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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mitt the Bully

What are we to think of prep student Mitt Romney finding a classmate’s long, bleached blonde hairstyle so offensive that he held the boy down and give him an involuntary haircut while other boys cheered him on? Not much, really. Boys will be boys is not much of an excuse, but it’s true enough that teenage boys tend to do a lot of stupid shit. On that score, the man whom Mr. Romney seeks to replace doesn’t fare so well, either, as I’m sure many Fox News pundits are already pointing out. President Obama not only smocked crack cocaine and ate dog meat, he committed the far more tasteless crime of quoting T.S. Eliot to try to get laid.

No, what matters is how Mitt Romney conducts himself now. Sadly, the presumptive Republican nominee isn’t really distinguishing himself on that front either.

Speaking in response to the Washington Post’s report, Mitt Romney apologized if any of his “pranks” “went too far” but he claimed not to remember the incident in question, and also denied that he knew or suspected his classmate was gay.

Reading through the Post’s article, the Governor’s weak apology doesn’t really fit the situation. I find it hard to believe he doesn’t remember the incident. Five of his classmates recalled the incident in vivid details in the Post piece, and one of them, not even a direct participant, was so scarred by his not doing anything to help that he felt compelled to apologize to the victim 30 years later upon running into him in an airport. If Mitt’s telling the truth, then just how many people did he mistreat in those days that he can’t remember something that had such an impact on so many other people?

I also find his insistence on not thinking the student was gay to be an example of Mr. Romney missing the point. Young Mitt Romney picked this person out for mistreatment because he was different. That’s wrong whether or not the kid was gay.

What would be nice to see is some sign or acknowledgement from the candidate himself that he’s grown up a lot since then and knows what he did to this boy was wrong. Perhaps Mr. Romney feels that he cannot afford to make such a statement in the current political climate, but I don’t see how he can afford not to.

Mitt Romney has a personality problem, and contrary to late night monologue jokes, it’s not that he doesn’t have one. Many people see the Republican nominee as an out-of-touch son of privilege who only wants to help his businessmen friends and doesn’t really know anything about the way life is led by the vast majority of Americans. The various gaffes Mitt Romney made in the primary campaign stuck because they almost all fit conveniently into this admittedly easy narrative. Now, thanks to an article with suspiciously good timing, we have another picture of Romney to add to this gallery: a prep-school jackass who thinks his daddy’s money will get him out of any trouble. It’s worth noting that nothing happened to Romney over this incident or any other, not even the one where he damaged a faculty member’s car. The recipient of the haircut got tossed out of school for smoking a cigarette.

Look, this haircut isn’t going to be the biggest problem for Mitt Romney, but the problem is going to be that Mitt Romney can’t establish trust. He can’t even really do it with Republicans, who spent months propping up impossible candidates just to see if anyone could take out the bland, uninspiring choice. What can Mitt Romney possibly do to convince anyone that he has their best interests at heart?

Mitt Romney has not given the American people any idea of who he really is, and that seems to be by design. He seems afraid of using his faith too much lest it ward off evangelicals, he doesn’t talk too much about his term as governor because he’s running as far away from Romneycare as he can. All he wants to talk about is Bain Capital, and how he’s such an expert manager that he can run America the same way he ran Staples or The Sports Authority.

Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but I don’t think of America as just being a business, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way. We want a President who is competent, yes, but also courageous and honest, upright and decent. We want a President who embodies the values that all these politicians keep telling us are what make America great. True, on that scale, extremely few politicians of recent vintage score highly, and the current President has shown some serious failings in this regard, but if Mitt Romney wants to upset the apple-cart, he’s going to have to show some personal qualities beyond being able to turn a profit.

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