Mitt Romney: Teenage Prankster or Violent Bully?

Should high school bullying be an issue in a presidential campaign?

Bullying is a very hot topic among parents right now, but who knew it would creep its way into the 2012 presidential campaign? Recent reports have surfaced about a troubling episode in which a very young Mitt Romney rounded up a bunch of friends to go after a student, who many assumed was gay, and rough him up. But should we care about decades after the fact?

According to the original Washington Post story, high school senior Romney was furious that fellow student John Lauber had grown his hair long and bleached it blonde, something Romney felt was an offense to the school's reputation, exclaiming at the time, "He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”

The account goes on:

"A few days later, [Romney's friend Matthew] Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut [John] Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors."

We all have high school moments and mistakes we'd rather forget and hope that people won't hold against us for the rest of our lives. So is it fair game to take this story into account as we decide whether we want four more years of President Obama or if we want Romney in the White House? One aspect of this episode that is relevant today is this -- Romney claims he has no recollection of the incident, even though various first-hand witnesses, all interviewed separately, have vivid memories of the GOP presidential candidate's actions.  One analyst has gone so far as to call challenge Romney's characterization of the "prank," saying it was really an assault.

Why not just be honest? Why doesn't Romney come clean in light of so many first-hand accounts and say he made a horrible mistake as a high school kid? If his statement is true, either his memory is shot or he bullied so many kids that one of many incidents didn't stick in his mind. Neither of those possibilities showcases good qualities in a future president.

One question that will surely come back around is how kids who are paying attention to the campaign and the candidates will react to the possibility that the next president of the United States was so upset about the presence of someone different from himself that he had to pin them down and cut off their hair. If that happened in anyone's school today, we all know there would be zero tolerance and serious consequences.

Maybe someone needs to stage an "It Gets Better" intervention for Mitt to bring him up to speed on how people in 2012 feel about the difference between pranks and bullying?

You can read more from iVillage iVote Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of the Amazon bestseller Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. Follow her on Twitter @PunditMom and Facebook!

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