Mitt Romney's full of it.
"First of all, I had no idea what that individual's sexual orientation might be," Romney said of the boy whose dyed blond hair he doesn't remember cutting as a bunch of his fellow prep-school goons held the kid down on the ground. "Going back to the 1960s, that wasn't something we all discussed or considered."
I attended an all-boys private school from eighth grade through twelfth (Form II to Form VI in preppiespeak). My school was not a boarding school, but otherwise there was plenty to make it similar to Romney's Cranbrook: rich kids, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the majority and in charge; Protestant hymns sung in chapel several times a week; lots of Republicans; few blacks; and, of course, no girls. There were assholes, but I can't say I recall anyone who was as much of an asshole as the teenage Mitt Romney is reported to have been.
I'm younger than Romney, but by only eight years. When I arrived at prep school in the fall of 1968, only three or four years after the governor's son and his acolytes reportedly attacked the nonconformist in their midst, I was struck by several differences from the polyglot, coeducational junior high school I'd just left: the abundance of blond hair (natural, I should add, not dyed); the casual anti-Semitism; and the frequent references to homosexuality. "What are you, queer?" a boy might say if you so much as touched his arm during a conversation. "Hey, you want everyone to think we're queer?" a kid would protest if you stood too close to him. "This weekend I'm going to mow the lawn" was considered a hilarious double entendre, given the fact that mow shared its pronunciation with 'mo, short for homo.
No, we didn't use the word gay. No, we didn't know what queer or 'mo or homosexual really meant -- we were sheltered, we were early adolescents, and the subject was not discussed the way it is today. But to say that in the 1960s homosexuality "wasn't something" a bunch of adolescent boys in an all-male prep school "discussed or considered" is bullshit.
As is Romney's assertion that he doesn't remember the incident. "It's a haunting memory... ," says one of his fellow assailants, "because when you see somebody who is simply different taken down that way and is terrified and you see that look in their eye you never forget it."
When Barack Obama the other day explained his change of heart on the subject of gay marriage, he cited his Christian faith, in particular that part of the Christian faith known as the Golden Rule, something taught by, um, what's His name... you know... oh, right, Jesus. He's the one all these self-proclaimed "Christians" who populate the Republican base declare as the center of their lives. Wouldn't it be wonderful, just once, to see some of these people put their faith into action to defend, not assail, someone different?
Mitt Romney may not be putting himself forth as Christ's candidate the way Rick Santorum did, but he does present himself as man of faith. If he were half the man he'd have us believe he is -- if he actually took Christ's teachings seriously, instead of viewing religion as just one more asset to be leveraged as he engineers his acquisition of the White House -- he'd say something like, "It was an un-Christian thing I did. I'm not proud of it. I ask the boy's family, and everyone else involved, to accept my apology and extend to me their forgiveness. I've asked God to grant His forgiveness for the hurtful act of a boy who didn't know any better. I ask the American public for that same understanding."
Think how a display of true contrition -- or even fake contrition -- would lift the man in the eyes of the American public. Instead, he trotted out the old "If I offended anyone... " If? I don't think there's much if to this story.
I agree with those who argue that a 65-year-old man should not be judged on actions he took as a teenager. We've all done stupid, callous things during our youth. But that 65-year-old man does not deserve a pass for the way he's behaving now.
Would anyone care about an incident that showed him to be a teenage jerk were he not being a jerk as he reacts to the story today?