About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mike LaBossiere on Romney's past as a bully

At Talking Philosophy, Mike LaBossiere presents his analysis of the Mitt Romney bullying. It makes some good points, but I think it goes too easy on Romney. This does not seem to be a case of immature young men testing their physical strength against each other - I'd agree that it's not surprising (though it's unfortunate) that young men get into fights, out of anger or whatever other dumb emotions might apply, and I'd agree that that this in itself doesn't necessarily show that they are of deeply bad character. It's the kind of thing that they can grow out of, if there's no pattern of intimidation and brutality.

But getting into a one-off or occasional fight, even provoking it, is rather different from the act of premeditated cruelty and power abuse described in this case. This doesn't seem to me to be the sort of case where you can shrug it off with, "Testosterone-soaked, brain-not-fully-wired young man - meh, what can you expect? He'll grow up." It's not, for example, like times when I might have thought it was somehow cool or impressive to drive way over the speed limit on a suburban road. It goes way beyond immaturity or inexperience, or a certain youthful clumsiness in making decisions, taking risks seriously, and relating to others.

I do agree that we should put some weight on how the person feels about it now, as someone of mature years. Is he mortified that it happened, that he did something like that? If he can't remember it (though how could you forget something like that?) is he mortified even by the thought that he might have done such a thing? If he believes he did not do such a thing and is being unjustly accused, does he reject the notion with evident horror? Or does he appear to see it as something not very serious, even mildly amusing? We base our judgments of people's characters largely on how they react now when confronted with a story about their long-ago past.

How well does Romney show up in that regard?


Michael Fugate said...

He claims he can't even remember that he did it. What does that tell us about him?

James Sweet said...

How well does Romney show up in that regard?

Impossible to tell, because we'll never know if his claim that he doesn't remember it is true, or just a political strategy. While claiming not to remember it does make him look bad, it may be preferable to having to answer questions about it.