I Am Mitt Romney


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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110 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I’m going with the bird in hand that’s already been saved on my desktop.

    Can I do a guest post about the proper use of metaphors?Report

  2. Romney obviously has a little man complex he’s been trying to make up for all of his life from bullying classmates to his enjoyment of firing people after gutting their companies. His Magic Mormon Underwear can’t protect him from the press but can they make enough cash rain down to win the election? See for yourself the power of these mysterious garments at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/05/mitt-romneys-magic-mormon-underwear.htmlReport

  3. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    The problem isn’t that Mitt Romney was an asshole when he was 16. The problem is, that he seems to have no regrets about being an asshole when he was 16.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      I want him to have this second chance, because I cannot bear the thought of not having it myself.

      I’ll give Romney a pass when he publishes an essay like yours, Tod.Report

  4. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    I think all these “were’a all Mitt Romneys, so let’s be more charitable towards him” posts are missing the point. Mitt Romney would never have penned a reflection like this. Mitt Romney would rather say he didn’t remember that he ever bullied anyway, but if something did happen, it’s not because the guy is gay, and hey, sorry if anyone is offended! etc etc. So, no, we’re not all Mitt Romneys.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Great post Tod (and no worries about smiliarities – these are indeed the lifeblood of the League).

    I was like you. I had moments where I was picked on and moments where I was mean to others. I had moments where I stood up to bullies and moments where I sat silently.

    There are some who claim to have always been on the side of right or claim to have always been on the receiving end of abuse. That weird to me. The reality of it is that most of us were usually somewhere in the middle. Humans are complicated.

    And for the record – No, I don’t think anyone other than Mike Schilling read the post.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      So that’s the point – that everyone has been a bully, and been bullied. Fair enough, that would be relevant if we know that Romney in fact had been bullied.

      And for the record, just because people don’t read a piece the way you want them to read it, doesn’t mean they didn’t actually read it.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

        And by the first “read”, I mean take from it the lesson you want them to take.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

        I can’t speak for Tod but I know I am frustrated that certain people are complaining his apology was a non-apology as if they have something in mind that he should have said. The reality of partisanship is that nothing he says would change people’s pre-conceived notions about him. But his opponents dangle an imaginary brass ring out there as if he could win their approval by grabbing it with just the right amount of contrition.

        The truth is that they want to see him grovel and then they will say, “He apologized but once a bully, always a bully.”

        It’s a silly partisan game.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Regret and apology should not be predicated on what you think your political opponent will or will not do. If your reason for not apologizing is because you think your opponent won’t give you the credit for apologizing anyway, then yeah … that doesn’t really say good things about you.

          It’s like that guy saying he doesn’t see the point being against racism or against misogyny because as a conservative, he won’t get the credit anyway. It’s not about getting credit or winning anyone’s approval.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

            Winning approval is exactly what it is about. The person he bullied is dead. What other reason would there be to express sorrow? Or better yet, what if he expressed deep sorrow but in private? Would that satisfy you?Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Culpability ends when the person we wronged is dead? Even if we never acknowledged any wrongdoing or apologized, or even remember what we did, before he died?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

                If it doesn’t end, then who is the culpability owed to? I mean, there has to be some kind of act of contrition…but to whom and in what forum? What if Romney’s wife said that they discussed it in private and she’s satisfied with what he said? Would that be enough for you? Or do you need your pound of flesh in public?

                And that’s the whole point. The Left is demanding a more sincere apology but to whom should it be directed? His family sure sounds like they don’t want it. Then who?Report

            • Avatar concernMolerus in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              What other reasons? Maybe because you actually *feel* sorrow? Your thumbnail fits, Mr. Dwyer.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to concernMolerus says:

                People can feel sorrow in private. The Left is demanding something more public. I’m curious as to what goal that serves other than shaming?Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                His contrition has to be public because he’s asking to public to judge his character by running for public office.

                If he were to withdraw from the race, his character would no longer be the business of anyone who didn’t know him personally. But as long as he’s asking for my vote, asking me to trust him with the powers of the President, then his character is my business.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Fnord says:


                So what if the guy was still alive and they spoke in private and then he released a statement with no details but said he and Romney were all good? Would that satisfy you?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


                I’m with FNord, Sonmi, Jesse, etc. on this. And the answer, for me, is that, yes, it would satisfy me.

