The Trouble With Mitt   Leave a comment

A Short Note About Being Mitt Romney Vs. Being A Grown Up.

May 12, 2012

Having read the Washington Post article about Mitt Romney’s newly revealed high school escapades,  “Mitt Romney’s Prep School Classmates Recall Pranks But Also Troubling Incidents“, I couldn’t help but choose to weigh in on the topic. Some have declared the new information about the young, mean Romney in prep school as not relevant to the current discussion of Romney the candidate. I disagree because what is absolutely relevant is his response.

Mitt Romney has gone with the classic my dog ate my homework defense; he’s chosen to not take ownership of the hazing, bullying incident at his Michigan prep school. If his four associates recall the event so clearly, it’s unlikely the purported ringleader, Romney, cannot recall the event. And if he truly didn’t recall the bullying incident before, reading the recollections of his friends should have “reloaded” his memory banks. So it is time for him to own up to the incident. Hey Mitt, try this:

“I did it. I shouldn’t have. It was mean spirited. I lacked the empathy then that I possess today. I apologize. And I wish John Lauber was here to accept my apology. In these times when bullying is a hot topic, and rightly so, it’s appropriate for me to say I was wrong and I hope others understand and learn from my mistakes.”

But Romney can’t bring himself to do the right thing. Just like he couldn’t bring himself to defend Richard Grennell. This is what makes the Cranbrook incident disturbing. It’s not simply the attack on his fellow student. It’s Romney’s innate inability to recognize that taking ownership of his part in the incident is the right thing to do. What he ultimately offered as an apology was not an apology. As also reported in the Washington Post,

“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.  . . .  But as to the teasing or the taunts that go on in high school, that’s a long time ago. For me, that’s about 48 years ago. Again, if there’s anything I said that is offensive to someone, I certainly am sorry for that, very deeply sorry for that.”

It was a variation on the classic politician, who when caught dead-to-rights, says “if I offended anyone….” And he did it with his classic light-hearted chuckle. Hello? You and your friends tackled the guy, held him down, and cut his hair. That’s not the same as saying something that may have offended someone. That’s an assault Mitt.

His final ploy in all this is to try and move the conversation on to another talking point by imperial fiat. “There’s going to be some that want to talk about high school,” Romney said. “Well, if you really think that’s important, be my guest.” This isn’t about high school.  But it is about character. The well-documented 180-degree turn Romney did over his National Security Advisor served as a prelude to the revelations about his hilarious high school high jinks. Poor Richard Grennell. A true believer from the right, honest, openly gay, was attacked by the right, and Romney’s decision? A disavowal of Grennell. As the saying goes, “with friends like these. . . .”

Half-apologies don’t cut it. Weak laughter within the context of an “apology” nullifies the apology. Hey Mitt. Time for you to do it for real. Apologize. Man-up. You’ll feel better in the morning. And who knows, your poll numbers might go up too. Although I doubt it.

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2012

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