If we had been more ambitious, we might have ended up at the Onion instead of at The Wall Street Journal, where our job is easy because we only have to write stuff that's true. (Incidentally, we can't remember if that quote about Quayle's grades was from an actual news story, though we did find similar ones, and he was described as a C student.) Journalism today looks increasingly like satire in 1988. Mitt Romney, another baby boomer, is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and the Washington Post has reached back to 1965, before Romney even graduated highs school, in search of scandal. Those of us who were born after 1965 have a hard time wrapping our minds around just how long ago that was. Here's some perspective: Lyndon B. Johnson was president, and Barack Obama was turning 4. Selma, Ala., was not a metaphor but the site of actual civil rights marches. Sam Sham and the Pharaohs recorded "Wooly Bully" while "Get Smart" and "I Dream of Jeannie" premiered. NASA was at work on a futuristic plan to land men on the moon. Mary Jo Kopechne was still alive. Romney was a senior at a prep school called Cranbrook, and according to the Post, he and some other boys played a cruel prank on a classmate named John Lauber, "a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, [who] was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality." Lauber, according to the Post's account, "was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye." Lauber died in 2004 and thus couldn't be reached for comment, but the Post interviewed no fewer than five other students, "who gave their accounts independently of one another" and remembered the incident "similarly." The five "mostly lean Democratic"; one was a volunteer for Obama's 2008 campaign. Lauber's life seems to have been an unhappy one. He was subsequently expelled from school for smoking a cigarette. He "came out as gay" and "led a vagabond life." He was committed to a psychiatric hospital "after an extreme fit of temper in front of his mother and sister." He worked as an embalmer and a chef. Perhaps most tragically of all, "his hair thinned as he aged"--unlike Romney's. In response to the report, Romney acknowledged: "Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that." He added that "I don't remember that incident." Should anyone care? Even the Post's own lefty blogger Greg Sargent is hard-pressed to answer in the affirmative. After going through a list of character flaws critics say this reveals about Romney--"a real mean streak, a disdain for the weak, and an ugly side to his sense of privilege . . . a homophobic streak"--Sargent throws up his hands:Yeah, dog-eating Obama trumps Mitt's car-roof episode by a factor of parsecs.....! And WaPo has been outted as a total fraud in its journalistic-sleaze tactics, just in case anyone out there still thought that newspaper still contained news!But when it comes down to it, this all happened too long ago and too early in Romney's life to know with real certainty whether it's revealing of any of those things or not--particularly when it comes to who Romney is right now. I can't get around the simple fact that I wouldn't want to be judged today by some of the things I did in my teens, and I suspect many others feel the same way.Unlike in 1988, but like in 2004 when CBS News ran a fraudulent hit piece about George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, other news outlets, mainstream and conservative, are questioning the story. ABC News quotes one of John Lauber's sisters: "The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda." Another ABC report notes that the paper seems to have erred in describing the recollection of Romney classmate Stu White:While the Post reports White as having "long been bothered" by the haircutting incident," he told ABC News he was not present for the prank . . . and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post. Breitbart.com reports that the Post changed the text to read that White "said he has been 'disturbed' by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by the Washington Post."Conservatives also counter that young Barack Obama was a bully, too. A blog called The Talk of the Times unearths an Obama middle-school tale from "Dreams From My Father." Classmates were teasing Obama and a girl named Coretta, suggesting they were boyfriend and girlfriend:"She's not my g-girlfriend," I stammered. I looked to Coretta for some assistance, but she just stood there looking down at the ground. "Coretta's got a boyfriend! Why don't you kiss her, mister boyfriend?" "I'm not her boyfriend!" I shouted. I ran up to Coretta and gave her a slight shove; she staggered back and looked up at me, but still said nothing. "Leave me alone!" I shouted again. 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."But both Romney and Obama have nothing on Vice President Biden. Commentary's Alana Goodman quotes from Richard Ben Cramer's "What It Takes: The Way to the White House," a book on the 1988 presidential campaign (in which Biden briefly competed):Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn't think at all--he just did. That's why you didn't want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they'd square off, there'd be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn't do that. He decided to fight . . . BANGO—he'd punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. . . . Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn't watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)We suppose a Biden partisan could take this as a positive--proof that he's someone who'll fight for you! Likewise, maybe some Republicans are relieved to hear that Romney has a nasty side. A lot of them do think John McCain was too much of a pushover in 2008. But it seems unlikely the election will be decided by this sort of thing. After all, no one much cared about Quayle's National Guard service, which at least occurred after he was an adult; and Bill Clinton, with no military service at all, managed to beat two World War II veterans. If journalists are going to dig up ancient history, we hope they at least find something more interesting than this, though "Bam Bites Dog" set a high bar.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Wooly Bully Helps Bam the Sham & the Pharaohs!
James Taranto is the Josh Hamilton of Op-Ed writers---the NYT stable of second-raters has no one near his caliber. See below how he eviscerates the Washington Post's vain attempt to smear Mitt Romney. Even the NYT's lubricious slander of McCain with a woman named Victoria Iseman wasn't as silly as this bucket of slime hurled from the WaPo garbage pit...!