                The problem isn’t just that Romney hasn’t sincerely apologized; but that he hasn’t demonstrated that the incident bothers him at all. He hasn’t even demonstrated that he sees it as having been a serious event. It’s nothing to him, and that tells us something about what kind of person he is.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I think his ‘lack of contrition’ is a lot of people reading too much into his body language, etc. Or wanting to believe terrible things about him. My wife (a registered Independent) doesn’t follow politics. I read Romney’s statement to her with the ‘if’ language (“If anyone was hurt by me actions…”) She seemed to think it sounded fine and to find a problem with it is to really nitpick about nuanaces in the language.

                My kids have a terrible habit of laughing when Ifuss at them for making a mess somewhere in the house. It’s a nervous thing they do because they know they are in trouble. I suspect Romney feels the same way….OR he knows more about the incident and the events leading up to it, etc and maybe he thinks this isn’t what other people are making it out to be.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Mike, I’m not just saying this about Romney. The “If anybody was offended” non-apology is ubiquitous in our narcissistic culture, and I criticize it frequently. It’s a way of trying to end criticism for an action one has taken without taking responsibility for the action itself. It says a lot about the person, regardless of whether they are a politician or just some guy down at the office.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


                I disagree completely on that. Any good marriage counselor will tell you that sometimes your partner will be hurt by your actions and that hurt may be irrational at times. The way you handle it is to say, “I understand that what I did hurt you and for that I am sorry.” It’s not an admission of guilt. It’s an admission that someone else perceived your actions as hurtful and to them that hurt is real.

                That’s what is gonig on with Romney here. He may not believe what he did was anything more than a prank. He not understand how it could have hurt the guy. He can’t ask him because the guy is dead. So… in light of that his remarks are actually pretty understandable. He is acknowledging that someone might have been hurt and if so, he is sorry.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Mike, the apology you just gave an example of is vastly different than Romney’s. “What I did hurt you” as opposed to “If anyone was hurt.”. As with all diplomacy, those nuances matter tremendously. The former is taking responsibility, so it’ good.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                P.S. How do you think a marriage counselor or your wife would react if you said, “If you were hurt I would apologize.” That doesn’t sound like a path to marital bliss to me.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                “I think his ‘lack of contrition’ is a lot of people reading too much into his body language, etc.”

                Luckily humans have more than one way to communicate, Mike. When a person’s behavior and words contridict each other you would be wise to listen to what their behavior is telling you. For example, you ask someone you know how they are and they tell you they are fine, but their shoulders are slumped forward, their tone is low and their facial expression tells you they are sadder than a wet dog, you know they are not fine.

                I have a hard time believing that if you really wronged your wife and came back to her with Romney’s apology that she would buy it. And Romney is a politician! He should be able to control his behavior well enough to fool the general public for goodness sake. Since he didn’t, I am inclined to read into more than just his words. Everything about the apology works together to tell you he is not genuine.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Fnord says:

                Mike D –

                You’re probably right, but I think that that is illustrative of his inadequacy as a candidate. Had it been a more emotionally astute candidate, like Clinton, or George W, there would have be a display of contrition, and deep regret. Not because that’s what they necessarily feel, but because it’s what the occasion demands–the thing that will most quickly and effectively put the issue behind them.

                Romney just doesn’t seem to have these instincts. He doesn’t seem to have much sense for people at all. And that is the mark of a good leader: they can read people, negotiate, empathize, persuade. I cannot see Romney doing any of those things well: if Romney is elected, our best case is that we suffer through another “placeholder” president while waiting for our Lincoln.

                For the last 40 years (say, since the last half of the Johnson Administration) America has had a politics and a presidency that has been increasingly untethered from the political needs and tenor of the times. We have been seeing profound economic and social changes (the residue of civil rights, gay rights, feminism, reliable birth control, the end of American economic hegemony, the increasing freedom of global capital and global corporations). And we still have not evolved the political structures and mores to respond to them.

                I suspect that we won’t really address these issues unless we fall into full-blown crisis–but that’s a dangerous path, as likely to produce a Hitler as an FDR. But one thing I’m sure of? Romney would not be the guy. He’s just too much in his own head, and outside of the swim of humanity.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

                You’ll get no argument from me that Romney is a terrible candidate overall. I just happen to cut him some slack on how he handled this issue.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The Left is demanding something more public. I’m curious as to what goal that serves other than shaming?

