You knew it would get ugly, and now it has. Romney’s character is being called into question as his past as a youthful prankster and loud-mouthed homophobe is coming to light. Recalling an incident at prep school, Romney’s old friend Matthew Friedemann describes Romney’s distaste for another student, John Lauber, who was presumed to be gay:
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.
Like Romney’s religion, I do think his past and even his teenage mistakes are fair game. These do speak to a politician’s character, even if like me you think that in order to be a politician in the first place you almost by definition must have a character deficit.
That being said, it’s much more important to look at where Romney stands on the issues now, what his record in office and in private business has been. All we need to know about the man, including how far he’s willing to wish before washing, can be found in the present. Lord knows my life over the past five years is a better indication of who I am then the stupid crap I did when I was twenty or fifteen.
Then again, I’m not running for the highest office in the land. We’ve had other presidents with similar histories as pranksters. The last one with this sort of frat-boy mentality drove this country mercilessly into two wars, presiding over the greatest expansion of the national security state in recent history, and plummeting the nation into debt and financial crisis.
In a sense, it’s impossible to see how Romney could be as awful as George W. Bush. His business experience is positively glowing compared to Bush’s. But that’s cold comfort.
One way or another, this is bad news for Romney.
I think Obama’s playing of the gay community is downright cynical as well. His recent vocal support for gay marriage strikes me as the worst sort of politicking – a welcome boon to his re-election campaign perhaps, but a day late and a dollar short for those for whom it matters most. Why didn’t the president come out in favor of equality several years ago?
Because he plays his cards close to his chest, of course. Because he gambled and it paid off, but he gambled with the lives of vulnerable members of society and he did so for paltry reasons. At least he did come out on the side of angels, but he waited for an opportune moment to do so.
The moment looks even more golden in light of these prankster revelations, and places Romney in an even tighter pinch. But neither Obama’s newfound pro-gay-marriage stance or Romney’s ever-more apparent lack of character make me any more hopeful about our political leaders or the direction of this country. Quite the contrary.