…what with all David Axelrod’s water they’re carrying. Witness yesterday’s 5,000 word hit piece on Mitt Romney’s high school bullying.

Regardless of the intentions of The Post’s editors, the clear narrative presented by story, coming as it is on the heels of President Obama’s first public affirmation of same-sex marriage since 1996 is that Romney is the gay-bashing homophobe in the race and Obama is not.

That is despite Obama’s stated view–for the moment–that states still have the right to outlaw SSM.

Nobody actually thinks he believes that. But Joe Biden’s offhand remarks forced him out of the closet ahead of schedule, putting him on the wrong side of an electoral issue the same week North Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage overwhelmingly passed.

As Pat Buchanan writes in his column this week, if Obama wishes to advance the gay marriage issue it will have to be through the Supreme Court, which is one justice away from a liberal majority. To realize what a divisive move that would be, look at the margins by which the various same-sex marriage bans passed in swing states. Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio’s measures passed by more than 60 percent. Wisconsin, Virginia and Michigan’s passed by more than 57 percent. Oregon: 57, Colorado: 56.

The president has evolved to a deeply unpopular position, and to advance it further would require an unprecedented exercise of judicial power and federal authority. His donors fully expect him to do just that.

Meanwhile, the first big story to emerge pushing the President’s counter-narrative that Mitt Romney is an unreconstructed bigot, has already raised some eyebrows. The Post made a minor correction to the story and failed to note it, a dumb move when the conservative media watchers have you under a microscope. In addition, the alleged victim’s sister is claiming she had no knowledge of the incident, though the original story said he “never uttered a word” to his sisters.

The piece reads like another fine example of The Post’s brand of opposition-research-as-journalism, the one from October about Rick Perry and the hunting camp with an offensive name that he didn’t own and visited only occasionally. Its ludicrously smug ending quotes the Cranbrook School’s song right before all but implying that the incident was somehow related to Joseph Lauber’s death in 2004. Hitting the perfect pitch of demagoguery, it plays right into a Democrat playbook whose chief strategy is to avoid talking about the economy at all costs.

Exactly how orchestrated the story is is difficult to say, but is it unreasonable to wonder if a former student from one of the midwestern gentry’s most eminent academies who later became a prosecutor and 2008 Obama volunteer passed a piece of information up the chain that would have been incredibly damaging to one of his potential opponents?

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.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be identified. The men have differing political affiliations, although they mostly lean Democratic. Buford volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Seed, a registered independent, has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan. All of them said that politics in no way colored their recollections.

Anyway, since petulant counter-examples are fun, if you’re going to make an issue of a presidential candidate’s history of bullying decades ago, is there a qualitative difference between prejudging someone because of their hair and prejudging them for wearing “argyle sweaters and pressed jeans?” Between anathematizing someone for thinking they’re gay and for thinking they’re an Uncle Tom? Is forcibly cutting a high-schooler’s hair any worse than shoving a little girl?

h/t Greg Pollowitz

Update: Michael Brendan Dougherty flags a clip from MSNBC’s News Nation this morning in which Tamron Hall really, really wants to talk about the Post story’s ramifications on the ground, which is something voters care about “in that particular state” because he got asked about it on local news, or something. Tim Carney tries to talk about something that actually matters, and she’s not having it.

(via Andrew Kaczynski @ BuzzFeed)