A recent Washington Post story detailing an incident in Mitt Romney’s high school days when he bullied a student who was thought to be gay has garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so. While Romney supporters are eager to dismiss it as a childish prank, to do so would ignore signs that this behavior has continued into his adult life and even his presidential campaign. His youthful actions are just part of a lifetime of bullying and oppression that has no place in today’s society, much less in the White House.
The details of the story are pretty horrific. According to the Washington Post, Romney was apparently outraged over his schoolmate’s hair, which was bleached blonde and hanging over his eyes. This caused Romney to tell his friends, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Look at him!” So, he gathered a posse of his friends, found his victim, pinned him to the ground, and cut his hair while he cried and screamed for help.
The other boys with Romney that evening have since recalled the incident as “vicious” and “a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.” Yet, Romney’s own recollection of the events drew quite a different reaction—laughter.
Fox News Radio attempted to downplay the story and gave Romney a chance to apologize for his actions. After initially saying that he had no memory of the incident, Romney offered a vague apology for “pranks” and “dumb things” he did in high school. But, he was unable to remember what he did without laughing about it, and that is troubling. A grown man with ambitions for the highest office in this country apparently still finds it funny to physically assault someone because of his sexual orientation.
This behavior is part of a lifetime of bullying. In addition to picking on gay students in high school, Romney also pulled pranks including tricking a teacher with bad eyesight to walk face-first into a door. After college, he led Bain Capital, a private investment firm where the business model was based in part on acquiring struggling companies, leading them into bankruptcy and laying off their employees. He was later famously quoted as saying, “I like being able to fire people.” He also recently mocked people at a NASCAR event who wore trash bags to shield themselves from the rain, saying, “I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.”
Individually, these things may be easy to dismiss, but as a whole, they are impossible to ignore. The National Association of School Psychologists says that many bullies do so to fit in with a group that may otherwise exclude them. This seems to be the case with Romney, as he has become increasingly vicious as his campaign has progressed. After initially struggling to find supporters, he gained approval from GOP voters by stepping up his attacks on women, the poor, and LGBTQ people, endorsing policies that would oppress or limit the rights of all these groups.
Politics aside, Romney appears to be an intelligent man. Surely, he should know better than to engage in childish bullying to win support from his party. The fact that this seems to be his primary campaign strategy shows a serious lack of growth , compassion and leadership from a man who is hoping to win an election.