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Egan writes: "On multiple occasions over the last year, Romney has shown a tendency to dodge, weave, parse or deny in such a way that it outweighs the original offense. It's his weasel problem, a real character flaw."

Mitt Romney. (photo: AP)
Mitt Romney. (photo: AP)

Romney's Weasel Problem

By Timothy Egan, The New York Times

15 May 12


ou can wince at the cruelty of adolescence, as many did, after reading the Washington Post account of how a teenage Mitt Romney led a gang of prep school buddies to attack another boy. "Senseless," "vicious" and "stupid" were the words used by witnesses quoted by name in the piece.

But to hold the 65-year-old presumptive Republican nominee for president accountable for what he may have done as a mean-spirited teenager is unfair. Because he acted like a bully then no more makes Romney a bully now than does that fact that young Barack Obama tried "maybe a little blow" make him a coke-head.

More troubling is Romney's continued inability to honestly face up to his own life story and those inconvenient truths that interfere with the ideas of the vocal right-wing of the party whose standard he will soon bear.

On multiple occasions over the last year, Romney has shown a tendency to dodge, weave, parse or deny in such a way that it outweighs the original offense. It's his weasel problem, a real character flaw.

On the bully attack of the boy with the bleached-blond hair, Romney issued a standard political non-apology, chuckling at first, saying he couldn't remember what he called "high jinks," but also not denying the incident.

Asked to clarify, he went into weasel mode. "I don't remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why I'm afraid I've got to say I'm sorry for it," he said on Fox News Radio, the corporate couch for Republicans who need a reassuring hug in a bad moment.

Still, Romney said he could remember one thing: the boy, John Lauber, who was pinned down and had his hair cut by force, was certainly not considered a homosexual, no sir. Not in those days. "That was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s," Romney said, in elaborating with Fox.

This is where it gets maddening. First, his explanation is not credible. One of the witnesses, Phillip Maxwell, said to the Times, "Certainly, for the other people that were involved, nobody has forgotten." Second, what Romney seems to be implying - that bullying of effeminate-seeming boys didn't happen in prep schools in the 1960s - is preposterous.

Romney could have just owned up to the takedown of the kid, as the other assailants did, and said he has grown as a man. He could use this episode to tell a version of his own story: how an annoying little rich kid became a thoughtful leader who wants to be inclusive. Or he could have used it as another way to explain the positive influence of his wife on him as he matured.

On same-sex marriage, Romney has shown a similar kind of willful amnesia. Over the weekend, Romney assured his commencement audience at Liberty University that marriage has long been, and will always be defined as "a relationship between one man and one woman."

Except, in the case of his great-grandfather Miles P. Romney, whose idea of marriage was between one man and five women. Or his great-great grandfather Parley Pratt, one man who married twelve women.

Call them sexual outlaws, Biblical originalists, or just guys who liked a renewable supply of young women, but Romney's not-so-long-ago ancestors were anything but practitioners of the kind of marriage Romney claims has been enshrined since the dawn of civilization.

He could use his background to say that even his own family strayed from the true intent of marriage, and that modern Romneys evolved on the issue, to become the devoted monogamists we see today. But instead, he acts as if polygamy - an audacious experiment that nearly brought the United States to a second Civil War, this one in the West - never existed, in his family or his faith.

We look to leaders to be bold and to go against the grain every now and then. When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, "a slut" and "a prostitute" for advocating basic contraceptive health care, the party's leading demagogue was condemned - in a rare break - by many Republicans. But not by Romney.

Romney said Limbaugh's slander of the young woman "is not the language I would have used." The language he did use, then, was weasel-speak.

He refined this trait midway through his political career, as a way to explain his serial flip-flops. On some issues - gay rights or abortion, for example - he can somewhat implausibly say he has changed over time as his thinking has become more in line with that of his party.