                I’m not sure the left is demanding anything other than that people recognize and admit he never exhibited any contrition. They don’t want another apology, if that’s what you’re getting at. They want this one to be recognized for what it is. Or what it wasn’t, really.

                But I agree that there’s some shaming going on here. It’s politics, no?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                So we should just assume he does feel sorrow in private, because, why exactly?? He’s runnig for office, it’s not our responsibility to always assume the best of him when he reacted to something in a shitty way in public. What’s the basic assumption here? “Oh, he’s just lying/pretending in public, in private, he’s actually thinking, feeling and doing the right thing. What the heck kinda screwed up politics is that?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:


                I think Romney’s public statement is meant to give less ammo to his opposition (who aren’t ever going to accept anything he says as sincere anyhow). But I think it’s also conceivable that in private he feels more regret and sorrow.

                Think about this website, for example. How many times have we seen people hang on to a line of attack or a discredited position long after it was prudent, simply to save face? Or when someone makes a valid criticism of their position they dance their way out of a full admission that the other person is correct so as to not appear to have been bested in a debate? It happens all of the time. But I will also bet $100 that many of them are sitting behind their computer privately acknowledging that they loss the conversation.

                You seem to be implying that we should only accept the public expressions of a person and never guess that in private there is more nuance to their position. That strikes me as being a very shallow way to view the world.Report

              • Avatar Johanna in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I don’t think it is unreasonable to accept public expressions barring evidence to the contrary. I admit, I didn’t have much of an opinion on Romney personally. I know a bit about his policies but I didn’t think about who he is as a person. My reaction to his interview and the apology was one that made me quite uncomfortable. Romney’s body and verbal language gave the impression that he did not genuinely carry remorse for the incident. If I give him the benefit doubt, his reaction is telling that if in private he actually feels differently, he is evidently more interested in acting the politician over an opportunity of showing genuine compassion. I’m not sure that shows him in a positive light either way.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


                Well of course he is acting on some level. He’s a politician.Report

              • Avatar Johanna in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Unfortunately for him he seems clueless about what role he needs to be playing.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          You know what annoys me? People writing tehse beautiful, heartfelt reflection about their own experience as a bully, and their feelings of shame and regret, but not acknowledging that the very fact that they write these things, and feel they way they do, means that their expericence is in fact not similar to Romney’s, and can’t really be used as an example of why we shouldn’t judge Romney too harshly. It’s not silly partisan games to point out that in fact Romney hasn’t done what the people writing these things to – confront their past, honestly and squarely.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to sonmi451 says:

            In other words, “bullies are horrible bastards and always will be!…um, present company excepted, of course”.Report

            • Avatar Wonkie in reply to DensityDuck says:

              I don’t think that is a fair paraphrase.

              When I first heard about Romney’s bullying incident I thought about whether or not an incident from one’s teen years should count decades later and my conclusion is: yes, if the same pattern is manifesting itself, and no, if the person seems to have changed fundamentally.

              Romney grew up to be a man who liked firing people; who drove all day long with a dog on top of his car, a dog that was so scared he pooped all over (which Romney’s son thought was funny); and who will say anything, including taking credit for actions he opposed.

              I’m not convinced he has changed in a fundamental way.Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Do you think Romney feels even the slightest twinge of culpability or regret for his actions?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Liberty60 says:

            I dont pretend to know anyone’s heart like that. It strikes me as arrogant for anyone to suggest they do.Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Isn’t that why we have these things called “words”? To express our thoughts about what is in our heart?
              Further, we have inventions that actually record and play back these “words” and communicate them to others.

              A pity Mitt hasn’t made use of these marvelous newfangled things.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Liberty60 says:

                Words are approximations of thoughts, Lib6o. Problem.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Liberty60 says:

                So let’s say Romney issues a masterfully worded apology and it is recorded with inventions you are talking about for your listening pleasure. Question: Would you believe he was telling the truth?Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Me personally? Probably not, since I am convinced he is a pathological liar, even by Presidential political standards- and by God, thats a high bar to clear.

                But as a political organizer and member of The Left, I would cable Soros HQ and advise my fellow leftists that, by parrying with a halfway plausible apology, Romney has outflanked us in the battle of public opinion and we should move on to other things.

                But at this moment, it seems like he is retreating with only the most perfunctory and hapless resistance and offering an opening for us to win the battle of Who Is Mitt Romney.

