On the bully attack of the boy with the bleached-blond hair, Romney issued a standard political non-apology, chuckling at first, saying he couldn’t remember what he called “high jinks,” but also not denying the incident.
Asked to clarify, he went into weasel mode. “I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why I’m afraid I’ve got to say I’m sorry for it,” he said on Fox News Radio, the corporate couch for Republicans who need a reassuring hug in a bad moment.
Still, Romney said he could remember one thing: the boy, John Lauber, who was pinned down and had his hair cut by force, was certainly not considered a homosexual, no sir. Not in those days. “That was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s,” Romney said, in elaborating with Fox.
This is where it gets maddening. First, his explanation is not credible. One of the witnesses, Phillip Maxwell, said to the Times, “Certainly, for the other people that were involved, nobody has forgotten.” Second, what Romney seems to be implying — that bullying of effeminate-seeming boys didn’t happen in prep schools in the 1960s — is preposterous.
Romney could have just owned up to the takedown of the kid, as the other assailants did, and said he has grown as a man. He could use this episode to tell a version of his own story: how an annoying little rich kid became a thoughtful leader who wants to be inclusive. Or he could have used it as another way to explain the positive influence of his wife on him as he matured.
On same-sex marriage, Romney has shown a similar kind of willful amnesia. Over the weekend, Romney assured his commencement audience at Liberty University that marriage has long been, and will always be defined as “a relationship between one man and one woman.”
Except, in the case of his great-grandfather Miles P. Romney, whose idea of marriage was between one man and five women. Or his great-great grandfather Parley Pratt, one man who married twelve women.
Call them sexual outlaws, Biblical originalists, or just guys who liked a renewable supply of young women, but Romney’s not-so-long-ago ancestors were anything but practitioners of the kind of marriage Romney claims has been enshrined since the dawn of civilization.
He could use his background to say that even his own family strayed from the true intent of marriage, and that modern Romneys evolved on the issue, to become the devoted monogamists we see today. But instead, he acts as if polygamy – an audacious experiment that nearly brought the United States to a second Civil War, this one in the West — never existed, in his family or his faith.
We look to leaders to be bold and to go against the grain every now and then. When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, “a slut” and “a prostitute” for advocating basic contraceptive health care, the party’s leading demagogue was condemned – in a rare break – by many Republicans. But not by Romney.
Romney said Limbaugh’s slander of the young woman “is not the language I would have used.” The language he did use, then, was weasel-speak."
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