But on health care, Romney is in a weasel world all his own. He can't deny being the intellectual father of Obamacare, after coming up with a fair system in Massachusetts that requires freeloaders to get health insurance so that everyone else won't have to pay for them.

So he continues to act as though there's some difference between the two plans. Romneycare works in Massachusetts, in the same way that Obamacare will work for the rest of the nation if given a chance. Romney knows that.

"Massachusetts is a model for getting everybody insured," he said before that model became public enemy No.1 in Republican eyes.

Romney's party will not allow him to say that now, so he contorts himself. You can blame the radical makeup of this year's Republicans for that. But on the character issues, when it comes time to act like a leader with an expansive heart, he wiggles, denies and shrinks. your social media marketing partner


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+82 # AndreM5 2012-05-15 12:28
Don't be so hard on weasels, Tim. They are rather admirable hunters and survivers in a difficult environment. They even have very nice fur. Well, OK, I guess in that sense Mittens has one similar trait of a weasel. Other than that, Willard is just a shallow, spineless tool--not characteristics I would ever associate with a weasel.
+44 # marthooo 2012-05-15 12:52
Sigh. Didn't W exhibit this same behavior repeatedly? It didn't seem to hurt him in the election(s). (Well, hard to know on the second one.) But, I fear this will not damage Romney.
+92 # Feral Dogz 2012-05-15 12:53
I believe its possible for a prep school bully to evolve into an empathetic adult but I don't think that's the case with Romney. His history at Bain Capital is that of a predator with little or no regard for the consequences of his actions.

To think that he would lead the GOP toward improving the lives of average Americans is delusional. His "job" has been, and will continue to be, helping the rich get richer at the expense of working people. That's what the GOP stands for.

The Massachusetts health care program (from which I benefit) is a step toward socialized medicine, but really just a baby step. Medical insurance is still a for-profit business, as are the corporations providing care. This system benefits from the misfortune of those requiring care and rewards providers for services (often unnecessary and very costly) rather than results.

Its good for the insurance companies and care providers, not that great for those who have to pick up the cost.

With a single payer system, the medical "industry" would become more responsive to the needs of the infirm rather than the dictates of the "market".
+62 # RLF 2012-05-15 13:58
Agreed! The fact that he doesn't remember it at all means it was an every day occurrence for him and meaningless. If he was haunted by it it might be different but he shows all the signs of being a remorseless bully...or in other words...the very worst of the kind.
+41 # my2cents 2012-05-15 14:30
Of course he remembers it. People who are defending him today who were aware it happened but weren't actually there, remember it. Remorseless: Yes. Amnesic: No. Liar: Most certainly YES!
+25 # AMLLLLL 2012-05-15 14:56
Romney always seems to be 'splaining why he's not really e poor little rich boy only sees things from the 'top down' perspective.
+38 # walthe310 2012-05-15 12:54
Romney has a weasel problem in the summer. In winter, he changes his colors and it becomes an ermine problem.
+14 # Feral Dogz 2012-05-15 12:55
+17 # AndreM5 2012-05-15 13:21
Reich is positively brilliant at that sort of thing. He's even a decent cartoonist!
+71 # Caballero69 2012-05-15 12:56
"Because he acted like a bully then no more makes Romney a bully now than does that fact that young Barack Obama tried "maybe a little blow" make him a coke-head."

The crucial difference is Obama acknowledged his youthful foibles in writing. Romney can't recall.

You are correct. Romney is continually dishonest about his past and much else. When a reporter described the situation to him, he chuckled.

He lacks both the candor and the character to be president. America is a country, not a corporation. We need a real person in the Oval Office, not a blow-dried, calculating financier.
-80 # Martintfre 2012-05-15 13:56
Like Obama is not a weasel -- just keep the same standard for both.

out of the wars by inauguration er 16 months after er ..
Unconscionable increases to the debt,...
no special interest money,
-18 # Martintfre 2012-05-16 09:21
-52 and falling.