                OK I am being a bit tongue in cheek here, but this is serious business.A Presidential candidate’s personal character is very much an issue, every bit as much as his ability to know who the President of Ubecki-Becki-stan is. And for the record, if he was accused of cheating with a White House intern I would say that was a valid issue as well.

                And also, I can imagine someone saying, “Well he sounds like a cold hearted SOB , but he still is better for America than the other guy.”

                But we should be able to argue the point.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          It’s a pretty simple question of grammar. Here’s what Romney said:

          But as to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, I did stupid things. … And if anyone was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that.


          If I hurt anyone I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.

          Both contain “if”, making it a question whether there was any wrongdoing. The first is passive, denying responsibility: if you, the victim, felt hurt, not if I hurt you. The second is actually counterfactual: it implies that no one was hurt, but that if anyone had been hurt, I’d make amends.

          Making a real apology would be quite simple:

          In high school days, I did some stupid things. … And obviously I apologize to anyone I harmed.

          See how easy?Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Mike Schilling says:


            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to DensityDuck says:

              If whichever way he reacts to the situation is going to get twisted anyway by liberals engaging in “silly partisan games”, why not just do the right thing, then? At least then he gets the satisfaction of knowing he’s done the right thing.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to sonmi451 says:

                Well, I can’t speak for Tod but I know I am frustrated that certain people are complaining his apology was a non-apology as if they have something in mind that he should have said.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

                as if they have something in mind that he should have said.

                I think you’re missing something here, DD, and I can’t tell if it’s on purpose or not. People actually do have something in mind that he should have said. A real apology. One expressing remorse. He didn’t do that.

                It’s not a partisan issue. And while it can be made into one, it can also be addressed on its own terms. I mean, the guy didn’t apologize. And there are disagreements about what conclusions to draw from that. But we can agree that he didn’t actually apologize, can’t we?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

                I suppose what everyone with the ‘non-apology apology’ criticism is looking for is something like Obama’s speech on race last cycle. Which was well thought out, well delivered, well received, and ultimately meaningless.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

                Isn’t there a reductio in there?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                No, just straight up analysis. It was a good speech, with good content, that didn’t do a dang thing about racism. Made everyone feel good for a while, though. So I guess that’s something.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

                I guess I’m thinking of it from another direction. If everything a politician says is inconsequential, has not effect on anything, then it doesn’t matter what they say. But clearly what Romney said or didn’t say here does have consequences.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                Not very many. He’s not going to President, after all.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

                No, not much. You’re right. Pretty small potatoes in the bigger scheme of things.

                But I do think stuff just like this is what requires politics to track culture. If this actually were bigger potatoes, then we’d see a real divide in how politicians have to present themselves. Romney has been able to present himself as a chameleon up to this point, and his non-apology apology is a non-issue issue for some folks. Aaaand the GOP base will still vote for him in any event. As they should.

                But stuff like what we’re talking about here will only become a bigger deal as the years go by. If the past/present is any indicator, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                I dunno, I’m not the biggest fan of the Oprahfication of the Presidency to begin with (a trend that started with the rise of mass media and the unique attributes of the 2nd Roosevelt – though the 1st Roosevelt had a lot of them too, and arguably was the one that kicked the whole trend off.)Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Stillwater says:

                I don’t think he has any real point. He’s responding to me by copying Mike’s response to me earlier in the thread, I guess to say I’m stupid or obtuse or something.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to sonmi451 says:

                Because what you’re doing is saying “he should have apologized!” and when people say “what do you mean by that?” you reply “I mean he should have APOLOGIZED!”

                So…like, different from what he actually did? Because I’m pretty sure that, by his lights, he gave as much apology and remorse as he found appropriate for something he didn’t remember that involved people he didn’t remember and it all happened forty years ago.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Exactly, he might be criticized for a few days, before the next once-in-a-century scoop comes along. I’d like to see him stand up to that, too.Report

    • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      There are some who claim to have always been on the side of right or claim to have always been on the receiving end of abuse. That weird to me. The reality of it is that most of us were usually somewhere in the middle.

      Yeah. The fat geeky kid in the D&D and chess clubs definitely spent lots of time bullying those lower on the social hierarchy than him. Oh. Wait. There wasn’t anyone lower than him.

