Forward and Backward

Barack Obama went forward yesterday.  The world was rocked.  Internet Rock Star George Takei, who seemingly hasn’t a serious bone in his body, got seriousTwitterers tweeted like twittering machines.  Republican Andrew Sullivan has a great take on the momentous announcement by President Obama’s that he supports gay marriage.  Heck, Andrew Sullivan thinks this will help Obama politically

Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him. That’s the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.

Andrew Sullivan, a gay Republican, is right here.  The contrast on this issue couldn’t be clearer.  Until today.  It is far clearer today.  Barack Obama went forward yesterday.  He came to a good place, one that recognizes the dignity of all citizens in this country.  And Mitt Romney went backward.  Sure, yesterday Mitt reaffirmed his lack of support for equality, his opposition to gay marriage.  But a story came out in the Washington Post today that rocked Mitt Romney’s world.  It is a story, with people going on the record, about Mitt Romney as a bully who tormented a boy, at Cranbrook School when he himself was a boy.  According to these witnesses, one of whom is a Republican, Mitt Romney led a group of other boys to hold a young boy down and shave his head.  That boy was a gay boy.  

John Lauber was tormented by Mitt Romney and his buddies at Cranbrook School because he bleached his hair blond and wore it long.  Let me state this boldly.  If several teens were to hold down a boy and cut his hair off it would make the news today.  Children would be suspended and kicked out of school.  Sure, Cranbrook has a fine Honor Code, but Mitt Romney evidently suffered no punishment.  Really, though, this incident is tragic.  The last couple paragraphs of the Washington Post story will make you weep.  It gives a very brief view of how John Lauber went on to live his life. 

Forty years on, Mitt Romney accepted the school’s 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award.

A year earlier, John Joseph Lauber died at a Seattle hospital.

The boy few at Cranbrook knew or remember was born in Chicago, grew up in South Bend, Ind., and had a hard time fitting in. He liked to wander and “had a glorious sense of the absurd,” according to his sister Betsy. When the chance to get out of Indiana presented itself, he jumped at it and enrolled at Cranbrook. He never uttered a word about Mitt Romney or the haircut incident to his sisters. After Cranbrook asked him to leave, he finished high school, attended the University of the Seven Seas for two semesters, then graduated in 1970 from Vanderbilt, where he majored in English.

He came out as gay to his family and close friends and led a vagabond life, taking dressage lessons in England and touring with the Royal Lipizzaner Stallion riders. After an extreme fit of temper in front of his mother and sister at home in South Bend, he checked into the Menninger Clinic psychiatric hospital in Topeka, Kan. Later he received his embalmer’s license, worked as a chef aboard big freighters and fishing trawlers, and cooked for civilian contractors during the war in Bosnia and then, a decade later, in Iraq. His hair thinned as he aged, and in the winter of 2004 he returned to Seattle, the closest thing he had to a base. He died there of liver cancer that December.

He kept his hair blond until he died, said his sister Chris. “He never stopped bleaching it.”

Mitt Romney, John Lauber is on you.  You’re not responsible for his life, for his death, but you helped.  You are the symbol of backward, Mitt Romney.  Every day in this country more and more people understand that same sex marriage is about equality, that it is the moral thing to do.  And every day in this country more and more people understand that Mitt Romney’s actions at Cranbrook Academy 40 some odd years ago were a hate crime.  We’ve even got a law against that now.  Wow.  Matthew Shephard dyed his hair blond, too.  Just like John Lauber, the boy Mitt Romney attacked.  No, John Lauber was not murdered for being gay, as was Matthew Shephard.  But it is pretty clear that he suffered. 

So what’s the political fallout here?  Barack Obama came late to the party, but has now affirmed his stance about gay marriage.  He’s in favor.  He may have been forced into revealing this stance by Joe Biden and Arne Duncan speaking out of turn.  OK.  I’m fine with that.  Today Mitt Romney admits that the school prank he pulled back at Cranbrook, where he led a group of kids in humiliating John Lauber, may have gone too far.  Hey.  Mitt Romney even said today that gay people should even be able to adopt.  The flip flopping has begun.  Soon he’ll be taking credit for Barack Obama’s evolution on the subject, just like he’s taking credit for the auto company bailouts

What’s the political fallout?  This is one more issue where Romney has shown himself to be incapable of anyone’s trust.  Sure, there might be those on the extremist right who applaud Romney’s attack on John Lauber many years ago.  you know, those Republicans who voted against the Matthew Shephard Act.  But Romney just flip flopped on that.  He just showed himself to anyone who cares about the issue of equality that Mitt Romney doesn’t know where he stands on the issue.  And that will only get worse in the next few days. 

But will Republicans abandon Mitt Romney for his new stance on gays, and how they should be able to adopt?  Not likely.  The hatred for Barack Obama by Republicans is strong.  Politically this may sway a percentage of the vote.  A mere percentage.  But it stains Romney badly.  There were probably 15% of the supporters of Barack Obama who might have been swayed to change their minds in this election.  Their hearts are now hardened against Mitt Romney.  That’s the real gain here, the solidification of support for Barack Obama. 

Let’s be clear here.  In the last couple days Barack Obama has gone forward.  Forward.   Mitt Romney has gone backward to his past, a very, very ugly past.