If it were not for double standards ya would have none at all.
+49 # GeeRob 2012-05-15 14:04
I remember specific incidents from high school but so much of it was a blur or forgotten. I am certain that if I had participated in holding another student down and cutting his hair, I could recall that. In fact, it would be something that haunted me from time to time in my adulthood. I bet Romney has 10 mirrors in each of his homes and every one of those reflects a different image. He truly is a hollow man.
+17 # ALinSTL 2012-05-15 14:28
Actually no on the mirrors...vampi res don't cast a reflective image...
-48 # Martintfre 2012-05-15 14:10
Obama Big Brother Drones - coming to the sky near you!
-29 # cadan 2012-05-15 14:15
There's one point i have an issue with in this article, and that is about the multiple wives his great-grandfath er and great-great-grandfath er did.

The Mormons were bitterly persecuted in the US, and many of the men died. So having multiple wives was a consequence.

However, this is not to say that Romney should be president (especially if he cannot understand that society should evolve and learn from its mistakes: inflicting marriage problems on Mormons is no greater sin than inflicting marriage problems on gays), or learn not to weasel around too much.
+18 # LiberalRN 2012-05-15 22:33
[quote name="cadan"]
The Mormons were bitterly persecuted in the US, and many of the men died. So having multiple wives was a consequence.

Really? That was a consequence of not enough men to go round? Then how come the nation didn't turn to polygamy after the Civil War?
+10 # mjc 2012-05-16 09:37
cadan, don't think Egan is unaware of the persecution of Mormons in this country. It is the slimy way Romney pretends that there is some universal, god-given rule for marriage...betw een a man and a woman, as if Romney doesn't know the legal weight of a marriage "contract" and denying that sweet innocent that he is, being gay is some sort of aberration, biblical inly in Leviticus...tha t all MUST obey. History didn't begin with Christianity, but intolerance for certain social relationships did.
+5 # jackloganbill 2012-05-17 13:29
As a life long Mormon allow me to explain a few things:
1. Soon after the LDS entered Salt Lake Valley, census show that there were more men of marriage age than women.
2. LDS do not practice polygamy today, however...
3. Temple Card carrying LDS (the faithful) believe that Polygamy will be practiced in the Celestial kingdom, the "Heaven" all faithful LDS aspire to...
4. Brigham Young and other early prophets taught that you could not enter Heaven (Celestial Kingdom) without practicing polygamy.

If polygamy were legal, and the LDS prophet reinstated Polygamy, and told Romney to take on additional wives, he would. Period. May not tell the wife (ala Joseph Smith), but he would follow the prophet's counsel. And that to me is the most dangerous trait of this man.

If he can believe all of that, do you really want him leading your country?
+36 # grouchy 2012-05-15 14:15
How about "FLIP-FLOPPING WEASEL" as a new name?

