For the past 24 hours or so, the political world has been chewing over the Washington Post's bombshell story on Mitt Romney's days as a teenage terror. Yes, Romney did some awful things, but what is the significance of it all?
Nobody believes that Romney is the same bully now as he was as a high-school senior, or fears that, as president, he'll create a diplomatic uproar by giving Francois Hollande an atomic wedgie. But as Intel Jon suggested yesterday, the article portrays Romney as someone who "lacks a natural sense of compassion for the weak," since his "prankery seems to have invariably singled out the vulnerable — the gay classmate, the nearly blind teacher, the nervous day student racing back to campus."
It's a view of Romney that Kerry Healy, a campaign adviser, countered this morning by reminding us of the time that Romney showed kindness to distressed simpleton Rick Perry:
In defending Romney as "deeply compassionate" and "unfailingly kind," she referred back to debates during the GOP primary when Romney was "being attacked from every side."
"His response was always professional, calm, civil," she pointed out. "In fact, he even intervened on behalf [of] — to try to help — Gov. Perry when he was stumbling. His impulses are very kind impulses and there should be no debate about whether or not Gov. Romney is a bully."
Healy refers to the infamous GOP primary debate in which Perry, for a solid minute, hopelessly racked his poor, wretched brain for the third federal agency he'd abolish. Midway through that soul-crushingly uncomfortable display, when Ron Paul was just making things worse by distracting Perry with his claw of liberty, Romney suggested that maybe Perry was thinking of the EPA.
We're not sure what motivated Romney there. Maybe he really did just feel bad for the guy, twisting in the wind in front of a horrified national audience. Or maybe Romney, by demonstrating that he was capable of naming a federal agency, was simply trying to show off his vastly superior mental abilities. Either way, what Romney didn't do, in that moment of vulnerability, is hold Perry down and forcibly shave his head. And that's progress.