The Campaign Spot

New Bright Shiny Object Enters Presidential Campaign Debate

It’s entirely possible that it’s a coincidence that the Washington Post has a long story on a teenage Mitt Romney bullying and cutting the hair of a classmate who was believed to be gay, the day after Barack Obama announces his support for gay marriage.

But it is a fascinatingly convenient coincidence for the Obama campaign.

Romney said he does not recall the 1965 incident; the article states of the Romney classmates who were sources for the story:

Four of them — [Matthew] 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 named. 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.

The bullying victim in the story died in 2004.

UPDATE: I notice from the description above, it is unclear if any of the sources are admitting information against interest, i.e., they are Romney supporters who would like to see him elected, but feel the voters should know this (alleged) story from Romney’s past anyway. Seed is mentioned as a former GOP county chairman in Michigan (no date is given, and my cursory Internet search cannot find any corroboration of that); his current registration as an independent suggests a break with the party at some point.

Are they lying? It’s doubtful that they’re making this up out of whole cloth, although it is fascinating that an alleged assault, with many witnesses, generated no reports to authority or discipline at a school where smoking a cigarette is sufficient to get a student thrown out of school. If the victim’s hair was such a topic of attention and conversation, it is impossible no one noticed his hair had been cut. Is it possible that the Post sources’ memory of events 47 years ago is not perfectly reliable, and that they paint a more vivid or cruel portrait of Romney than actually occurred? Oh, all of the men said their politics didn’t color their recollection. Strange that they decide to talk about this event now, instead of during Romney’s 1994 campaign for Senate or 2002 campaign for governor or 2008 campaign for president.

The fact that we see this all-out inspection of Romney’s teen years, with almost nothing equivalent four years ago, undoubtedly explains why “#ObamaTeenYears” is trending on Twitter. After all, this event occurred roughly two to four years before Barack Obama ate a dog, and about a decade before young Barack Obama used cocaine. If those events of youth are considered irrelevant to evaluating the presidential choice before Americans, it’s unclear why a scene out of Dead Poets Society should warrant such extensive coverage from the Post.

Note that the article does not appear in the print edition of today’s Washington Post — which raises the question of whether the Post thinks its coverage of a 47-year-old incident deserves page A1 or the front page of the Style section tomorrow.

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