Does Romney’s bullying matter? and other short notes

The second most-talked-about story of the week was the Washington Post’s report on Mitt Romney’s days at the exclusive Cranbrook prep school, and in particular on his bullying of a gay underclassman.

The biggest debate was around whether anyone should care. Liberals hate the attempts to make scandals out of Obama’s distant past. Isn’t this the same kind of hit piece?

Not entirely. It’s much better sourced than the typical Obama-went-to-a-madrassah story. The sources are named; they were Romney’s classmates; and one of them was his best friend and roommate. Hit pieces come from people who are rewriting history to make themselves look good. Mitt’s roommate knows he’s making himself look bad. He’s telling the story because he feels bad; he’s regretted his role in the bullying incident ever since it happened.

But even if the WaPo’s story is 100% accurate, why should we care? It was a long time ago. Don’t we all have high school memories that make us cringe?

After telling his own high school cringe story, Steve Almond says that’s exactly the problem: Romney shows no signs of cringing. He says he doesn’t remember, that “I did some stupid things in high school, and obviously if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.”

I would be sorry, if I hurt anyone (like a bunch of my friends remember me doing).

A few weeks ago in The Narratives of November, I talked about the stories that each campaign is trying to establish in the minds of voters. Incidents like this only matter politically if they find a place in those stories. Like the dog on the roof incident and “I like being able to fire people“, this one does.

Mitt Romney’s policies, like Republican policies in general, impose sacrifice and suffering on Americans who are already down on their luck: people who need food stamps, unemployment benefits, or help paying for medical care. You can spin that two ways. Positively, Romney is a decisive leader making tough choices in difficult times. Or negatively, he just doesn’t care.

It matters a lot which way that spin goes. In the 1980s, was Romney the business visionary who realized how corporate America needed to change? Or was he the vulture capitalist who gave no thought to the lives and communities he might wreck? Today, is he the grown-up in the room, who overcomes his sentimental reactions to do what needs to be done? Or is there nothing to overcome, because he has no feelings for anyone but himself, his family, and his super-wealthy peers?

If he can’t even respond to the WaPo story with something as simple as: “I’ve felt bad about that incident for years, and I wish John were still around so I could apologize to him face-to-face”, then the he-doesn’t-care spin gets a big boost.

A real mom lays out what she really wants:

Obama’s support of same-sex marriage is brave, but it’s not in the same league with LBJ’s speech supporting the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Bad as Johnson’s delivery was, I always tear up when he gets to this:

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

Maurice Sendak’s last interview with Stephen Colbert was a good way to go out.

Paul Krugman predicts the endgame in the long-running Euro crisis.

Just as the Mayan calendar starts running out, somebody finds another Mayan calendar.

Or from the Left: “Obama caves on high-fructose corn syrup.”

Senator Richard Lugar was never exactly a moderate, but at least he would listen sometimes and think about the national interest rather than his party’s interest. His message after losing a primary to a Tea Party challenger:

Ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself.

A very sophisticated quiz to help you figure out which party lines up with your views. I came out Green, probably because it doesn’t ask: “Do you want to vote for somebody who has a chance to win?”

Salon looks at the cost of college and concludes: As government spends less on higher education, students have to spend more. And what government does spend is more and more likely to get siphoned off by exploitive for-profit institutions.

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  • By Well-prepared Ground « The Weekly Sift on May 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    […] Does Romney’s bullying matter? and other short notes. The important thing isn’t what Mitt Romney did half a century ago; it’s how well his reaction today fits the story his critics tell about him. What Mom really wanted. LBJ’s greatest moment. Maurice Sendak’s last interview. Why does college cost so much? And more. […]

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