It has come to light that when Mitt Romney was in a private boys’ prep school, he led a group of students to pin down and cut the bleached blond hair of another student. Apparently there were some whispers that the victim was gay, It is  ambiguous as to whether that was the real reason for the “prank”.

Of course in 1968, when this event occurred,  even if the young man were thought to be gay, that term would never have been used. Rather if his sexuality was referred to it would have been as “queer”, “homo”, “fag” or “faggot”, or “fairy”.

It turns out that the suspicions were true. The fellow came out of the closet several years later. It is impossible to get his take on this offense as he died at an early age.

The term punk’d, with that perverted spelling, comes  from the former MTV show of that name,  where celebrities and others had practical jokes played on them. Instead of being “prank’d”, they were “punk’d”. Usually, when the true nature of what was happening was learned by the victims, they ended up laughing right along with the pranksters. I doubt the young man at the Cranbrook school laughed along with Romney and his friends.

Just as the term gay has come to be the common accepted term for male homosexuals, including by many people who look down on them with derision, so the term “bullying” has replaced “prank” as the proper description for the behavior exhibited by Romney and company.

As Romney makes his run for President, public discussion has begun on whether this action should be of concern for voters. After all, many of us have done petty, irresponsible acts as teenagers but have become upstanding, considerate adults. (I won’t reveal to which category I belong.)

I would be willing to give Romney a pass on this incident except for the fact that his “apology” when confronted with this info appeared to be less than sincere, and that his disconnect from the realities that face most Americans today becomes more evident daily. So I fear that the American public, if he were to be elected, would be next to be punk’d.

One writer, Josh Barro in Forbes, views the teenage Romney as lacking both respect and empathy for folks quite different from himself. While as an adult Mitt has learned to demonstrate respect, he still lacks that empathy “gene”.


Barro worked on Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, though with little contact for the candidate himself. He spent a great deal of time with son Tagg who he described as “a stand up guy”.

( I wonder. Does the fact that the son’s name is a variation of the spelling on a popular kids’ game that often favors the bigger and stronger rather than the smaller and weaker have relevance?)

That said, there is a difference between learning to treat others respectfully and having empathy for them. It seems like teenage Mitt Romney fell down on both of those counts, and I’m confident that adult Mitt Romney has figured the respect thing out. But does Romney have empathy for people who are different from him?

The tone of Romney’s reaction today does not look good on the empathy front. Referring to an assault on a classmate as “hijinks and pranks” is pretty tone-deaf. Let’s say you were told about an incident in your teenage years that you had forgotten, where you behaved cruelly and caused a lot of distress to other people. Wouldn’t you, as Dan Foster describes, feel a little bit ashamed? That’s not at all evident in Romney’s reaction to this story.

And while Romney denies that he would have thought that a classmate was gay, it’s clear that Lauber was singled out for his nonconformity. This incident reflects not just that teen Romney being a jerk, but that he was using his in-group status to pick on an outsider—has adult Romney reflected on that?

More important to me, is this lack of empathy present in or reflected by elements of Romney’s adult life and pronouncements that are more germane to his qualifications to be President?

I think so. From his declaration that he was concerned about the middle class, not the poor, to his challenging Rick Perry at one of the debates to a $10,000 bet, to his viewing the $350,000 he earned in speaking fees in one year as essentially petty income, to his recent advice to college students in Ohio to borrow $20,000 from their parents to start their own business, the Mittster is far removed from understanding how the other half…er…the other 99% lives.

His tax and budget plans, and those he supports that are tendered by others, all provide for far more in benefits to the rich than to the vast majority of Americans.

Ashton Kutcher was the host of Punk’d and also played a teenager on That 70’s Show.

Now when I think of Mitt Romney and recall his high school hijinks as a teenager, Ashton Kutcher comes to mind.

Please do not vote for Ashton Kutcher for President.

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  • little_minx  On May 11, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Romney could raise campaign funds by offering to have a donor pinned down, then giving him a haircut.

    Not to be picky, but the event at the prep school occurred after Spring Break, 1965. Significantly, Mittens was already 18, i.e., no longer a minor (born March 12, 1947):

    • umoc193  On May 12, 2012 at 1:37 AM

      Yes, picky picky picky. I got the damn date wrong. First time for everything.

  • little_minx  On May 12, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Not to worry re Ashton this time ’round, because he doesn’t turn 35 till a few weeks after Inauguration Day 2013.

    OTOH, how old is Keith Judd?

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