In the Arena

Bully Pulpit Second Thoughts

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I fear that I went too easy on Mitt Romney with regard to his high school bullying escapades. It’s not the incident itself that troubles me — though it was, obviously, outrageous and disgraceful — so much as his current response: He doesn’t remember it. This is patent nonsense. How could he not remember it? Obviously he remembers it, or he wouldn’t have been so quick to issue his blanket apology yesterday for any and all hurt he may have caused at Cranbrook.  And this transparent fudge once again raises questions about his character.

It comes during the same week that he claims credit for saving the auto industry, even though he opposed the bailout that made possible the structured bankruptcy he favored. It comes the same week that he expresses his opposition to gay marriage, even though he promised to be a more aggressive proponent of gay rights than Ted Kennedy when he ran for the Senate in 1994 — of course, it’s possible that Romney has evolved in the opposite direction as President Obama, and most Americans, on this issue, but I doubt it. It seems a day can’t go by without some Romney embarrassment or bald-faced reversal of a former position.

I’m still waiting for the moment when Romney actually tells the truth about something difficult. He could have said, “You know, I’ve been troubled by the Cranbrook episode for most of my life, and I feel relieved, in a way, that it’s come out now. I did a really stupid and terrible thing. Teenage boys sometimes do such things and deserve to be punished for them. What I most regret is that I never apologized to John and won’t be able to now that he’s gone, but let me apologize to his family and friends. Bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. It is especially unacceptable when prejudice — against one’s race, ethnicity or sexual orientation — is involved. If elected President, I will try to atone for my teenage behavior by campaigning against bullying all across this country. What I did back then should be an example of how not to behave. I hope we can all learn from this. I know I have.”

Instead, Romney has a near perfect record of cowardice, obfuscation and downright lies. It shows enormous disrespect for the intelligence of the public.

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