      I’m sure “most of” you did swap levels in the hierarchy at some point. And you still probably think that had nothing to do with luck or random circumstance. “We all do it” is as much a non-pology as what Mitt said.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to NoPublic says:

        There is a presumption that those who are bullied don’t bully somebody else in turn. I wonder if that’s true. I’m certainly not seeing it: in fact, my irony meter is pegged red about now.Report

        • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          You think what I’m posting is “bullying”? You sheltered little flower. This might be insulting. Demeaning even. Bullying is not merely that. Much like the common misunderstanding of the word “censorship” I guess.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to NoPublic says:

            Mr. NoPublic, what you wrote triggered a thought, is all, that we “swap levels in the hierarchy at some point.”

            I do think there’s a narrative here about the bully and the bullied, and I question it. [It runs along the lines of victims having moral authority, another modern trope I question.]

            For the record, I got beat up every day on the way home from school in Philly. Then, fortunately, our house blew up and we moved to Levittown, the classic bourgeois American suburban dream, and which I still think of as heaven.

            Come to think of it, Dexter Sills beat me up every day for a year there. He is now dead. OD, or somebody shot him or something. The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.

            Did I ever bully anybody? I really think the answer is no—tellya the truth I’m too lazy if nothing else. Am I a better person than Mitt Romney? Or you? No, I don’t think so.Report

      • Avatar concernMolerus in reply to NoPublic says:

        I used to be bullied by a kid. But once I realized that he was actually being bullied by others, I put a stop to his bullying me by standing up to him. His dad was real mean to him, and he was poor, and ugly, and the other kids laughed at him, calling him an okie. Years later, we actually became friends, of sorts.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to NoPublic says:

        As the fat geeky kid in who played D&D, I call BS on that. There was a point when I bullied everyone I could. I hit my brother, I called my classmates imbeciles, and I once bitched out a substitute teacher so effectively that she never came back to the school again.

        I’ve since wised up and realized that just because others are mean to me doesn’t mean I should be mean to others, but I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a target of serious bullying who’s never been treated other people horribly.Report

  6. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I’m a little curious as to how you square your fear of forgiveness with giving someone a second chance at redemption. For that second chance to actually be a second chance, doesn’t it need to come from forgiveness? Don’t you need to actually bear responsibility for what’s been done, and have that forgiven, or at least acknowledged for the second chance to be meaningful?

    I’m a bit uneasy at the disconnect there…but I’ll explain why in a post.Report

    • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I can’t speak for Tod, but I think I understand the fear. If Nick ever told Tod that he forgave him, the guilt Tod feels now would just become expontentially worse. Tod said he may have continued his rant if Nick had done anything but cry. Tod likens his feelings to getting slapped in the face, but I imagine it would feel like a more significant wound. Tod knows that Nick is a nice person and Nick forgiving Tod would just highlight what an amazing person Nick really is. Tod must feel just horrible knowing that he did something so mean-spirited to such a great man. I suspect that even if Nick ever forgave Tod, he may not ever forgive himself.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Miss Mary says:

        So the second chance, the forgiveness that Tod extends to himself is built on a shaky foundation of burying that reality.

        …or maybe I’m being extremely uncharitable.Report

        • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I don’t see where Tod said he forgives himself. In fact, I feel like this post is evidence that he has not forgiven himself. I think Tod just moves forward in life because, well, what else are you going to do. He is no longer in touch with Nick so he moves through life trying not to think of the horrible things he has done in the past, too often anyway, and learns from his mistakes to become a better man. If he ever sees Nick again, he may just have to face his fear. He may ask for Nick’s forgiveness because Tod is a halfway decent human being and then what? What will Nick say? How will what Nick says make Tod feel?
          That’s scary.

          Again, I really should let Tod answer this, but I’m finding it hard to keep quiet. You can tell me that I am completely wrong and out of line any time, Tod.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Miss Mary says:

            I’m trying to tease out this meaning, too…

            I think you’re right.

            But I guess my discontinuity is the concept of a second chance divorced from forgiveness. I always think a second chance is predicated on forgiveness, or at least a sense of atonement. I don’t know.Report

            • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              I’m not sure.
              Perhaps the forgiveness Tod is suggesting Romney get from the general public is similar to the forgiveness he hopes to get here from his friends as the league. He just confessed to doing a mean, mean thing to an innocent boy in high school. Whether or not Romney really confessed with his “apology” is debatable, but it sounds like Tod just doesn’t feel comfortable judging Romney on this one incident (especially since it is impossible to know how Romney really feels in his heart about his own actions).

