The Day I was bullied by Romney.

Mitt Romney circa 1962

Several weeks ago I did a blog post entitled: “I was  Mitt Romney’s Boss“.  If you recall, in 1962 when I was 16 years old, I was a volunteer for the Republican   gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, George W. Romney.  They put me in charge of the mimeograph room where I worked for the summer. Shortly after I began, the candidate’s son, Mitt, joined me and we spent  the next few months  together cranking out campaign flyers and strategy notebooks.

The recent news about Romney’s “hi-jinks” as a teenager has brought up a pretty ugly memory of that summer, one that I have repressed for the last 50 years, but about which I can  be silent no longer. I’m ready to talk about the day I was bullied by Romney.

It was mid-August. Always a hot and gritty time in Detroit.  The campaign was moving into high gear. We were all excited about the new poll results that had just been released showing that George Romney was soaring ahead of the colorless Democratic candidate, John Swainson. To celebrate I asked my mother to take me shopping at Hudson’s to buy a festive outfit that I would wear to the headquarters the following day.

The next morning I put on my new lavender velveteen “smoking” jacket, attached the accompanying pink ascot to the collar of my shirt, and headed down to the Romney for Governor  offices.

When I opened the door, I saw Mitt at the mimeograph. He didn’t look up. He was trying to take out some paper that had gotten jammed in the drum. Mitt was dressed in his usual clothes. Old jeans and a torn t-shirt with mimeograph ink smudges almost covering up the silk screened message: “Real Men Do It in a Rambler.”

Then, pulling out the jammed paper, he said, “Andy, dang it,  I think we got it now.” He  turned toward  me. I was still standing in the doorway,  trying to look nonchalant, just  kind of waiting for him to tell me what a cool outfit I had on.

But that isn’t what happened. Instead  Mitt did a double take. His mouth dropped just about down to his pupik. Then as if experiencing a gradual realization of something hideous, his visage turned ugly, even sinister; his expression changed into a crooked sneer.

“Well,” he snarled, “If it isn’t Liberace.”

I didn’t really understand the sub-text of his comment, so I said in all innocence, “Not really. I’ve never learned to play the piano. My mom took me shopping yesterday for this new outfit. I thought it would bring a little color to the mimeograph room.”

For the rest of the morning, Romney was silent. It wasn’t that he behaved with any kind of hostility. He just ignored me. Wouldn’t look me in the eye.  When I tried to help him crank the machine, he pulled his hand away and gave me  a dark look.

Finally, in order to break the ice a little, I told him that maybe we could take a break. I offered to buy him some brunch. At that point, Mitt completely lost it.  He started screaming at me. I don’t remember the exact words. Something like: “You can take your domestic partnerships and shove them up your ass.”

Then Mitt grabbed me by my hair. It was long then, a  shock of it came down over one of my eyes. With his other hand he pushed my head into the hollow drum of the mimeograph machine and started cranking it around.

Finally he stopped and yanked my head out. I backed away and looked in the mirror. What I saw left me grief stricken. Needless to say my ascot was unrecognizable, turned black by mimeograph ink,  the lapels of my smoking jacket in tatters.  We had been copying flyers that his dad was going to hand out at the Cadillac Plant in Hamtramck the following day. On my forehead there was a smudged but readable print of the  headline in 48 point Times New Roman font saying: “Romney for Jobs.”

That was all. He told me to get out and if I ever showed my face again at the headquarters, he would tie me to the top of the  family station wagon, drive to the south of town and dump me into the Detroit River.

I try to practice forgiveness in my life. To be able to do so has always been a grace. But I realize now that, in spite of the fact that this horrific memory has been repressed for 50 years, it has had a profound impact on me that continues to this day. In a sense, the entire arc of my life has been an attempt to overcome the humiliation I felt from that encounter with Romney. How else would you explain the fact that every morning when I get out of bed,  I put on a safari suit and pith helmet and insist that Leslie and Hayley refer to me as: “Sahib”? Or what happened on Leslie’s last birthday, when I surprised her by waking her up and taking her out to the driveway where I presented her with  a brand new Humvee painted in desert camouflage.

I feel better now having written this down, gentle reader. And, Mitt, if you are  taking a breather from the campaign and trying to relax by reading this blog,  I want you to know that you are forgiven.


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16 Responses to “The Day I was bullied by Romney.”

