May 12, 2012
Bully for Mitt!

It came out this week that Mitt Romney was an asshole back in prep school, too. The hijinks cited in the Washington Post article include assault and battery, and whimsically tricking a vision-impaired teacher into walking into a door. Romneybot’s empathy simulation protocols were malfunctioning even then. In short, our Willard was something of a bully.

Oddly enough, that’s okay. Or it might be. Sort of.* People do stupid things when they’re young, and some of them are egregiously, even criminally stupid. Part of growing up is learning that those things were stupid or wrong. Part of being a grownup is to be able to acknowledge one’s mistakes, and what one learned from them.

I’ll let Steve Almond explain that part that is not and could never ever be by any stretch of the imagination even sort of okay:

I don’t mean to suggest that Romney is without compassion. I believe, for instance, that he loves his wife and his children, and that he believes in God and the flag. But there is something in his character that I am starting to get frightened about, an unwillingness, or an inability, to feel remorse, to simply own up to a moral failing, to apologize not just if “somebody was hurt” but because you know, deep down, that you hurt someone.

Think about it: here are these half dozen men who took part in a savage act nearly fifty years ago. It has haunted all of them. And the ringleader, the guy who made the plan and led the mob and cut the victim’s hair off remembers … nothing?

It’s just bullshit, total fucking sociopathic bullshit. And it makes me sad that such an episode comes to light and all Romney can do — a guy who wants to be elected to our highest office — is nervously lie and make excuses, as if this were political problem.

Nicely put. And it got me to asking a very simple question: What is Romney afraid of here? Is he afraid to admit to having been cruel and thoughtless as a teenager? Or is he afraid to admit that he is no longer cruel and thoughtless as an adult? Frankly, it’s pretty clear that he’s still thoughtless, if not cruel, as an adult. But hell, even George W. Bush knew enough to pretend to care. Even George W. Bush could declare, however glibly, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.”**

All of this has crystallized in my mind just what it is I find so troubling about Mitt Romney. I don’t think this guy has the slightest idea just who it is he wants us to think he is. Never mind who he actually is — I don’t think that one’s even knowable. Who does he want us to see when we look at Mitt Romney?

Obviously, Mitt wants to be president in the worst way. And if elected, he would be. (Ba dum pum!) But here’s the thing: He’s not even willing to pretend to do the first part of the job — i.e. act like he gives a shit during the process of campaigning. He was willing to pretend to be something he wasn’t when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. And in the earlier primaries he was obviously willing to pretend to be anything else. But here — when he arguably should have the sense to put up a good front — nothing. I guess putting up a good front, like laws and taxes, are for little people.

(In reflecting on this I can’t help hearing in my head the voice of Greg Marmalard from Animal House saying, “Let the unacceptable candidates worry about that.”)

There’s one other thing that really bothers me about the bullying story. Consider: Mitt was born into a rich family. His father was the goddam governor. He didn’t just go to Harvard, he knew he was going to Harvard, pretty much from the moment the doctor announced “It’s a boy!” What’s more Harvard knew it too. And all of this wasn’t good enough for our Willard. No, he had to torment classmates and teachers alike to prove — what, exactly?

I’m guessing we’ll never know that one either.


* By saying it might be okay, I don’t mean that bullying is acceptable or something to shrug off. I was myself bullied in high school for being gay — even though I wasn’t gay. My point here is that if Mitt showed an iota of reflection or empathy, we could at least put his actions in prep school in some sort of perspective.

** Okay, it’s waaaaaay too early to be starting any sentence with “Even George W. Bush...” Hell, it took 35 years for things to get bad enough to start sentences with “Even Richard Nixon...” Says something about our friends in the GOP that they can hit a moral nadir and keep going down.

Posted by Kurt Weldon at May 12, 2012 05:11 PM
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With, Bush, at least we knew we were dealing with an out and out jerk, but the kind of jerk one could stomach listening to even if you disagreed 2,000 percent with what he had to say. There was a human-ness in his "jerky-ness" that we all could identify. As much as I think Bush played a large part in destroying the America I was proud of, I still sensed a smidgen of compassion within the man.

Romney is a different story of wealth completely. He is condescending, cold and otherworldly. Unapproachable. He lacks compassion of any kind. "I'm not worried about the poor, they have their safety nets." (A lesson taught in their monstrous tabernacles, perhaps?) Romney is not a guy I would be comfortable having a beer with, unlike the persona's of either Bush or Obama. I could picture Bush or Obama being very casual and at ease so I would be too. With Romney it would just be going through formalities. It seems politeness and decorum have grown very important to Mitt since his "prankster" days (his wife's word, not mine!).

He's not dubbed the Romneybot 2.0 for nothing!

So, if you want to decide your vote by weighing in on whose more fun to have a beer with, then Obama should have this election hands down.

Posted by: Pat In Massachusetts on May 13, 2012 8:00 AM

My empathy simulation protocols malfunction every time I think of Mitt Romney.

Posted by: ohollern on May 13, 2012 5:54 PM

The self-help jargon of family dysfunction has a word for this kind of attempt to erase the past: "the narcissist's reset button." See e.g.

But we knew this about Romney already, didn't we?

What's more surprising, in an encouraging way, is the shift in this past week's commentary toward viewing homophobia as an indicator of abusive and untrustworthy personality.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on May 13, 2012 5:57 PM
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