I’d like to see a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP supporters, explain how they can rally behind a man who would do all he could to limit their civil rights. The answer to that, I fear, is the same as why so many lower- and middle-class Americans continue to vote against their own economic interests by voting for Republicans who do more to enrich the 1% at their expense — they buy the lies.
I also wonder how the presumptive GOP nominee would answer this simple question, “What message do you think you send to young gay people when, as the de facto leader of the Republican party, you take a hard line in opposing laws that would extend equal rights to them?”
Romney probably doesn’t think about how his words and policies affect gay people. But a story in today’s Washington Post offers some insight into his long-entrenched mindset, revealing an incident at Cranbrook, the elite prep school he attended. The article details how Romney saw John Lauber, a quiet, younger boy with bleached-blond hair over one eye, and was so repulsed by the look that he told a friend, ““He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney kept complaining about Lauber’s appearance until one night he gathered a posse to go to Lauber’s room, pin him to the floor, and cut his hair. Then Romney led the other boys away, cheering. The Post includes first-hand accounts from other boys who participated in or witnessed the episode and recalled it as “vicious.”
Late this morning, Romney was asked about the story in a radio interview. He claimed he had no memory of the incident, although plenty of other people who were there remember it all these years later. ABC News quoted an old friend and Romney classmate as saying:
There are “a lot of guys” who went to Cranbrook who have “really negative memories” of Romney’s behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as “like Lord of the Flies.” The classmate believes Romney is lying when he claims to not remember it. “It makes these fellows [who have owned up to it] very remorseful. For [Romney] not to remember it? It doesn’t ring true. How could the fellow with the scissors forget it?” the former classmate said.
In the radio interview, Romney offered this tepid statement:
“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that. I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”
This was not “hijinks and pranks.” This was bullying, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter whether Romney’s actions were driven by a belief that Lauber was gay (which he was). Romney was acting out against this kid just because he looked different, because he didn’t fit the macho bullshit stereotype of all the other rich Cranbrook WASPs. And when Romney uses the qualifier “might” (as in some of his pranks “might have gone too far”), it’s like his weak response when asked about Rush Limbaugh’s verbal attacks against Sandra Fluke — “those aren’t the words I would have chosen.”
Romney’s apology is not enough. He’s only offering it because the incident has now come to light — at no time in the past 4 decades has he ever thought he did anything wrong that night, so there wasn’t any need to apologize until the spotlight was turned on. He has no remorse.
What he needed to say today was that he knows the difference between right and wrong, and that his actions 40 years ago were wrong. He also should be using this moment to send a message to today’s victims of bullying — kids who are picked on because they’re gay, or because they’re straight but perceived as gay, or because they’re different from everyone else, or because they’re smarter than everyone else, or because the color of their skin is different, or for any other reason. Romney should admit that what he did can’t be written off as the wacky antics of a teenager, but are part of a long history of bullying that America is only now beginning to come to grips with.
Updated 5/12 11:37pm…
Joe Klein agrees with me, writing on Time.com…
I’m still waiting for the moment when Romney actually tells the truth about something difficult. He could have said, “You know, I’ve been troubled by the Cranbrook episode for most of my life, and I feel relieved, in a way, that it’s come out now. I did a really stupid and terrible thing. Teenage boys sometimes do such things and deserve to be punished for them. What I most regret is that I never apologized to John and won’t be able to now that he’s gone, but let me apologize to his family and friends. Bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. It is especially unacceptable when prejudice — against one’s race, ethnicity or sexual orientation — is involved. If elected President, I will try to atone for my teenage behavior by campaigning against bullying all across this country. What I did back then should be an example of how not to behave. I hope we can all learn from this. I know I have.”