  1. Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Says:

    Andy, this is a tremendous piece — both in terms of what it reveals and also what it must have taken for you to write this. It is my hope that it is read far and wide by all. I will certainly do my bit to spread it.

  2. andyrossagency Says:

    Jeevan, thanks. Romney and I did work together for the summer doing mimeography. But the rest of the story was a modest attempt at parody. I’m glad you liked it.

  3. Warren Terra Says:

    I don’t really think this is a fit subject for parody, certainly not a done here. Several of the young adult Mitt Romney’s accomplices in the now-infamous vicious assault on Mr. Lauber have been troubled got decades by what they did, and have worked to become better people. One apologized to Mr. Lauber personally much later; Mr. Lauber similarly did not find the episode humorous. Mitt Romney, by contrast, either is lying about his recollection or shows sociopathic tendencies.
    I’m sure you meant well, but I’m afraid i didn’t really get the point of your invention, which only seems to detract from the reality of what happened, and what it tells us about Mr. Romney’s character – and I mean his character today, not fifty years ago.

  4. andyrossagency Says:

    Warren, thank you for posting. I’m not a fan of Romney and have suffered from bullying, myself. But I think Romney’s behavior invites ridicule.

  5. dianestranz Says:

    Andy, I don’t think it’s a question of whether Romney’s conduct invites ridicule – I think it’s more about the fact that this piece reads like memoir, not invention, and it’s already hard enough to separate fact from fiction when reading internet content.

    LIke Jeevan, I too believed it was a real story and was ready to spread the story to everyone I know . . . until I pulled up the comments and read your admission that it is just a parody. I knew there is no way a 16 year old Romney in 1962 used the term “domestic partnership” but despite that incongruity — and the fact that one HOPES you never actually donned a lavender jacket with pink ascot (ha) — I still thought I was reading a factual firsthand account that Romney is capable of vicious physical bullying.

    It is one thing to be prejudiced and close-minded, it is another thing to feel one has the right to ACT on that prejudice — and America deserves the actual, unadorned facts about each candidate’s past.

    I have no interest in Romney and would not vote for him for ANY public office, much less the Presidency — but that doesn’t mean I think untruths about him should be callously scattered about (defamation being a hideous and destructive blight in the world). You owe it to the public at large to add a note or disclaimer to alert future readers that this is post is an exercise of imaginative political commentary and that it is not to be taken literally.

    Thank you!

    • andyrossagency Says:

      Diane, I really tried hard to be at least over the top enough for people to realize it was a spoof. At the same time, if it didn’t sound authentic, it wouldn’t be funny. This isn’t defamation. It’s satire.

  6. Marde Gardner Ross Says:

    Great work, Andy! Of course Romney remembered the incident but is too big a coward to admit it. Loved the lavender smoking jacket, pink ascot and “domestic partnership” clues that it was a satire. Of course, we will be hearing about a lot of further cowardice as time goes on. And did any of his five boys serve in the armed forces? Thought not, and for his own service, I believe it was spent proselytizing in Paris for two years. By the way, for all of his marriage is between ONE man and ONE womwn, he is the descendent of polygamy, and in his own eyes, it hasn’t hurt him.

  7. Not Jeevan Says:

    Dear Andy,
    This ‘incident’ suggests what Romney is capable of? Boy, what’s up with these dullards who can’t recognize satire? For your next essay I suppose you’ll suggest poaching Irish babies in mornay sauce.
    Readers like these are one reason John Kennedy Toole committed suicide. How funny that Jeevan is disseminating your very amusing essay far and wide. I am one reader of your blog who would welcome more of your writing, on any topic. Seriously, thanks for the laugh.

  8. andyrossagency Says:

    Thank you. I tried to make it a little over the top, so that it wouldn’t be taken too seriously, but I have gotten a lot of response by people who didn’t get it. That’s ok. It is true that I worked with Romney in his Dad’s campaign for the better part of the summer. But the experience was good and Romney and I had a lot of fun together. I was bullied a lot in junior high and high school so I’m sensitive to the fact that bullying is pretty serious, and that Romney (who I don’t support) didn’t handle it well at all. He could have used the opportunity to make a statement about how bullying is a serious matter and should be taken seriously. If he were really a mensch, he should have apologized.

