I might have been able to forgive Mitt Romney for having been a gigantic douche in his days at Michigan’s Cranbrook School. I can’t make any promises, after all, he did bully and harass multiple gay classmates, going so far as to physically assault one, but it would have been a possibility. His response to questions about his past behavior, however, was unforgivable.
Asked yesterday about an incident in which his friends tackled a younger boy whose long blond hair he’d found inexplicably disturbing and held him down while he cut his hair, Romney laughingly said he didn’t remember it. While his convenient memory lapse defies belief, it’s hardly surprising. The laughter, though, that’s a different matter entirely.
Most obviously, it gives the lie to his earlier apology for any harm his high school activities had caused. How much can he really regret something he still, all these years later, finds funny? Clearly, he hasn’t changed quite as much as he’d like us to believe, hasn’t developed much of a capacity for compassion or remorse.
His laughter suggests indifference, not only to his own past antics, but to the anti-gay bullying still taking place in schools across the country. As does his treatment of The Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, during his single term as governor of Massachusetts. The commision had been created by Republican governor William Weld, in 1992, in response to research showing the appallingly high rate of suicide among LGBT teens. Its aim was to prevent suicide by reducing harassment of LGBT students in school. Suicide prevention is generally a pretty uncontroversial goal, but as soon as he took office, Mittens started trying to reduce the commission’s funding, finally did away with it entirely. He expects a pass for his high school behavior, because it was so very long ago, but this happened in 2006. Isn’t it fair for us to question how much his own past influenced his lack of interest in preventing abuse of LGBT kids as governor?
As the day wore on, Mittens took less and less responsibility for his behavior. Instead, he claimed the story was planted by President Obama’s campaign. What difference that would have made if true is beyond me. Would the story be less true if had come from the president’s campaign?
Equally disturbing are the plethora of headlines asking if Romney’s high school hate crimes matter, having been so long ago and all. If such behavior were a thing of the past, like smallpox and cassingles, they might not. But we all know that’s far from the case. We’ve all heard the horrible statistics about LGBT teen suicide, and the role bullying plays.Jack Denton Reese, 17, of Utah, Kenneth Weishuhn, 14, of Iowa, and Jay Jones, 17, of Minnesota, all committed suicide in the last three weeks, after being bullied because of their sexuality. Would Romney tell their friends and families the harassment was ok, as long as it made for a funny story?