Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Bullying, Seamus, and Mitt Romney's War on Empathy
Empathy is at the heart of humanity. According to Col. Eric Kail, West Point’s course director of military leadership, empathy is also at the heart of leadership. “Empathy,” Col. Kail writes, “is far more critical to good leadership than any technical knowledge, skill or ability.”
Empathy is the capacity to put oneself in the place of others – to experience what they are experiencing; to feel how they feel. It is the ability to care not just for individuals, but for all living creatures (including dogs).
We have long believed that Mitt Romney’s decision to transport his dog on the roof of his car, rather than inside with the family, demonstrated a troubling lack of empathy. Our concerns were cemented by his admission that he once hosed-down the poor dog after it became ill, only to continue a 12-hour trip with him still atop the car.
Now we know of even more troubling behavior. The Washington Post revealed today that Romney’s inability to empathize extends as far back as high school, where he was nothing more than a bully. Not just a bully - but the ringleader of bullies.
According to the report, five high school classmates of Romney’s recall a particularly terrible incident of his bullying very well. Romney says he doesn’t remember it at all.
Four of the classmates spoke on the record with The Washington Post individually, and each recalled the incident “similarly.” Romney led a group of other bullies in an attack on another student who had a hairstyle Romney didn’t like. The victim, John Lauber, was “a soft-spoken new student” who was “perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality.” Lauber was tackled by the group and held down, screaming for help, while Romney “repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.”
“It was vicious,” said one witness, an attorney named Phillip Maxwell.
“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor who participated with Romney in the attack. Buford later apologized to Lauber.
David Seed, a retired principal who witnessed the attack, ran into Lauber at an airport decades later. Seeing an opportunity to get something off his chest, Seed brought up the incident and apologized to Lauber for not doing more to help stop it. “It was horrible,” Lauber said. “It’s something I have thought a lot about since then.”
Lauber passed away in 2004. Seamus, too, passed on long ago. Those with empathy, however, will never forget them.
Faced with stories such as these, Romney has no choice but to wage a war on empathy. Seamus “loved it” and PETA is “not happy my dog likes fresh air,” he sneered. Likewise, Romney brushed off his bullying, including the attack on Lauber, as “high school pranks.”
By denying that suffering existed at all, Romney calls into question the motives of those who express normal human empathy for his victims. Indeed, he attempts to call into question the validity of empathy at all.
I wonder how Col. Kail would judge Mitt Romney's qualifications as a leader - not just as Commander in Chief, but as the President?