Romney the bully

There seems to be an emerging narrative– that strikes me as spot on– that we certainly should not hold Romeny responsible for his actions as a teenager (but, damn, despite the stuff I regret I sure cannot imagine forcibly cutting off someone’s hair while classmates hold him down– that’s mean).  But, his response to this as a fully grown man is basically morally bankrupt.  NYT’s Charles Blow put it as nicely as anything I’ve read so far:

In an interview with Fox Radio on Thursday, Romney laughed as he said that he didn’t remember the incident, although he acknowledged that “back in high school, you know, I, I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize.” He continued, “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for that, I apologize.”

There is so much wrong with Romney’s response that I hardly know where to start.

But let’s start here: If the haircutting incident happened as described, it’s not a prank or hijinks or even simple bullying. It’s an assault.

Second, honorable men don’t chuckle at cruelty.

Third, if it happened, Romney’s explanation that he doesn’t remember it doesn’t ring true. It is a searing account in the telling and would have been even more so in the doing. How could such a thing simply melt into the milieu of other misbehavior? How could the screams of his classmate not echo even now?

Fourth, “if someone was hurt or offended, I apologize” isn’t a real apology. Even if no one felt hurt or offended, if you feel that you have done something wrong, you can apologize on that basis alone. Remorse is a sufficient motivator. Absolution is a sufficient objective. Whether the person who was wronged requests it is separate.

Lastly, this would have been an amazing teaching moment about the impact of bullying if Romney had seized it. That is what a real leader would have done. That is what we would expect any adult to do.

Yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep.  What kind of human being comes up with this sorry “apology” in response to something like this.  Simply unacceptable.  Why couldn’t he just say that it was a horrible thing and he deeply regrets it.  Even if he were lying, it is an eminently more respectable and appropriate way to address this.  Now, honestly, if a Democratic presidential candidate had done this, I’d be disappointed as hell in him, but I’d still vote for him so it’s not like I think somebody should change their vote on this.

I think it would be wrong to judge the 18 year old Mitt Romney for this, but for the 65 year-old Mitt, this is a moral failure on many levels.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Romney the bully

  1. JOhn Wlder says:

    please is this best you can do?

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