Mitt Romney’s Profile in Courage
Recently Mitt and Ann Romney provided one of the most disturbing moments of this election campaign. They were being interviewed. They were laughing and having a grand old time remembering the good old days. Ann Romney explained, “I still look at him as the boy that I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes and really just being crazy, pretty crazy. So, there is a wild and crazy man inside of him.” She was doing her best to sound like a loving wife, but the laughter seemed forced and a little manic. Watching it now I get a most unpleasant feeling in my gut. Her comments were not mere loving remembrance. The story was about to come out that Mitt Romney in high school was a bully. A rather vicious one if we are to believe the descriptions provided by Romney’s youthful followers.
At moments like this campaigns bring their collective wits together and try to figure out how to spin the disaster. Romney in all his wisdom, or lack thereof, decided to paint the bullying as just silly high school hi-jinks. His wife will describe him as a wild and crazy guy. Romney himself will deny remembering what happened. Then he will provide one of those meaningless, spineless apologies that start with “If.” Well, here, judge for yourself: “There's no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school. And obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.” You’ll notice he doesn’t actually apologize, he’s just saying that, if blah-blah-blah, well, then he would apologize.
They would thus avoid admitting anything and ride this out.
So what does this tell us about Mitt Romney? That in his youth he was cruel and dominating. He was the lead bully that egged the others on. He was the one with the scissors. He was the one above, cutting the hair off as the boy screamed. Romney obviously felt entitled. The boy he attacked didn’t look the way Romney wanted, and Romney felt he had a right to force the youth to submit. The fact that he was terrorizing another human does not seem to have occurred to him. Does that tell us anything about the man running for president today? That’s hard to know. People can change. Hopefully we are all more mature than we were in high school. I assume he’s grown up some since then. But the cruelty of his actions does give me pause; I don’t think most of us have ever had enough meanness in us to do something like this, even in our crazy youths. But still, he could have become kinder over the years. Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.
However, how he’s handled this story tells us a great deal about the man he has become. First he has his wife provide some cover with the wild and crazy theory. Then he says, “I don’t recall the incident myself.” That one’s hard to believe. Everyone else involved has vivid, painful memories of the attack. How can anyone with a conscience not remember wielding the scissors as a boy beneath you screamed for help? How can anyone not be haunted by such a memory? If we are to take Romney at his word, he is either less human than most or such incidents were so commonplace that this one blends in with the rest. As a kindness to Romney, I choose to believe he’s lying. Some lies I don’t begrudge him. When he claims he believes every word of the Bible, I figure that’s a little white lie he has to say to get nominated in the Republican Party. But this is a lie of cowardice.
So how might he have responded when asked about the incident? Sure I remember. How can you forget something like that? I remember the exhilaration of leading the charge with my buddies around me. I remember thinking what a great gag this was going to be. I remember realizing in the midst of it that I was hurting someone, that this wasn’t fun or funny. I remember not having the guts to stop because I didn’t want it to look like I’d backed down. I can’t say that I’ve remembered it every day since then, because it’s a memory I wish I didn’t have. It’s a memory that makes me feel awful about myself and so I push it away. And if I could go back in time and counsel the boy I was, I would tell him he was going to pay a horrible price for this. That he would have to live with it the rest of his life. I wish I could apologize to the boy in question, but he’s gone now. I do apologize to the boys I lead, because they’ve had to live with it as well. It’s not the only time I was mean to someone in those years. But I’d like to think I’ve become a better person since then.
But it takes courage to say such words. So instead he got his wife to go on TV with him and talk about his crazy youth.
Republicans, whoever you nominate as your presidential candidate may become our next president. You owe the rest of us, you owe this country, better than this. It’s still not too late. Isn’t there some way to stop this?
Since then the Republicans have done far worse than Romney. It's February 5, 2020 and I just watched his speech to the Senate regarding his vote on impeachment. I've just watched a real profile in courage. And this one will last a lot longer than his cowardly response eight years ago. A person is more than one moment in their life. He redeemed himself today.