The reason the Republicans can get away with this stuff is that they do such a fantastic job of "spinning" their views (lies)--and the Democrats do such a pathetic job of holding them accountable for the truth (as does the press).
+26 # fredboy 2012-05-15 14:15
Romney's evasion of the truth--a violent homophobic attack on another teen with a bladed weapon--demonst rates his lack of remorse, thus the continued trait of bullying. As we are nearly the same age, I only wish I had encountered Romney as a bullying teen. Tired of such antics, I used to call out and confront such trash. And I never, ever lost if the confrontation turned violent. Maybe Romney will agree to get in the ring with me to go a few rounds and see if we can get to the bottom of this.
+15 # ABen 2012-05-15 22:01
Fred; even if Mittens agreed, he would find a way to weasel out of it in the end. Bullies never like confrontation unless they clearly have the upper hand. Take note of his statement that he likes to fire people; I wonder if he realizes that he can't fire elected officials?
+23 # HooverBush 2012-05-15 15:19
Only weasels are allowed to run for office on the Republican Ticket!!!
Preferably Wealthy Weasels!
+28 # humanmancalvin 2012-05-15 15:42
The Weasel In Chief would be a disaster for our country. Romney is not alone with his amnesia. The same group that would elect him president seem to have a blank spot in their brain that should be filled with the horror of George W. Bush. Romney, due to his bowing, scraping, and groveling to any radical right wing insurgent plan would be led by the nose ring even further toward disaster than the number one worst president this country ever elected. Well elected once and with the aid of a Republican activist Supreme Court gifted the other term. Beware a man that repeatedly "cannot recall."
+21 # cherylpetro 2012-05-15 15:43
Someone who is so desperate to become a nominee of a party, that he twists himself into a knot to please the party, pretty much hides who he really is. I know candidates want to please the public, but with Romney, he has taken it to a degree of leaving only a shadow of his former self as a result. Not only could that leave a person who is frustrated, but it is also unfair to the voter, because they don't know to whom they are giving their vote! I personally think that it is good to know what a person was like growing up, because it has a LOT of bearing on what they are like as adults. Hitler was abused as a child, and he took it out on others; look how he turned out! He wanted more control of others and was a terrifying megalomaniac! Romney
likes firing people" even when he knew he was destroying lives so that he could gain wealth! We want a president who helps the country! We do NOT need people in charge who look to see what THEY can GAIN for THEMSELVES, we need a President who has a goal of helping the country and its people do well! By his words and his actions, President Obama fits that bill! This is a country of people! We are not corporations to be treated ruthlessly and gutted for wealth, we are human beings with dreams and aspirations! I certainly do not want a man who thinks we are businesses, because we know what Romney did to them; he stripped them, and left them gutted and in ruins! Bush already begain the destruction, don't let Romney finish it!
+22 # Midwestgeezer 2012-05-15 15:54
I've been waiting for the pundits to point out the obvious in connection with our candidate's "high school prank". Let's give him the benefit of the doubt on homophobia in those hazy 1960's. Let's even give him that he'd mislaid the memory of it. It was however, bullying. Here's the missing angle: Mitt, even the young Mitt, was a good sized man. The fact that he needed to round up a "posse" to help subdue his prey screams COWARD!! There's no other way to say it. Would that he'd at least been courageous enough to go mano a mano with the person who's persona he objected to.
+3 # Cassandra2012 2012-05-17 12:38
Forcing a woman to endure a vaginal ultrasound because she chooses to have an abortion is bullying. Forcing a woman to sit through a lecture about how her choice makes the baby Jesus cry before undergoing the procedure is bullying. Attacks on Planned Parenthood that are festooned liberally (pardon the pun) with outright lies and distortions are bullying. Tea Party mouth-breathers showing up at political rallies packing heat and beating up women with signs they don't agree with is bullying. Cops in military riot gear gut-stomping peaceful protesters for ruffling the delicate feathers of the Wall Street elite is bullying. The NDAA is bullying.
+17 # panhead49 2012-05-15 16:21
Weasels serve a purpose in the natural scheme of things. Politicians (of all parties)-not so much. Be nice to four legged weasels!!

I clearly remember my one and only attempt at being an asshat towards one of my fellow Jr. High Schoolers (and I'm darn near Mitt's age) - it bothers me to this very day.It didn't involve scissors or physical touching, just frying up an Alpo Burger and serving it as a real burger (of course now adays the Alpo burger would be more healthy than a real burger). Only someone pathologically bat crap crazy could honestly say the don't recall such torment as The Mittster inflicted.
+22 # goingeast2 2012-05-15 17:00
There is a huge difference between trying marijuana, which probably 80% of the adult population in this country has done once, and pinning a guy down, with the help of others, and cutting his hair against his will. Experimenting once or twice with Marijuana is a personal choice, and the consequences are felt only by the one person who has made that choice. What Romney did was bullying, plain and simple. He chose to hurt someone else. That says something about a person's character. The traits which make a person capable of bullying are not traits we need or want in the President of our country. Romney has continued his bullying through Bain Capital, and he's counting on people being ignorant and so closed-minded that they won't do any honest research on it.
+26 # fredboy 2012-05-15 17:04
And here is the ultimate test: Go to the mall with friends and gang attack a stranger, tackle them, hold them down, then slice most of their hair off with scissors--and see if the cops call it a "prank."
-16 # Martintfre 2012-05-16 09:23
Quoting fredboy:
And here is the ultimate test: Go to the mall with friends and gang attack a stranger, tackle them, hold them down, then slice most of their hair off with scissors--and see if the cops call it a "prank."

