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Romney's bullying regret?

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Mitt Romney's high school behaviour has come under scrutiny after reports suggested that he was a bully [AFP]by Alan Fisher

Now most of us would not like to be judged as adults by how we behaved in high school. There are moments many of us would choose to forget.

However, for some, those moments are still seared into the memory, an instant replay to make us feel awkward, uncomfortable or sad.

Mitt Romney is now facing allegations about his high school behaviour; how he would shout out 'atta girl' when a 'closeted gay student' answered in class, or how he walked a blind teacher into a door, 'laughing hysterically' at the outcome according to the Washington Post.

But then there is also an alleged attack on John Lauber.

According to the Post, Romney was incensed when Lauber turned up one day with dyed blonde hair.

A group, led by Romney, is then said to have pinned him to the ground.

Despite the screams for help and the tears in his eyes, Romney then cut his hair with a pair of scissors.

Some of the boys involved described the victim as 'terrified', another told the newspaper it was 'vicious'.

The Republican Presidential candidate has spent the last few days defending himself from allegations of bullying.

He insisted he couldn't remember the incident, although for many of those involved, it is something that remains very vivid even 40 years later.

This is what he told Fox Radio: "Back in high school, you know, I, I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologise.

"I participated in a lot of hi-jinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for that, I apologise." He chuckled a little as he answered.

First of all let me declare, I loathe practical jokes.  I believe there is something inherently cruel in humour which seeks out a victim to be funny.

However, there is clearly a misunderstanding between hi-jinks of teenage boys and something which inflicts physical harm on another.

There is also something disconcerting about Romney’s statement that he cannot remember the moment.

He has been a busy man. He ran a company which made him millions, he was the governor of a state, he ran the Winter Olympics, he married, had five boys, and he unsuccessfully ran for president four years ago and worked hard to secure the Republican nomination this time around.

There’s been a lot going on in his life. However it's hard to believe such a moment, which had such an impact on another human being, would somehow melt into the past.

It's hard to believe he cannot picture the face of a terrified young boy who was screaming for help. One commentator asked if there had been so many other incidents they simply became too many to recall.

To chuckle when asked about the incident seems to underline the lack of understanding of the hurt caused.

Romney could have taken the moment to talk about bullying, and the impact it has on lives.

A recent poll suggested 77 per cent of Americans believed bullying to be a serious problem and adults should "try to stop it whenever possible". This was an opportunity missed.

We are not the people we were in high school. And for that I am grateful. 

Kids do stupid things. And if we were to bar politicians from office on the basis of the things they did when they were younger, there would be very few people around to run the country.

Romney has been capable of great charity and great change and I'm sure as a grandfather he is not the same person that led the assault on a terrified young man.

Perhaps he now has the capacity to acknowledge he did wrong and properly address the mistake he made.


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