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School hijinks back to haunt Romney
15 May 2012 | 8:33 | Source: Matthew Hall, SBS
The Post journeyed back to 1965 and Romney’s year as a high school senior at the prestigious and elite Cranbook School. Romney, remember, was not just any kid. He attended the school, where students wore ties and carried briefcases, as the son of Michigan Governor George Romney.
The Post tracked down five fellow students who told, independent of each other, of an incident where Romney led a cheering and baying gang in pursuit of one John Lauber, a new student a year below Romney who was an apparent non-conformist and presumed to be gay.
The future want-to-be President believed, according to the accounts, that Lauber’s bleach-blond hair, draped over his eye like a future synth pop star, did not belong at Cranbrook. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney said, according to Matthew Friedemann, his close friend at the time.
Romney later led a mob who pinned Lauber down and forcibly cut Lauber’s hair as the younger student sobbed, humiliated. Meh, you might say. High school high jinx should not reflect a character over 40 years later. Many would agree.
“Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body,” said campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul in a statement defending the candidate. “The stories of 50 years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
Romney apologised for the incidents (if true, he qualified) as more high school tales emerged of the former Massachusetts governor bullying less Alpha students.
“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case… As to the teasing or the taunts that go on in high school, that’s a long time ago. For me, that’s about 48 years ago.”
Romney defenders have pointed out President Obama was no saint in his youth, either. As Obama wrote in his biography, he drank and smoked pot in his youth. Before him, George W. Bush, too, was a drinker and used cocaine before making his play for political power. But such comparisons miss the point. This narrative is that Romney comes with history as a privileged bully, something he continued in his role at investment firm Bain Capital (being cast as a “job cremator” rather than creator) and a characteristic he will continue if he is elected in November.
So, in a week when President Obama displayed understanding for a minority civil rights cause, the parallel story is that Romney doesn’t care for anyone different and revels in his privilege.
“There’s a wild and crazy man inside of there just waiting to come out,” said Romney’s wife, Ann in a TV interview recently.
She knows her husband better than most but whether she was intending this story to be the one told is another matter. Whether this high school story will matter to voters more interested in the economy is also another matter but, regardless, “High school bully gay basher” is one achievement Romney would prefer be left off his CV.
And it’s worth noting, the election campaign has not yet officially begun.