I love guilt. I wish people felt more of this emotion so foreign to Mitt Romney that he claims not to remember what a brute he was in school, the boy being father to the man, a Bain consultant who killed so many jobs in the ’80s that many grown men must have come home weeping to their families and never worked again.
It was 1965. The prep school was Cranbrook, in Michigan. Mitt Romney’s posse took a dislike to a younger boy who had bleached his hair and wore it draped over an eye. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney told his friends.
And so his posse attacked young John Lauber, pinning him to the ground. As Lauber cried and screamed for help, big ole’ Mitt cut Lauber’s hair off with scissors.
The act still haunts the gang of five grown men who did it. One apologized to Lauber. “It was vicious,” says another. Romney’s friend, who held Lauber down, remains appalled.
A fourth encountered Lauber (who was later expelled for a minor school infraction) at O’Hare airport in the mid-90s. “Hey, you’re John Lauber,” David Seed said. Seed, now a school principal, apologized.
Lauber said, “It was horrible.” He described his terror and told Seed, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”
Lauber led a difficult, ill-paid, itinerant life. In 2004, he died of liver cancer. Romney became rich, then richer. He felt no guilt last week when confronted with his past.
“I just did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended by it, obviously I apologize. I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school.” I only include this classic weaselly “if” apology because it contains the word “hijinks,” not a word you hear much.
Two years before Romney attacked Lauber, Ann Keenan died a horrible death after a botched abortion. She was the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law and died at the age of 21 in 1963, a full decade before Roe v. Wade. Her death did not make Romney, whose legislative past is notably anti-gay, more thoughtful about suffering.
Romney, in a 1994 Senate debate, claimed Keenan’s death had shaped his pro-choice opinions. Later, conveniently, he changed them.
The Romney revelations appeared in a Washington Post story with the gripping verb-packed headline, “Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidents,” if you happen to need an explanation of why the Washington Post is failing fast.
This was Thursday, a day after President Barack Obama announced his support of gay marriage. Naturally Obama looked like a saint compared to the gay-bullier. Great timing.
And New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait pointed out that at Stanford, Romney shaved rival students’ heads and painted them red. His take? “Romney Hated All Hair, Not Just Gay Hair,” a headline that reveals why Nymag.com is prospering. “Maybe Romney didn’t hate gays — maybe he just hated hair,” Chait writes hopefully. “Or, other people’s hair, anyway. Perhaps that is the deeper fixation: It is not enough for Romney to have perfect hair. Others must have terrible hair.”
This is the kind of deep political analysis I admire. Chait, you will go far.
Lost in the question of bullying, it’s easy to forget that Obama killed an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and his teenage son in an illegal drone strike, which does technically make him a murderer even if he won’t be charged.
On the other hand, you completely know that young Obama would never hound, pound and sheer a terrified classmate.
The bully or the murderer, make your choice.
Romney has always reminded me of the Tom Buchanan character in The Great Gatsby, unspeakably wealthy, arrogant, hard. “His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked. . . .
“ ‘Now, don’t think my opinion on these matters is final,’ he seemed to say, ‘just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.’ ”
I can see Romney thinking this as the boy’s tears wet Romney’s sleeve, as chopped blond hairs clung to his tie.
Why, I think I’ll take Obama the murderer. Yes. I will.