Vote for a Bully?

Would you vote for a bully for President?

We all know bullies and, as parents, we worry about when (sadly, not if) our children will have to deal with them and how they’ll manage. While we all navigated our way through our own individual middle school and high school torments, these days it feels like bullying behavior is talked about more openly because there are more places for it to happen — bullying is now not just on the playgrounds and in school hallways, it’s online, too.

For most people, being bullied or even having been a bully is something that we live through and outgrow on our way to adulthood.  That’s not the case for everyone, as we’ve seen with stories of how mean girls sometimes turn into mean moms. But if someone running for President of the United States has a bullying past, is that a fair factor to consider when deciding who to vote for?

Recently, reports have surfaced about GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney being the ringleader in a disturbing prep school episode in which he, and others, tackled a classmate and cut off his hair. Romney claims to have no recollection of what some have called “a prank,” but several witnesses have described in great detail an event that would today be considered an attack on another student.

As the story goes, a new student with long hair that had been dyed blond came to the boarding school Romney attended. That look apparently violated the school’s code of appearance and infuriated Romney. So, according to an account in the Washington Post, Romney headed up a “prank” to pin down and cut the hair of their new classmate, who also had been ridiculed “for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality,” while he screamed for help.

I found that all pretty disturbing, though I wasn’t sure what upset me more — the very detailed description of the event or the fact that so many people have a vivid recollection of what they called a “vicious” attack, but Romney claims to have no memory of it because he supposedly did a lot of “dumb things” in high school.

So is this story something in the distant past that has no bearing on what kind of person Romney is today? Or is the episode that’s been described so horrible, that it’s fair to ask whether it’s reflective of a larger character issue to take into consideration when casting our votes in November?

Whether it influences anyone’s vote, there’s another reason I’ve been mulling this over. Our sixth-grade daughter heard about Romney’s high school episode and was shocked that someone who wants to be president could possibly have been so cruel and hurtful to someone different than him. In our 21st century world where bullying seems like it’s reached epidemic proportions, our kids spend significant school time talking about how to treat one another and what behavior is acceptable — and what isn’t.

As I said, we’ve all had our less-than-stellar moments in our lives, both as children and adults.  And I’m sure there’s plenty of childhood baggage to go around for all the other candidates who were trying to become the Republican presidential nominee and probably even for President Barack Obama, himself. But I still have to wonder — if you want to be President of the United States, do some actions, regardless of how old the person was at the time, cross some sort of threshold of disqualification?

Read more from me at my blog PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.

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