The Conformist

Mitt Romney as a Young Bully

It's not that Romney attacked that kid--it's why he got that mad in the first place

The other big story today is Jason Horowitz's WashPost piece on Mitt Romney's youthful "hijinx":

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

Romney said he had no memory of the incident, but he did issue a statement, which politicians don't bother to do in such cases unless they know the smoke means there's fire:

“Back in high school I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended by that I apologize,” Romney told FOX radio host Brian Kilmeade Thursday. “If I did stupid things, I’m afraid I’ve got to say sorry for it.”

It seems pretty hard to believe that a person wouldn't remember pinning someone down and taking a scissors to his hair. True, 1965 is a long time ago, but that's a pretty dramatic thing to do. What does it tell us about him today?

Perhaps oddly, I think the violent incident itself tells us little. Most of us grow out of using violence, so let's assume that he has. What's maybe still relevant and telling, though, is his anger at the poor kid in the first place.

So he'd dyed his hair blond and a few locks scattered down into his eyes. Remember, this was 1965. Dude was probably a big Brian Jones fan or something. And that's a reason to assault the kid physically? Sheesh. This says a lot about views of nonconformity that it's entirely plausible he still holds. Maybe this is why equality for gay people, which he is against, obviously, is the one thing he's never flip-flopped on. He hates people who don't follow the "normal" rules.

Admittedly, these president-as-young-cad stories all merely feed into categories we already have in our heads. In 2008, lots of Americans were alarmed by certain things we learned about Obama. I wasn't in the least bothered by the fact that the young Obama carried around some racial anger, smoked, drank, did some drugs. Just made him a normal guy, like practically everyone I hung around with and liked in high school. Whereas Romney, well, I frankly have a hard time trusting a guy who's never touched alcohol to his lips. That's just weird. Doesn't have anything to do with his ability to govern the country, but it does have to do with whether he seems like a normal, likeable guy. He doesn't, and that isn't me talking, it's the polls.