Watters: What can we hold against Romney?

Arabella Watters

I admit that I probably wasn’t at my best during the formative years of high school. My moodiness and general dislike of anything that infringed upon my autonomy (curfews, a lack of car) made sure of that. In my personal opinion, anybody who peaks in high school has a very long road ahead of them. Those four years left much to be desired; I, for one, was not a fan of the social hierarchies, the cliques, the academic pressure and the identity crises that were ubiquitous after the age of 14. That being said, I find it incredibly interesting the media is sensationalizing an incident involving presidential candidate Mitt Romney acting less than humane when he attended high school in 1965. In this election, every bump in the road has the possibility to be a fiery controversy, a drama of epic proportions, a reason to deny your vote to one candidate or another. It seems appropriate that this incident has become a big deal, because this election itself seems to be characterized by the belaboring of personal issues as if both candidates were, in fact, still in high school. This particular incident, in which a young Romney bullied homosexual students at his private preparatory school, Cranbrook School, came to light at an especially inopportune moment, not that there is ever a really good time to expose a past of bigoted bullying. Obama announced last week to the American public that he would be taking a pro-gay marriage stance. Despite any scruples I have with Obama, I have to say I was triumphant when I heard that he was supporting same-sex marriage explicitly instead of dancing around the issue in the usual political fashion. For Romney to be revealed having homophobic behavior in his back pocket at the same time his rival is touting his tolerance and liberalism only makes Romney look like more of a villain. Further, this information just serves to polarize the two candidates even more. Romney’s alleged bullying complemented the statement he gave reiterating that he was against same-sex marriage. I know I’m not in any position to attack the entire campaign system, but I wonder if anybody else notices the ridiculousness of digging so deep into the candidates’ closets for skeletons. It would be one thing if the dirt that was being dug up was relevant personal or political information from the last 10 years, but going back to their high school years seems a little bit of a stretch. I’m not defending Romney’s homophobic behavior as a kid – it disturbs me greatly – but it just makes me wonder: Should every political candidate get a thorough background check into elementary school? I must not have gotten the memo, but I didn’t realize that trivial, idiotic behavior of adolescents was really something weighty enough to be considered in a presidential campaign. These two men aren’t running for some small, local election, and they definitely are no longer teenagers; this is a battle for the leadership of our country, and, apparently, it’s no-holds-barred. Don’t get me wrong. I’m disgusted by the allegations that Romney bullied children for being gay, especially with the tragedies of the recent suicides of gay students both in Minnesota (Jay ”Corey” Jones) and Utah (Jack Denton Reese). It is even more horrific that, while he issued a weak apology, Romney also claimed not to remember the allegations. One of his spokeswomen talked to the Washington Post, saying, “The stories of 50 years ago seem exaggerated and off base, and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.” I don’t think that issues so far in the past should be consequential for an election of this caliber, but I also don’t believe that Romney doesn’t remember his behavior. His convenient political amnesia doesn’t fool me for a second. This latest scandal brings about incredibly probing comparisons. About five years ago, Obama published in his intimate memoir “Dreams of My Father” detailed descriptions of his use of cocaine and marijuana during his adolescence. People held their breath about whether these disclosures would harm Obama’s election chances; obviously, they didn’t. Quite honestly, it doesn’t perturb me that Obama used cocaine as a teenager. Although I don’t agree with him all the time as a politician, he has obviously grown into a competent, intelligent and responsible man. I wouldn’t want someone to dig up all my dirty secrets 50 years from now and air them out to the public. It’s a hard conundrum to be in as a voter. Romney is far removed from his actions years and years ago, but I still don’t really appreciate that element of his character and I wonder if people can ever really change. Do I want a bully as a president? Would those elements of his personality come to light if he were to be elected? Furthermore, it makes me think about how far a candidate’s character should swing my vote. Romney’s apparent lack of empathy is a little bit hard to come to terms with. It’s extremely difficult to remain completely politically objective, and I don’t believe that I can keep my personal judgments about morality out of my vote. I urge Romney to apologize, not for myself as a voter, but because in this century, there really is no other option. Arabella Watters is a Medill freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]