So how to think about The Post’s story of Romney and the purportedly gay prep school classmate he bullied? Recklessness is a common side-effect of adolescence — drinking too much, driving too fast. Meannesss is another matter. Yes, teenager are more prone to displaying the primal cruelty of “Mean Girls” and “Lord of the Flies” than their grown-up selves. But the Queen Bees of middle school have an unpleasant tendency to grow into the Real Housewives of Wherever.Now, yesterday, when we first looked at this story, I brought up the anecdote in Obama's "Dreams From My Father," in which Obama had "found" himself in the playground horsing around with a "plump and dark" girl named Coretta who "didn’t seem to have many friends." Suddenly, he saw that he was surrounded by "a group of children," whom he describes as "faceless." (This is a literary conceit: Of course, the children had faces, but from his perspective, with "the glare of the sun" behind them, they appeared faceless.) The children chanted "Coretta has a boyfriend!," and Obama "stammered" “She’s not my g-girlfriend,” and then — as the chants continued and poor Coretta stared downward — he shouted "I’m not her boyfriend!" Then he "ran up to Coretta and gave her a slight shove," causing her to "stagger" back and look at him. He shouted at the poor girl: "Leave me alone!"
Romney’s reported leadership in the episode; his merciless wielding of the scissors to snip off the bleached-blond hair that seemingly so offended his sense of propriety, his continuing cuts in the face of John Lauber’s cries for help — these do not speak well of him.
And suddenly Coretta was running, faster and faster, until she disappeared from sight. Appreciative laughs rose around me. Then the bell rang, and the teachers appeared to round us back into class.Obama was an abject follower, who responded to chants, and gained the reward of "appreciative chants." As an adult, looking back, his descriptions drip with weird passivity. There's zero will involved in his playing with the girl. He simply "found" himself with her. Then the group of "faceless" children were there, then Coretta "disappeared," and then "teachers appeared." It's like he's sleepwalking in ghost world, where human beings are apparitions.
Ruth Marcus says "You want to imagine your future president in the role of the wise-for-his-years leader who intervenes to calm the howling mob of his more foolish peers." Yes, it would be better if Romney's role in boyhood bullying had been to apply his leadership tendency for the good. But Obama's role in boyhood bullying was as a follower of the bullies — responding to the "howling mob."