So this morning the Washington Post runs a story detailing what kind of a jerk Mitt Romney was in high school. This is a surprise, right? A high school kid being a jerk. This has never ever happened before. Why, you might well ask, would the Washington Post devote valuable time and space to writing about this event? And why, you might well follow up, is this worth posting about when everyone should be talking about the environment?
The answer is easy. It builds a meme and it translates Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage from a liability into a perceived strength.
If you missed this is the graf that has the left exercised:
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.
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.
Of course the story gets much sadder with Romney presumably responsible for the guy’s failed life and death from cancer.
He came out as gay to his family and close friends and led a vagabond life, taking dressage lessons in England and touring with the Royal Lipizzaner Stallion riders. After an extreme fit of temper in front of his mother and sister at home in South Bend, he checked into the Menninger Clinic psychiatric hospital in Topeka, Kan. Later he received his embalmer’s license, worked as a chef aboard big freighters and fishing trawlers, and cooked for civilian contractors during the war in Bosnia and then, a decade later, in Iraq. His hair thinned as he aged, and in the winter of 2004 he returned to Seattle, the closest thing he had to a base. He died there of liver cancer that December.
He kept his hair blond until he died, said his sister Chris. “He never stopped bleaching it.”
There are unanswered questions here, like what this has to do with anything, how a high school dropout bummed around Europe taking dressage lessons and, my favorite, how getting an “embalmer’s license” led to a culinary career? But the Post doesn’t address them.
The main source for this vignette is a former classmate of Romney’s named Stu White. According to the Washington Post:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident.”
But ABC News reports
“White was not present for the prank, in which Romney is said to have forcefully cut a student’s long hair and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post.”
From this it is pretty clear that the Lauber incident did not unfold in the way the Washington Post describes, if, indeed, it happened at all. (h/t to the Daily Caller)
Why this and why now?
As we’ve mentioned before this is all part of a process to brand Romney as a vicious, thoughtless, out-of-touch rich guy. It is really Obama’s only hope as he can’t possibly win if he runs on his objective accomplishments.
This story has obviously been in the works for a while but the news value of it is questionable. It is the basic oppo dump material that the Washington Post obediently churns out on Republicans. As Major Garrett reports in National Journal, the whole Biden-evolving postion idea was a scam to allow Obama to support gay marriage:
Did Obama sacrifice huge swaths of swing voters? Probably not. The polls have shifted to net favorable on the question of same-sex marriage and independents are unlikely to punish Obama for a policy position consistent with everything else he’s done on gay issues. Social conservatives will, of course, be aggrieved. But they were already.
Also, consider this on the gay-marriage pronouncements: Biden was first, Obama second. That the two happily reversed the common order of things ought to tell you something about their relationship (solid), their understanding of tactics (advanced), and how they can play Washington’s chattering class for fools (easily).
But suddenly, the nothingburger story developed by the Post had a hook. In fact it had a hook that could effectively frame the entire story to fit into the overarching Obama campaign. Obama was against gay marriage, but then he met parents of friends of his daughters who were gay and the subject was discussed at family dinners and he changed his mind. <sarcasm> Another “gutsy call” in which he took an unpopular position after carefully weighing everything, and, of course, consulting his deeply held Christian faith. </sarcasm>
Romney, on the other hand, when he went to an elite private school for elite rich kids relentlessly bullied a kid who was gay and continues his bullying and homophobia to this day by not supporting homosexual marriage. It all fit. And the Post was able to make good on its investment.
The ABC story makes it clear that there are other Romney classmates lining up to dish on him, presumably after they sign with a literary agent:
One former classmate and old friend of Romney’s – who refused to be identified by name – said there are “a lot of guys” who went to Cranbrook who have “really negative memories” of Romney’s behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as “evil” and “like Lord of the Flies.”
The classmate believes Romney is lying when he claims to not remember it.
“It makes these fellows [who have owned up to it] very remorseful. For [Romney] not to remember it? It doesn’t ring true. How could the fellow with the scissors forget it?” the former classmate said.