              Maybe second chances aren’t divorced from forgiveness, but there are two different things happening here. Romney needs to ask for forgiveness and a second chance from that boy in high school. He also needs to ask the general public to forgive him for youthful indiscretions and give him a chance to be their president.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Miss Mary says:

                As I said, I ran his apology by my wife and she found no fault. I also asked her what she would think if I hurt her and issued a similar statement. She said she would accept it.

                The key factor here might be that she knows me and is already inclined to believe I am a good person. Romney’s opponents don’t feel the same way so their interpretation is suspect at best.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Mike, what I find interesting about this discussion is that you’re unwilling to grant that James, or Mary, or lots of others, are making a fully general argument here that has nothing to do with politics. No, you keep insisting – by your rejection of their views on this – that the whole incident reduces to partisan politics on their part, an unwillingness to give Romney the benefit of the doubt (even tho their arguments are that his behavior precludes their giving him the benefit of the doubt).

                But what’s so interesting is that if, as seems to be the case, your view is that everyone with an anti-Romney view is being partisan, then how do you justify the claim that you’re not being partisan by defending him? The argument structure you’re employing here eliminates the possibility that anyone could support or condemn Romney for objective, non-partisan reasons.

                Which strikes me as a little bit crazy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well I know it’s not partisanship because:

                A) I don’t support Romney

                B) I would be saying the same thing if it was Obama.

                Of course you would have to take my word for that and maybe my statement of non-partisanship isn’t persuasive enough and it could be read as a non-statement. Right?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Do you think it’s partisanship on the part of Romney’s critics? And if not partisanship, then what’s causing everyone else to go so far off the rails?

                I mean, just a few comments upthread from here, you said Romney ‘confessed’ to doing something in highschool and he apologized for it. But that seems to me to be factually incorrect. He didn’t confess; he was accused. And once accused he denied a memory of the incident and didn’t apologize for it. How are we disagreeing so radically on the basic facts in play?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I think an unkind reading of his apology is yes, mostly about partisanship. But that is just my opinion. I’m certainly not demanding an admission from the people doing it.

                And if I said he confessed, that was my mistake. He says he doesn’t remember it. While that seems ludicrous to me as a 37 year-old, my in in-laws are the same age of Romney and they have forgotten about entire vacations that they took 30 years ago. Stranger things have happened.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                “I think an unkind reading of his apology is yes, mostly about partisanship.”

                Mike can’t possibly know if I am a Romney supporter or not. He and I don’t know each other and I rarely discuss politics here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                “Mike can’t possibly know if I am a Romney supporter or not. He and I don’t know each other and I rarely discuss politics here.”

                Ah – but can’t I make an educated guess based on my personal experience with the way people interpret political statements? Can’t I safely assume partisanship in your statements? And if so, can’t we then determine if harm was committed?Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                You can guess and assume all you want, but that does not usually turn out well. You have way less to go on here than people who are reading Romney, so it’s really not the same thing. Someone could objectively analyze Romney’s behavior (past and present) and tell you whether or not he was being genuine in his apology. Drawing a parallel between how little you know about me and the massive amounts of information available on Romney doesn’t really work.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                So everything a politician says is a reflection of their true self?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                So everything a politician says is a reflection of their true self?

                According to the uncynical person: Yes!
                According to the cynical person: Yes!Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “Because here’s the secret about being a bully, the terrible, terrible truth I learned that day: It’s fun. No, that’s not quite right. It’s more than fun, much more. It delivers a kind of primal pleasure that taps directly into your body chemistry.”

    My students are at an age where meanness can bubble up in new ways. I don’t and won’t call it bullying because I think that word is too charged and throwm around too easily and doesn’t accurately capture what is going on. At 4 and 5, kids are interested in power in a really uniqe way. They are also aware of their impact on others in a new way. This leads to the meanness: how empowering to do something that makes someone cry. I work with them to find other ways to feel empowered and impact others in a positive way. It is only so successful. It is much easier to make somene cry than to smile. And a smile is far less satisfying than tears. What a damn shame.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s often (not always, and not everywhere, but often) true that the people doing the bullying don’t actually know that what they’re doing is bullying. They’re just playing, or just teasing, or just joking around. He didn’t say anything so I thought he was okay with it, I mean it’s not like I actually did anything to him, right? Besides, he started it.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Best case:

    Hey, Todd.

