Mister Willard: Hair Stylist to the Elite
Stop me if this sounds familiar (although I won't stop even if it does):
Uptight, right wing douchebag with a well-connected father in politics, a failed athlete and cheerleader, assaults fellow students at an elite school with complete and utter impunity then, decades later, denies any recollection whatsoever of the incident.
If it sounds like Gary Trudeau's recollections of George W. Bush, you'd be wrong. It's the WaPo's expose of Willard's time at Cranbrook, Michigan's most elite prep school.
According to five of Willard's classmates (including a dentist, two attorneys and a principal who'd later become a county chair for the Michigan GOP) at the time,
John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.
A few days later, 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 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... The incident transpired in a flash, and Friedemann said Romney then led his cheering schoolmates back to his bay-windowed room in Stevens Hall.
Predictably, the selectively amnesiac Romney campaign is circling the wagons and refusing to address the issue as if it's currently under litigation. Romney himself claims not to remember the vicious attack (and perhaps he doesn't. Do you honestly believe that Willard remembers the name of every US worker he ever threw out in the street?). However,
His campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said in a statement that “anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body. The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
Campaign officials denied a request for an interview with Romney. They also declined to comment further about his years at Cranbrook.
Well, Romney's canned apologies for any pranks "that went too far" fell on the deaf ears of Mr. Lauber, who passed away eight years ago. And Willard not having "a mean-spirited bone in his body" is pretty much belied by the Seamus incident, a classic case of animal cruelty that you commonly see on Animal Planet, one for which one could and should be imprisoned and fined. But if you're Willard Romney, you can get away with that. At the time of this incident in which Willard briefly and brutally (and, ironically) pursued a career as a hair stylist, his Daddy was the Governor of Michigan. All the same, because he was the crème de la crème de la crème, surely the political fallout and being the son of a powerful public figure would've necessarily involved comeuppance?
Friedemann, guilt ridden, made a point of not talking about it with his friend and waited to see what form of discipline would befall Romney at the famously strict institution. Nothing happened.
Posterity similarly fails to record any comeuppance when the son of George Herbert Walker Bush burned red hot coat hangers into the flesh of his classmates, burns that Bush fils had compared to a mere cigarette burn (an altogether humane way of showing fraternal love and affection since a lit cigarette burns at 1112° F.).
Romney's own brushing off of the incident, given (naturally, in a hastily-scheduled phone interview mere hours after the WaPo publishing the article) to Fox and Brian Kilmeade, is suspiciously but typically bereft of remorse:
“I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.”
No, that was precisely the point. Other classmates remember when Lauber would stand up to speak in class, Romney would shout, "Atta girl!" (Note to you, asshole: They're no longer called "homosexual" but "gay." If you insist on calling gays homosexuals, then we reserve the right to call your Marvel Comics "religion" a cult.)
Romney's attitude toward Mr. Lauber, who was openly gay, reveals many things that went to form the ruthless and sociopathic businessman he'd decades later become: Lack of humanity and compassion, combined with an absolute and complete absence of restraint or self control, created one of the first of many, many victims of the actions of Willard Romney, a psychopath who still laughs about his cruelty, refuses to recognize it as cruelty and didn't stick around long enough to see the damage, to hear the postscript.
And it is this:
The victim of Mitt "He With Impunity" Romney, John Lauber of South Bend, Indiana, was subsequently expelled from Cranbrook for smoking a cigarette. It was as if he'd never recovered. He led an aimless, drifting existence that nonetheless led him into public service of some sort. Long after Willard dodged the Vietnam draft by claiming Mormon missionary status and cycling through France while living in a palace fit for a king, Lauber served food to civilian contractors in war zones such as Bosnia and Iraq, automatically making him more conversant about the effects of war than a coddled, pampered right wing coward like Mitt Romney will ever be.
40 years after Romney's triumphant graduation from Cranbrook, the Governor of Massachusetts was invited 40 years later to a triumphant return. Lauber had died young in a Seattle hospital the year before, completely forgotten and permanently so were it not for the Washington Post's article. Decades after the incident, Lauber's former classmate, GOP country chair John Seed, saw him at an airport. He mentioned the incident.
“Hey, you’re John Lauber,” Seed recalled saying at the start of a brief conversation. Seed, also among those who witnessed the Romney-led incident, had gone on to a career as a teacher and principal. Now he had something to get off his chest.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to help in the situation,” he said.
Lauber paused, then responded, “It was horrible.” He went on to explain how frightened he was during the incident, and acknowledged to Seed, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”
It's a lifelong reaction, a trauma, actually, that Mitt Romney and sociopathic scum like him don't even recognize much less feel remorse for. It's absolutely indistinguishable from the bullying that today is the rightful target of so much intolerance, bullying of gay students that is now an offense punishable by stiff fines and even stiffer jail time. Just because Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, it does not mean we should sweep this under the rug and pretend it didn't happen or, like Romney, downgrade it to a mere harmless prank. If anything, this deserves to become as viral and undying as the Seamus incident and to paint an even more complete picture of the monster that is Willard Romney.