Thursday, May 10, 2012

Does it matter if Mitt Romney was a bully in high school?

See all posts on bullying.

The important question is whether Mitt Romney's character has changed since his high school bullying days. Obviously, he has learned to restrain his urges, if they still exist, toward physical aggression in public. But does he still have the urge to force others to think like him? To make them suffer for being different? And is he telling the truth when he says he does not remember the incident, to which other participants have confessed? (See second story below.)

Does it matter if Mitt Romney was a bully in high school?
When Mitt Romney was a senior at suburban Detroit’s Cranbrook school, he led a 'posse' that forcibly cut the long blond hair of a nonconformist junior, according to a Washington Post report.
By Peter Grier
Christian Science Monitor
May 10, 2012

Does it matter if Mitt Romney misbehaved in high school? That question arises due to a report in Thursday’s Washington Post that when he was a senior at suburban Detroit’s Cranbrook school, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee led a “posse” that held down and forcibly cut the long blond hair of a nonconformist junior.

In this video, Romney apologizes for any pranks he may have pulled in high school that hurt or offended his fellows. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Mitt said at the time, according to fellow student Matthew Friedemann, quoted in the Post.

Mr. Romney himself said Thursday that he cannot remember the incident. The longhaired student in question, John Lauber, is now deceased. But Romney gave some legs to the story by apologizing repeatedly for any pranks he may have pulled in high school that hurt or offended his fellows.

“As to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all. But again, high school days – if I did stupid things, I’m afraid I've got to say sorry for it,” said Romney in an interview on Fox News Radio.

Romney’s opponents say they are torn by the relevance of an alleged incident that would have occurred some 50 years ago. But they forge ahead nonetheless, saying that if true, the forcible haircut could provide some insight into the character of a man who wants to sit in the Oval Office.

“Romney was 18 – old enough to vote, old enough to serve in the military, and old enough to know not to attack a vulnerable teenager unprovoked...

Here's a quote from the Washington Post story:

"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. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be identified...“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in restraining Lauber...“It was a hack job,” recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.” “He was just easy pickin’s,” said Friedemann, then the student prefect, or student authority leader of Stevens Hall, expressing remorse about his failure to stop it...Friedemann, guilt ridden, made a point of not talking about it with his friend and waited to see what form of discipline would befall Romney at the famously strict institution. Nothing happened."

Mitt Romney forced to apologise after he 'mocked and assaulted' high school classmate who was 'presumed gay'
Daily Mail
10 May 2012

Mitt Romney has been forced to apologise for forcibly shaving the head of a high school classmate who was regularly taunted for being gay.

The Republican presidential candidate grabbed tearful John Lauber and hacked away with a pair of scissors because he thought his bleached blond hair was ‘wrong’.

Mr Romney also supposedly mocked another student who was a closeted gay by shouting ‘Atta girl!’ when he tried to speak in class.

The damaging claims come a day after Barack Obama said he was in favour of gay marriage.

Mr Romney has made it clear he opposes it but issued an apology for fear of being seen as homophobic.

He said: ‘Back in high school, you know, I did some dumb things. If anyone was hurt by that or offended by that, obviously I apologize.

‘But overall, high school years were a long time ago'.

Interviews with Mr Romney’s former classmates at the $54,000 a year Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, reveal he was fond of jokes that were mostly good natured by sometimes had a hard edge.

After the shaving incident Mr Lauber ‘seemed to disappear’ from life in school and was later expelled for smoking and died in 2004 of liver cancer.

Torment: The Republican presidential hopeful was said to have taunted students who were known to be gay and those from poor backgrounds at the exclusive Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Decades after it happened he ran into one of Romney’s friends who helped hold him down and told him: ‘It was horrible.

‘It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.’

The incident supposedly happened in the Summer term in 1965 when Mr Lauber, who was a year below Mr Romney, came back from Spring Break with his hair dyed blond and styled so it was draped over one eye.

According to the Washington Post Mr Romney would not let it go and told his friend Matthew Friedemann: ‘He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!’

A few days later Mr Romney assembled a posse which found Mr Lauber, tackled him to the floor and held him down whilst the future governor of Massachusetts snipped away.

When it was completed the crowd cheered Mr Romney as he walked out of the room.

The incident was recalled by five former Cranbrook pupils including Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor, who helped hold Mr Lauber down.

He said: ‘It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me. ‘What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.’

Phillip Maxwell, who is now a lawyer, added: ‘It was a hack job. It was vicious.’

Mr Friedemann, who is now a dentist, also felt bad for not stopping it happening and admitted Mr Lauber was ‘easy pickins’.

Mr Romney’s time at Cranbrook is credited with shaping into the hard-working, driven man he is today. It was also the time in his life when sports and socialising governed his life more than at any other time. Friends recalled how he and his friends would be up all night larking around, the sound of his laughter filling the corridors at 2am.

In English class however things took a more sinister twist - Mr Romney had a habit of interrupting fellow pupil Gary Hummel, a closeted gay at the time, by shouting ‘Atta girl!’

According to the Washington Post he also behaved in a ‘sour’ fashion towards scholarship student Lou Vierling when he found he he was from a poor area of Detroit.

Mr Romney’s wife Ann has claimed that contrary to his public image as a ‘tin man’, as one friend has claimed, he is actually a ‘wild and crazy man’.

And details about his pranks have come to light before, notably in the biography, ‘The Real Romney’, by Boston Globe investigative reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman

The problem with the latest revelations however is that they suggest a cruelty which voters might find hard to stomach.

Romney’s most famous such incident is also his most controversial - when he strapped his dog to the top of his car whilst on a 12-hour drive from Massachusetts to Canada in 1983...

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