ethics had been removed. These stories might indicate that, in fact, he never actually had any.
But, the one element of the story that I don't understand and certainly is not getting any attention was how punishments at the school were handed out. John Lauber, the boy who was attacked, was expelled from the school later in the year because he was caught smoking a cigarette by another boy. He was expelled for the crime of smoking a cigarette, but Mitt Romney and a whole group of boys physically attacked Lauber and cut his hair but were never even punished, let alone threatened with expulsion.
How exactly did that work? Was Romney protected because of who his father was? Did the school give him and his compatriots special treatment? Did they simply look the other way? Why does no one seem to be talking about this issue?
Finally, one of the other former students consulted makes it very clear that there was a hierarchy at the school based on finances, with Romney being near the top, and while it was fine for Romney to associate with the other students while at school they were never invited home. Everyone has their place, and clearly they didn't belong. This certainly seems to match other statements and practices that Romney has shown, like his famous "I don't really follow NASCAR, but have several friends who own teams."
To some degree, boys will be boys and therefore I don't find some of the things the article highlights as being as problematic as they want to indicate, but clearly he was way over the line in his assault of Lauber. This was way more than just a prank going too far. But I am even more troubled by the fact that he didn't get in trouble, that he definitely saw class and acted accordingly, and that he is not dealing with these issues appropriately or honestly now, and that deeply worries me.