In a sane universe, this story should fall into the "too dumb to blog" category, but the Left is turning it into a full-blown campaign bombshell -- so away we go. Over to you, Washington Post:
Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.
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. The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be named. The men have differing political affiliations, although they mostly lean Democratic. Buford volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Seed, a registered independent, has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan. All of them said that politics in no way colored their recollections. “It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in restraining Lauber. Buford subsequently apologized to Lauber, who was “terrified,” he said. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”
Ed Morrissey has already written a pitch-perfect response to this piece. He notes that (a) teenage boys sometimes do, well, "senseless, stupid, idiotic" things, and (b) this has absolutely nothing to do with the state of the US economy, an issue that voters actually care about. If you read the full story, other anecdotes paint a picture of a sometimes-cheeky prankster who was also an earnest citizen, a strong student, and an ardent believer in the value of community service. For his role in the four-and-a-half-decade-old (!) hair cutting incident (which certainly does seem mean-spirited, even as some rather curious cracks in the story are beginning to emerge), Romney has apologized:
“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,” Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize. I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “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.” Asked specifically about having interrupted a closeted gay student in English class, Gary Hummel, by shouting, “Atta girl!” Romney said, “I really can’t remember that. As this person indicated, he was closeted,” Romney said. “I had no idea that he was gay and can’t speak to that even today. But 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. Again, if there’s anything I said that is offensive to someone, I certainly am sorry for that, very deeply sorry for that.”
Audio of Romney's remarks is available here. A few thoughts on this:
(1) Like the kerfuffle over how Romney transported his pet dog in the early 1980s, Romney's youthful indiscretions on this front are, and should be, a complete non-issue in this campaign. Does anyone think someone's behavior as a teenager should be fair game in an election decades later? Would anyone want to be judged by any isolated incident from his or her high school years? Barack Obama has openly admitted illegal drug use during his youth. Most voters have rightfully shrugged that off -- not necessarily because they condone hard drugs, but because they can relate to doing immature, ill-advised things between the ages of 13 and 22.
(2) This Washington Post story provides a nearly flawless anatomy of a hit piece. It reinforces several existing negative Democratic narratives about Romney (he's rich! he's mean!), while insidiously injecting the Left's meme du jour -- gay rights -- into the discussion. Literally the day after Barack Obama completes his quadruple flip-flop on gay marriage, the Post prints a story that insinuates that Romney bullied two gay students during high school. The fact that neither of them was openly gay at the time is immaterial; the goal here is to advance an emotional storyline. 'Obama is tolerant and supportive of people's human rights, but Romney was (is?) a nasty gay-basher.' Post reporter Jason Horowitz quotes admitted Democratic partisans to help conjure this unflattering portrait of the presumptive Republican nominee.
(3) This is the same corrupt media that exhibited little to no interest in Barack Obama's past -- his radical pastor of 20 years, his close ties to admitted terrorists, the revelations in his memoirs, his ambivalence about his American identity -- during the 2008 campaign. They couldn't be bothered with potentially buzz-killing research when the task of electing a new post-partisan liberal messiah was at hand.
(4) Once again, this election will be about the economy. The Post's drivel (in this case, years-old high school gossip) just isn't going to make much of a dent -- indeed, Romney is already viewed as far less likeable than Obama, yet still leads Mr. Popularity in the same poll. This episode, like its distractionary predecessors (war on women, oil speculators, student loans, Seamus, etc) is instructive, however, in that it demonstrates how bare the Democrats' policy cupboard is, and how pathetically desperate they've already become.
A passage from Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography