Eric Henney wonders what’s more troubling: That a story about a man who has passed away is being used for political gain, or that Mitt Romney appears to have forgotten about a physical assault he allegedly committed.
The Lauber sisters are not happy.
Christine Lauber, one of three siblings of the of now-famous, alleged bullying victim John Lauber, who may or may not have been pinned down and physically assaulted by an 18-year-old Mitt Romney during his days at Cranbrook School, told ABC that she has “no knowledge” of any such incident.
Her sister Betsy also recently said, “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda.”
Christine added, “Even if it did happen, John probably wouldn’t have said anything.”
It is obvious that there is nothing easy about having the memory of your dead brother dropped into a political boxing ring, and I sympathize with whatever ungodly horrible feelings are dogging the Lauber family right now. But I think it’s also true that what they have said so far has only made the situation messier.
If John Lauber was the type of person who would keep something like being gang-bullied to himself, as Christine Lauber has said, then it would be reasonable to also think he wouldn’t want to tell his family for fear of embarrassment. It’s all too common for victims of bullying to develop a (possibly irrational) fear of shame from their family. So I’m not really compelled by the fact that none of John Lauber’s family seems to know of the incident.
There is something to be said, though, about the fact that their family has been yanked into the limelight due to the fact that we seem to have run out of meaningful things to say about our presidential candidates.
Don’t get me wrong: if the story is true, then there’s no doubt in my mind that 18-year-old Mitt Romney is responsible for a morally repugnant action. And if 65-year-old Mitt Romney is cravenly pretending that he doesn’t remember such bullying, then he is also responsible for a morally repugnant action. Because to let a story of what is being portrayed as gay bullying be ridiculed and discredited as leftist hysteria would be to become complicit in the obscuring of a very real and persistent cultural problem. But if he isn’t pretending, where does that leave us?
For whatever reason, this kind of story doesn’t really surprise me. But even if it did, as apparently is the case with many others, I still wouldn’t feel good about holding things he did nearly 40 years ago as a teenager against him currently. While I obviously don’t approve of such adolescent bullying, I also think that judging Romney by it unfairly rules out the fact that four decades is a lot of time in which people can reasonably change their views and opinions. In fact, that’s what we think we’re supposed to do as we age. If you believed the same things you believed in high school, you’d be an insufferable man-child. We allow people to be embarrassed about who they were in high school (as I am, only five years out); we should allow Mitt Romney, too.
So be mad at whichever Mitt Romney you choose. Be mad at him for lying, if it turns out he is. Admittedly, it’s harder to judge the possibility that Romney’s forgetfulness implies an alarming casualness about physical assault. For even if it did, I don’t think it would automatically follow that 65-year-old Romney still thinks it unremarkable, which wouldn’t change the memories he developed decades ago.
Maybe this is handwringing on my part, because however Mitt Romney felt about what may have appeared as homosexuality in the mid-60s, he’s still a homophobe in 2012. Whatever the case may be, just don’t distract yourself by being mad at him for being a teenage asshole.
What do you think? Should John Lauber’s story have been made public, when he isn’t able to tell his side of the story?
Does Romney’s lack of memory of the event indicate denial of the event, or a lack of concern over bullying in general?
Did the news story about the alleged bullying change the way you felt about Mitt Romney as a candidate?