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Romney: Does an old bullying story matter?

Romney’s treatment of a gay prep-school classmate in 1965 has raised questions about his character.

“Once a bully, always a bully,” said Paul Begala in TheDailyBeast.com. Last week’s front-page story in The Washington Post about the young Mitt Romney’s bullying of a gay prep-school classmate in 1965 raises serious questions about “the man who seeks to become the most powerful person in the world.” Romney, the Post revealed, became incensed when an effeminate classmate, John Lauber, returned to the wealthy prep school from vacation with bleached hair that hung down over one eye. “He can’t look like that,” Romney told his pals. “That’s wrong. Just look at him!” The tall, wealthy Romney then organized a posse of friends who held down the screaming, weeping Lauber while Romney chopped off the blond locks with scissors. In a telling comment, said Amy Davidson in NewYorker.com, Romney denied any memory of the attack, conceding with a chuckle that “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school.” Is brutalizing a gay classmate merely “a prank?” Perhaps that same inability to see the world “from anyone’s perspective but his own” explains why, as a Republican presidential candidate, this smugly privileged man opposes letting gays and lesbians marry their partners. 

“Shame on The Washington Post,” said the New York Post in an editorial. This irrelevant story, dredged up from “nearly half a century ago,” is conclusive proof that the mainstream media is “complicit in Team Obama’s ceaseless effort to distract voters from real issues,” such as the economy. For some reason, the media never shows any interest in Barack Obama’s admitted use of marijuana and cocaine in his teen years, or his later association with campus radicals, Marxists, and black-liberation theologians. The Post’s story smells like a plant from the Obama campaign, said John Hayward in HumanEvents.com. What’s far more relevant is Romney’s demonstration of compassion in subsequent years: He’s twice saved several people who were close to drowning in a lake at his summer home, and in 1996, he shut down Bain Capital and flew every employee to New York City to search for the missing 14-year-old daughter of an employee. 

Sure, people change, said Justin Ruben in HuffingtonPost.com. But the reason Romney’s prep school bullying is so damaging is that it “lines up well with the rest of what voters have learned about him.” Mitt at 17 sounds like the same guy who got rich buying and breaking up companies, and who recently said, “I like being able to fire people.” Mitt also has said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” and he wants to fund huge tax breaks for the already wealthy by slashing programs for the needy. In 1965 and in 2012, Romney has displayed a pronounced empathy deficit. 

Romney could change that perception, said Christian Heinze in The Hill, if he were willing to talk about his Mormon religion. While working as a missionary in France, Romney was involved in a near-fatal car crash that changed his outlook on life. As a leader in the LDS church, Romney performed “many acts of kindness” to fellow Mormons in trouble—acts detailed in a biography written by two Boston Globe reporters. Romney, however, “has assiduously avoided a deeper personal discussion of his faith,” so as not to trigger hostile scrutiny of Mormon theology and practices. So that leaves him with a dilemma: Go into the election with a “massive compassion gap” between himself and Obama, or speak more openly of his beliefs. Option two would really put America’s “religious tolerance to the test.’’

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