    I think people like Jeevan understand the importance of thinking about bullying. So I hope my satire can draw some attention to it. Sometimes the best answer to hypocricy is ridicule. Just ask Jonathan Swift or John Stewart.

  9. Not Jeevan Says:

    I know a lot about bullying–not as a bully, but as a protector of the bullied. The one thing I know my two adolescent sons have learned is never to pick on someone weaker–and I’ve had reports all their lives from teachers, other parents, even strangers on how kind and well-mannered they are. It’s a point of pride in our family. My husband is also an authority on PTSD in children and adults and we know a great deal about how cruelty can damage young kids.

    I read your essay as a welcome satire of the media’s harping on an trivialities (yes, I think it is trivial), and your respondents’ knee jerk, anti-Romney rage, along with their conviction that the man is a violent sociopath. To me, the incident is as relevant as President Obama’s remark that he ate dog meat as a youth. Does this mean all dog lovers should call the man a heartless monster? With the state this country is in, why are we focusing on this cr@p?

  10. andyrossagency Says:

    But Romney handled it badly as a candidate and that’s the problem. We all do stupid and cruel things when we are 16. Romney could have acknowledged it and used it as an opportunity to have a conversation about a bad social problem. Instead, he dissembled and acted like it was teen hijinks. It speaks badly for Romney as a presidential candidate, no so much as a teenager.

    • dianestranz Says:

      . . . “your respondents’ knee jerk, anti-Romney rage, along with their conviction that the man is a violent sociopath.” . . . ??

      Did you delete some comments, Andy, that I never saw? (smile)

      In one of those little quirks of coincidence which Carl Jung termed ‘synchronicity,’ I caught a few minutes of The Talk while eating lunch and was struck by the consensus opinion expressed that “everyone lies on their resume.” I’ve never lied on my resume, and I know a large number of people who also would never do that. Then I checked email, saw there were more comments to this post, and read your comment that “everyone does cruel and stupid things at 16.” That’s not true, Andy. I never did anything cruel as a teen and most people I know never did either. Stupid, yes; cruel, no.

      I don’t think there is anything besides eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, and eventually dying that “everyone” does — and I’ve read a lot of President Obama’s personal history and I don’t see any indication HE did “cruel and stupid” things at 16. Just sayin’!

      BTW: In case I was one of the respondents who appeared to be “convicted” that Romney “is a violent sociopath,” let me remind one and all that I was taking up for Romney and making the point that it would be unfair to him if people read this piece and believed (embellished as it clearly was) that the core of the story was true.

      Considering that every ‘based on a true story’ movie made these days is altered, exaggerated and made larger than life in order to ‘be more entertaining,’ the fact that the piece has embellishments and was INTENDED as satire is, unfortunately, insufficient for ‘us dullards’ to ‘get it’ that no bullying actually took place. Indeed, I cannot remember the last time I read a memoir which did NOT include the author’s warning up front that some parts of the story had been enhanced in order to be more entertaining (and to ensure a book contract) but that “still, reader, consider this my true story.”

      It’s annoying, frankly, because then you never know what really is true and what is not. And who do we hold up as role models for our children if we have no guarantee that what they tell us about themselves and their lives/decisions/actions is actual fact?

      Again, I’m just sayin’.

  11. mardeross Says:

    David Harris (well known war protester who married Joan Baez and later served a term in jail) was attacked and had his head shaven by a jock fraternity at Stanford in 1966. The fraternity thought it was so cool they took a picture and submitted to the Stanford Daily. I assure you that although I wasn’t there, I have never forgotten this event 44 years later, and I don’t think for one second that Mitt Romney has forgotten his episode either.

    The members of the fraternity were reviled by the entire campus and it submitted an apology to David Harris. I don’t think they held their heads up for the remainder of the year.

    The chuckes Romney emitted while denying memory of his head shaving and shaming event turned my stomach.

  12. andyrossagency Says:

    Yea, Marde, I agree with you about how ugly bullying is. (Did I ever tell you about the times I got pushed into the urinal in 9th grade in Atlanta. We won’t even mention the anti semitism. And I sure as hell remember it very well, thank you very much. So for sure, Romney is lying about that.

  13. DK Says:

    I agree that the clues to it being a satirical fabrication come too late and too little in the posting–particularly for someone who does not know you personally. I would not ignore Diane’s advice.

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