We interrupt this fascinating and revealing debate with the uber-emotional rantings by this site’s founder.
This debate has torn the scab off two pet peeves that have been the target of some of my most agonized rhetorical fury during my post-political recovery.
First, with due respect to my friend, the Frozen Chosen Mr. Berkowitz — as well as dozens of columnists who’ve weighed in similarly over the past week — I am not persuaded at all that Romney’s reaction to the disclosure of events is troubling. In saying he didn’t remember the incident, I assume he lied. Any good lawyer or political consultant would have advised him to do the same. There was no advantage in him extending the debate by confirming or disputing the story, and no one can prove that he remembered it or not.
I do not think Romney should be blamed for lying about an event that does not deserve punishment today, just as I don’t think Bill Clinton should have been impeached for lying about personal indiscretions, nor that my friend Jeff Smith should have been incarcerated for a year for falling into a perjury trap about a minor campaign finance violation. People lie because they are embarrassed, or because they don’t want to get bad publicity, but if what they lie about is not actionable in itself, I have trouble claiming that the lie is a major offense.
Second, I dispute the notion shared by many of the previous contributors — as well, again, as by many pols and pundits this week — that we can draw some psychological conclusions about Romney’s performance as President based on something he did as a teenager. Of course, if a qualified therapist had Romney on the couch for a year’s worth of weekly sessions, and Romney shared his life story, the therapist could develop some meaningful conclusions about how Romney’s childhood shaped him in the decades that followed. But as any good therapist would tell you, they could not draw the same conclusions simply through reading a series of unrelated press accounts of his six decade life. Indeed, they would tell you: “This is not my patient; it would be irresponsible for me to draw such conclusions.”
This is simply another excuse the press uses to pick apart the dirty laundry in a politician’s private life. This psychobabble does no service to the debate except selling papers and encouraging clicks from readers who love to revel in the misery of the famous, and/or who have been brainwashed by the movies and the media to expect full and consistent narratives about famous people.
And by the way — this particular story matches no narrative of Mitt Romney, the candidate or human being, that I have ever read to date. The dominant narrative — one I have been inclined (brainwashed?) to accept as true — is that he is a politician who would do anything to get elected. In 1994, he was pro-gay in order to run against Ted Kennedy, and stayed pro-gay through his election as Governor of Massachusetts. By 2012 he became anti-gay to appeal to the right wing of his party. My guess he really doesn’t care much about the issue; his sole focus is on getting elected President.
(And even that narrative is unfair. I am sure Romney cares about something — there are some ideas that he would never abandon for political expediency. There simply are no perfectly consistent narratives for us flawed human beings.)
The fact that the 18 year old Romney was an asshole bully sheds no light on anything except the fact that when he was 18, he was an asshole bully. If I were his principal at the time, I would have expelled him and turned over the evidence to authorities to prosecute him for assault.
(Of course, at that time — as well as in my own childhood — incidents like these were quite common and rarely punished severely: “Boys will be boys!” Replace “gay” with “Jew,” and I suffered a similar humiliation on a handful of occasions. Thank God today, society is moving in the direction of treating bullying as the crime that it is.)
However, as I concluded in my introductory post, his stupid, mean, hurtful behavior as a teenager does not disqualify Mitt Romney to be President.