Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in Oklahoma. (Sue Ogrocki /Associated…)
Mitt Romney’s lackluster apology for reportedly bullying a fellow high school student (who many classmates believed was gay) reminds me of what Arnold Schwarzenegger said when he was running for governor in 2003 and the Los Angeles Times wrote stories detailing accusations that he touched women in a sexual manner without their consent.
“Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes,” he said before a crowd of supporters at a campaign rally. “Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets, and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful. But I now recognize that I have offended people. And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize."
In that case, the allegations — and Schwarzenegger’s response to them -- were relevant to examining the character of the man running for high elected office. Same in this case with Romney. Of course, Schwarzenegger was a grown man when these incidents were said to have occurred. Romney was a prep schooler when, according to a Washington Post report, he tackled a student to the ground and cut his long bleached-blond hair.
And, as Andrew Rosenthal suggested in his New York Times editorial page editor’s blog, the more relevant issue is how Romney treats gays now as opposed to back in high school.
True, but all of Romney’s actions make up the whole of his character. And in this case, whether he did it or didn’t do it or can’t remember, he should be, today, nothing less than mortified at the idea of anyone doing what his former classmates told the Washington Post he did.
But sensitivity is not Romney’s strong suit. This is the man who, as a Mormon lay leader, according to a New York Times report, showed up at a hospital once to confront and warn a woman against having an abortion -- which her doctors had advised her to undergo -- when she was being treated for a dangerous blood clot. And this is the same guy who tied his dog in a crate on the roof of the car for hourslong family road trips years ago. Even there, he couldn’t muster any regret. Asked by ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer if he would transport his dog like that again, he chuckled and said, “Certainly not now with the all the attention it’s received.”
No one ever accused Romney of not being pragmatic.
How Romney should have responded
Reports of Romney's prep school bullying
Schwarzenegger's 2003 apology: "...wherever there is smoke, there is fire"