Sullivan's observation comes in the context of the revelation that, while a student at the exclusive Cranbrook private school, Romney "harassed a classmate who later came out as gay."
Should we judge a man today by what he did all those years ago?
Not entirely. He has apologized. But there is surely something here: the notion that being privileged and conformist requires actual punishment of the marginalized and under-privileged; that you pick on younger, weaker boys, not older ones; and that you psychologically traumatize the victim by permanently marking his body.
And this matters because today these attacks on gay kids drive many to suicide, others to despair; they wreck lives and self-esteem. It matters that we know that one candidate for president was an anti-gay bully in high school, targeting a weak and defenseless kid and humiliating and traumatizing him. Today, he does the same thing in a larger, more abstract way: targeting a small minority as a way to advance his own power. It gives me the chills.
Frederick Allen, Leadership editor at Forbes — hardly a bastion of liberalism — joins Time's Joe Klein in taking Romney to task, not so much for the deplorable incident itself, but because
Romney’s reaction not only seems almost certainly dishonest, it also, together with the anecdote itself, adds to his solid reputation as almost reptilian in his lack of warmth and sympathy for anyone unlike himself or in a situation unlike his own.