The Apology of an Eighteen-Year-Old
May 10th, 2012
The Washington Post’s lengthy profile of Gov. Mitt Romney’s years at an exclusive boarding school opened with this explosive revelation:
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.
Laubner himself was deeply affected. One of the five witnesses to that assault ran into him several years later:
“Hey, you’re John Lauber,” (David) Seed recalled saying at the start of a brief conversation. Seed, also among those who witnessed the Romney-led incident, had gone on to a career as a teacher and principal. Now he had something to get off his chest.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to help in the situation,” he said.
Lauber paused, then responded, “It was horrible.” He went on to explain how frightened he was during the incident, and acknowledged to Seed, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”
Lauber died in 2004 of liver cancer.
This revelation opened a huge can of emotional worms for me. But I also had to ask myself how much bearing the actions of someone who was just turning eighteen year old had on a man who today is now sixty-five and running for President? People — a lot of people — do really stupid things when they are in high sch0ol. I don’t know about you, but I’ve done things that I still need to apologize for.
I think we can all understand that. Romney was a first-class douchebag in high school. So are half the boys in high school. It’s serious, but what does it say about him now? His apology today to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade answered that for me:
Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,” Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”
Hijinks are what happened on The Patty Duke Show and pranks were the staple of Bewitched. This wasn’t just a “dumb thing,” unless by “dumb thing” he means assault. This tells me that he hasn’t the slightest clue as to the seriousness of what he did. But what really stuck in my crawl was this:
“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said…
I’m afraid I’m going to have to call bullshit on this. The others clearly remembered it and were haunted by it. And let’s be honest. Who wouldn’t remember pinning down another kid with bleached blond hair and taking scissors to his hair while the kid cried and screamed for help? You’re going to try to tell me he doesn’t remember that?
Of course he does:
“I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual,” Romney told Kilmeade. “That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s.”
If he didn’t remember the incident, how would he “not believe he thought” — and how’s that for densely-packed weasel words? — that Lauber was a homo?
This makes his whole “to whom it may concern” apology not only weak, but embarrassing to the rest of us who have to hear it. This apology doesn’t sound like it came from a responsible adult who committed an assault and reflected on it for almost five decades afterward. It sound more like an apology from an eighteen year old kid who was dragged to the headmaster’s office after having just been caught leading a sight-impaired teacher into a closed door. And like most apologies from eighteen-year-old kids caught red-handed, it’s weaselly and pathetic.