    No, I don’t forgive you. That was a really shitty thing, and if you’re still tortured by it, well good. You should be.

    But, you know why Newspaper was in such bad shape? It’s because I wasn’t tough enough on people (including lazy slackers like you.) I thought I could just be a nice guy, and people would be nice back, and everything would work out. But it doesn’t work that way. All that you get from being nice all the time is walked on. So, that summer, I did a lot of thinking about life, and I realized: being nice didn’t make people like me, and it sure didn’t get me anything else I wanted. So the hell with it.

    I’m not saying it was easy. I still had reflexes to smile and say “That’s OK” that I had to overcome. And finding the right balance between being firm and being an asshole wasn’t always clear. I still get that one wrong sometimes. But I’ve gotten a lot further in life than if I was still the same fucking doormat you felt so safe about shitting on.

    So, in a weird way, this is to say thanks.


    P.S. If I ever see you in person, I’m kicking your ass.Report

  9. Avatar Scott says:

    Clearly Tod isn’t qualified to be president either.Report

  10. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    The “bully revelation” for me was when, after a particularly bad session of it with the teacher in the room, I asked the teacher why she hadn’t done or said anything about the other kids making fun of my answers, my gait, my posture, the sci-fi book I’d carried into the room.

    “Well you didn’t say anything back,” she said, seeming a bit annoyed that I was even talking to her, “so I figured you didn’t mind.”

    Huh. And all this time I thought they cared. I thought that the reason they never stepped in and did anything was that they somehow didn’t know, that they were somehow not aware of what was happening, that if they got wind of it they’d put a stop to it. And I’d grown more and more frustrated as I waited for that to happen. Because, you know, the whole message is Fighting Is Wrong, if there’s a Problem you tell a Teacher, the people in charge are the source of all authority.

    And what I realized was that despite everything I’d been told, the teachers were not actually on my side. What they wanted was for all the little monkeys to not be punching each other. If I’d thrown a punch my ass would’ve been in the cooler, but other than that it was all just monkey chatter.

    And, surprisingly, this made things better. Because when you learn that you’re on your own, that’s freedom. Not having anyone to back you up is far better than someone saying “I’ll fight for you” and then not showing up.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

      You’ve been thoroughly obtuse all up and down this thread and the other one. But I’ll give credit where it’s due — this comment is exactly right.

      It was only when I just completely stopped caring about the loyalty or affection of my high school peers that things started to get better. I mean that. I might have had one or two good friends in my school, and the rest despised me. Cheerfully, I despised them back. I had made friends from other schools — somehow that worked for me — and I’d hang out with them in my free time instead.

      It was so much better that I can even go back to my yearbook pictures and see exactly where the change happened. In all of them I look frightened and sad, until suddenly I don’t.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I’m sorry you had a (several) shitty teacher(s). As a teacher myself, I wish I could say your experience epwasthe exception. I doubt it. Just know that not ALL teacherstake that tact. But too many do. And not in the “one is too many” way. A lot do. It is a real problem. And it foesn’t have to be.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

        Thing is, I didn’t actually think of them as shitty teachers. I thought they were just fine as transferrers of knowledge. The only one I’d say was shitty, really, was the one who told me early on that I shouldn’t fight anyone and that if I had a problem I should just let the teachers deal with it. If I’d understood right from the get-go that how the other students treated me was up to me to define, then I’d have been a lot better off. The teacher’s role in managing a classroom environment is more like a prison guard’s role in managing a jail than anything else.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Yeah, and you got a job when you were 14, so that you could support your parents, who weren’t fucking looking out for you.
      It don’t make it better to strip kids of their innocence — or of their societal expectations.Report

  11. Avatar Andrew says:

    Interesting post, Tod. I too, can think of things I’m not proud of from that era. My advice to you would be to find Nick and apologize. Whether you feel it is too little, or might make you feel worse, doesn’t matter.
    By the way, Todd’s last name is Anderson, class of 1982. You’re welcome.Report

  12. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I have to say I’m surprised nobody’s quoted The Jew Of Malta yet. Thou hast committed homophobic assault, but that was in high school, and besides, the wench is dead.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    Mike, the apology you just gave an example of is vastly different than Romney’s. “What I did hurt you” as opposed to “If anyone was hurt.”.