Or hey try this one,
you and your gang randomly grab a stranger kick the living crap out of them and say Trever martin -- like that gives you a free pass for thuggery.
+19 # rblee 2012-05-15 20:23
Yes, lay off the weasels, please. What Romney is is spelled C-0-R-P-O-R-A-T -E S-O-C-I-O-P-A-T -H. He almost makes Bush look sympathetic. Almost.
+18 # angelfish 2012-05-15 21:44
Anyone who takes Mr. Romney for a SERIOUS Candidate for the Office of President of the United States of America is SERIOUSLY mentally deficient. He continues to say and do what is EXPEDIENT rather than what is True and Factual in pleading his reasons for deserving the Trust and Faith of the American People. Time and time again he changes his opinions and FOLLOWS others rather than Leads. He is, after all is said and done, a JOKE. ...and a SICK one, at that! A vote for Romney is another nail in the coffin that the Far Right-Wing Nazi/Fascists are trying to stuff us ALL into! Vote for Sanity and Reason in November! Vote for President Barak Obama! The People, UNITED will NEVER be defeated!
+7 # Regina 2012-05-16 13:31
Angelfish: You're on to the real problem. The Republican Party and its Tea appendage are being led by a cabal, including Rove and Cheney, who want just a compliant front-man whom they can manipulate for their purposes and sell to the public with their Fox-like sloganeering. Dubya was that kind of stooge; Romney makes Dubya look like a leader by comparison. Mitt-boy just shifts his shapes to fit his manipulators' demands.
+8 # IThinkErgo 2012-05-16 03:10
The difference between Obama's using drugs and Romney's bullying is that the former hurt no one but himself, while the latter hurt an innocent person. That's a big difference in my opinion.
+2 # amye 2012-05-16 05:52
He's a loser! Will say anything to get elected! Just like Obama, but Romney is far worse in my book! They are both empty suits beholden to our oligarchy Wall Street! Don't trust or vote for those obstructionist Republicans!! Enough said!
+10 # 2lilluc 2012-05-16 07:29
The only thing we have any control of in this life is our own actions. That said, I wouldn't trust Mitt Romney as far as I could throw him and that would not be far!His actions speak for the man he is.
+14 # dfvboulder 2012-05-16 07:31
Romney has thrown up such a cloud of BS, that one thing gets lost in the confusion: His story that he doesn't remember the haircutting incident is just an outright LIE.

It's not hedging, it's not weaseling, it's not spinning, it's not flip-flopping.. .it's a plain LIE.

No one "forgets" such a thing. None of the other participants forgot it. It's just not remotely plausible that Romney forgot it.

He needs to be confronted on this.
+12 # mjc 2012-05-16 09:25
As most have posted here, Romney is very obviously the flim-flan man, can't nail anything to his hide..,ah, record. Any accomplishments he might have had, get lost in the squirm he has to do to erase or blur the past leading up to those accomplishments . He should be proud of Massachusetts' health care law and the role he played in bringing it about as governor, but big-brother Republicans can't tolerate any indication of their nominee bending to public needs. Agree wholeheartedly with his nasty amnesia about cutting a fellow student's hair and stupidity about no one knowing about gays in the 1960s. He will defeat himself as the next president of these United States.

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