Last week a Washington Post article about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s years as a student at the exclusive Cranbrook prep school near Detroit in the 1960s drew a lot of attention– particularly to some reported incidents of bullying and cruel behavior in which Romney was involved.
In one incident, Romney is alleged by former classmates to have joined in a posse of students that attacked, held down and cut the hair of a non-conformist student with long, bleached-blond hair.
The victim later came out as gay, although Romney now says he had no idea of his sexual orientation.
Another time, a then-closeted gay student said, Romney shouted “Atta girl!” at him in class.
In another “prank,” former classmates say that Romney held open a door for an English teacher with diminished eyesight, but then allowed him to walk into a closed door and “giggled hysterically.”
After The Post article appeared, Romney apologized, after a fashion.
“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,” Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”
OK, in one sense, fair enough. Who among us can look back at our teenage years without cringing at some of the cruel and nasty things we said and did? The best we can do is feel sorry about it and, if possible, apologize to the victims– although I’d like to think that even back then I would have regarded what Romney did as going too far.
But it seems Romney has carried his love of pranks and practical jokes into adulthood. In an effort to counter his “stiff” image, Romney’s wife Ann said:
“I still look at him as the boy that I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes and really just being crazy, pretty crazy,” she said. “There’s a wild and crazy man inside of there.”
In an interview on Saturday, Romney described a prank he pulled on a state trooper who had short-sheeted the then-Massachusetts governor’s hotel room bed.
“And the next morning when I came down to breakfast, he of course had a big smile, because he was going to see how I reacted,” Romney said. “I pretended not to notice.”
The candidate describes having a letter typed on hotel stationery, “saying we are so sorry that your bed was improperly made, Mr. Romney, and we have fired the maid who did it.”
A staffer showed the letter to the trooper, Romney said, whose boss insisted the trooper call the hotel to explain the maid’s innocence.
“He got on the phone all red-faced, and then finally, of course when the manager had no idea what he was talking about, he realized the joke was on him,” Romney recounted. “So, we play tricks even with the people I work with.”
Har har. Or rather, not. I mean, it’s nice that the state trooper felt comfortable enough with Romney to short-sheet his bed. But allowing the trooper to believe– even for a short time– that he was responsible for the maid losing her job doesn’t strike me as funny at all. In fact it’s about as humorous as the story of the band in Michigan playing “On Wisconsin.”
Couldn’t Romney have pulled the ol’ bucket of water on the head prank instead?
Now that’s funny.