    Does Romney know that the guy was hurt? That’s really the heart of the matter. So many people are saying, “Well of course the guy was hurt so Romney must apologize for that hurt.” But Romney is leaving room for the possibility that the guy wasn’t hurt. Maybe that’s not accurate but it’s possible. I still get messed with by my friends sometimes. We play pranks, etc. 99.9% of the time they don’t bother me. 0.01% of the time they ‘hurt’. Romney seems to believe what he did was a harmless prank. Without confirmation from the guy he did it to, I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to assume harm on his bahelf, which is really what everyone is doing. Furthermore, they are basically personalizing that harm and saying Romney should apologize to everyone as a means of contrition.

    How do you think a marriage counselor or your wife would react if you said, “If you were hurt I would apologize.”

    That’s not an accurate analogy. To compare to Romney you would say, “If you were hurt by what I did than I am sorry.” And that would be totally acceptable.

    Keep in mind the IF is because the injured party isn’t alive to confirm.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Generally people who have their hair forceably shaved by a mob of teenagers are hurt, so I think it would have been a safe assumption.

      I’m sure, Mike, that you’ve been around long enough to know that the “If anyone was hurt/offended by what I did/said” is the typical politician non-apology apology.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:

        I’ve ben around long enough to know the other side always claims ‘non-apology’. I remember the outrage from the Right over Obama’s TERRIBLE handling of the Reverand Wright thing and the nuanced language he used to distance himself from people like Bill Ayers.

        Like I said, going into the minutia of his statement and looking for fault is a red herring. Nothing he could have said would convince his opponents of his true sorrow. In that case, go for the politically smart statement instead of groveling at the feet of your opponents.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Certain phrases count as non-apologies. See Wiki for some info. Some of those lines are, “If I offended anybody,” or “If anybody was offended,” or “I would apologize if.”

          Real apologies don’t contain qualifiers. It’s that simple. They’re straightforward: “My actions were wrong,” or “I’m sorry.” No hedging, no implication that it’s the offended/harmed folks’ fault for being offended/harmed.

          It takes a bit of courage to do this sincerely–it means the person can admit they did wrong, which most people find damnably hard to do. And it’s got jack-all to do with “the other side.” Usually it’s sports or Hollywood figures that are doing the non-apologies. This focus on “the other side,” is just an effort to pretend that Romney’s actions and responses don’t matter; all that matters is “the other side.” Fuck all that. Seriously. I’m not a partisan, and I couldn’t care less about that part of it all.

          Obama and Rev. Wright? Yeah, too little, too late. It tells you something about Obama’s character, doesn’t it? And if so, we have to realize this current issue tells us something about Romney’s character. There’s really no way around that.Report

  14. Avatar James Hanley says:


    That all sounds really weasels to me. You can pretend there’s doubt about whether the event was disturbing for the victim, but I’m not going to give that any credence. We know how such things affect people. Perhaps I can’t persuade you. You certainly aren’t coming anywhere close to persuading me.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James Hanley says:

      I don’t have to persuade you that there was harm. I’m not necessarily persuaded myself that there wasn’t harm. But I’m also open to the idea that I don’t really know. I wasn’t there, I didn’t know the circumstances and I don’t know the people involved. I guess the difference is that you feel comfortable claiming harm on someone’s behalf while I don’t.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


      I have to back off the focus on whether the victim was harmed. I think that’s a side issue, not really critical at all. The fact is, Romney violated the victim’s personal autonomy. He assaulted the victim. The degree of harm, or even whether the victim felt any, doesn’t really matter. The issue is that what Romney did was wrong, and he can’t seem to really grasp that.

      Imagine if I fired a gun in my neighborhood, and managed to not hit anyone or damage anyone’s property. Granted that it does matter whether I hit something or not, in determining the severity of punishment I deserve, but the fact that I did no harm does not excuse my action. If asked about it, I don’t get a free pass on not having any contrition for my actions simply because I got lucky and didn’t hurt anyone.

      Romney’s friends who participated in the assault seem to really regret it. They understand they did something wrong. But Romney does not evidence any contrition–he seems not to grasp that the act was wrong in itself.Report

  15. Avatar Scott says:

    Other than committing seppuku on national tv is there anything Mitt can do to convince folks he is sorry? Why do folks refuse to look at the good he has done?Report