So now it starts: A day after Barack Obama came out for same-sex marriage, the Washington Post runs a big piece about how teenage Mitt Romney bullied a presumably gay kid in high school. If the story is true — and it is well-sourced — it’s really awful. As regular readers know, I was bullied in high school, and it made a huge difference in my life. I despise bullies.
But Mitt Romney was a teenager! God forbid anyone should judge me at my advanced age based on horrible things I did as a teenager. Though I myself was bullied, I can think of kids that I in turn bullied. I didn’t do things nearly as bad to them, or so it seemed to me, but I was still gratuitously cruel to some kids in high school, and I’m ashamed of it today. I don’t remotely hold anything against the kids who picked on me so badly back in high school. It’s easy for me to be merciful to them because I hope that kids I was mean to will be merciful to me. I was talking to a friend the other day about all this, and said that I expect at my judgment in heaven to be confronted with kids I had been vicious to in my childhood — I’m thinking especially about you, Johnny P., wherever you are today, who moved here from Nebraska for a brief time in fourth grade, and suffered from my bullying attentions — and I will be shocked by how much I hurt them.
Anyway, boo on teenage Mitt Romney for being an ass. I hope he takes this opportunity to reach out privately to anyone he hurt back then, and make it right. We should all aspire to do the same. But look, what on earth does any of that have to do with the presidency? It’s ridiculous. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Obama was a horndog in high school, like many American teenage males. Are we supposed to derive a lesson about how he treats women, or his moral integrity, based on how he behaved at 16?
Mitt Romney is a 65 year old man. The events recounted in this story happened a half century ago. I’m 20 years younger than Romney, and I would think it inaccurate and unfair to judge me based on my worst self at 15. Then again, I am not an editor at The Washington Post.