More on the Enforcer

More on the (Not Actually Debunked) Bully Story

Yes, we all did things in high school. But we all didn't do that.

The Romney-bully story, perhaps predictably, got you all a little more worked up than my searing post about public-sector job loss (this says something depressing about your priorities, people). Two questions emerge:

1. Has it been debunked, as many of you claim?

2. Does it matter, since, you know, we all did things in high school?

First of all, I should stipulate that I did not say some of the things our right-wing readers think I said. I wrote yesterday that “I think the violent incident itself tells us little.” What I found interesting was that Romney was evidently such an enforcer of conformity. But I hardly mounted my high horse and made some kind of argument that this incident disqualified him from the presidency. Then I raised that alcohol question, which we’ll get to.

So, has it been debunked? Not that I can see. Two things have happened. One Post source, a fellow named White, was described in the original story as having “long been bothered” by the Lauber incident. Apparently, he didn’t know about that incident until the Post told him; he knew about Romney’s pranks more generally. The Post adjust the copy online and in later editions. Okay, that’s a factual error, but it isn’t one that has any direct bearing at all on whether the Lauber incident happened as the paper described. The second thing carries a little more weight.

It is that one of Lauber’s sisters has no memory of the incident. It is not that she denies it happened. She just didn’t know. She goes on to tell ABC that her brother was a very private person and that she was off at college. Her last comment below suggests that she allows that such a thing could well have happened to her brother:

When ABC News showed her the story, Christine Lauber’s eyes welled up with tears and she became agitated.

She also corrected the story, saying her brother was a boarder, not a day student.

She described her brother as a “very unusual person.”

“He didn’t care about running with the peer group,” Christine Lauber said. “What’s wrong with that?”

In that last quote, she is pretty clearly envisioning the event as plausible and feeling horribly for her brother. She and other family members apparently object to how their brother was portrayed in the article, but that’s not the same as denying that the incident happened, which I don’t see that she’s done. Indeed it appears that she implicitly accepts at the least that it could have happened.

Now, as to question 2. Yes, we all did things in high school. But that’s a lazy cop-out. We all didn’t pounce on a misfit kid with a pair of scissors in our hands and violently lop off his hair while our friends held him down and jeered (and remember, Romney himself isn’t denying this; just saying he has no memory of it—wingers, ask yourselves how you reacted when Bill Clinton or Barack Obama said they “had no memory” of being alone with Ms. Lewinsky or hearing Rev. Wright say X, and just admit that it’s a standard dodge). Comparatively few people did things like that. It’s unusual and it’s worth examination.

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Again, I didn’t say yesterday and don’t say now that this proves he’s unfit blah blah blah. I said, and say, that as one who welcomes and prefers nonconformity, Romney’s urge to be such an enforcer of conformity repulses me. But he already repulses me for other reasons that are far more germane to the presidency.

Finally, about alcohol. Nice try to out-p.c. me on the Muslim business. As it happens I have Arab friends and acquaintances. They drink. Maybe they’re bad Muslims. Maybe some aren’t Muslims at all. I haven’t asked in most cases. I suppose I can respect religious proscriptions in principle. I just think that, as long as you don’t go overboard, you glean certain life insights at the bottom of whiskey bottle at two in the morning as a young person that come in handy down the years. And the hangover certainly teaches invaluable lessons. Again, I said nothing about this disqualifying him from running the country. In fact I emphatically said the opposite. It’s my job to write carefully, but it’s yours to read carefully.