When They Grow Up, They Want to Be President

May 11, 2012 12:51pm

Before they graduated from college, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney flirted with the wild side.

Romney, we now know, thanks to The Washington Post, spent his days at the elite Cranbrook School pranking students and teachers alike, even, according to classmates, bullying a gay student whose haircut he deemed unworthy.

Republicans have fought back against the storyline by pointing out that Obama wasn’t the model citizen in his youth either, given his admitted use of drugs while in college.

On Fox News, right-leaning commentators pushed that old storyline, and tried to take it a step further, accusing Obama of selling drugs.

“What would you call a guy who not only used cocaine, but dealt cocaine in high school and/or college?” Eric Bolling asked rhetorically. “What would you call that kind of guy?”

“President,” answered Greg Gutfeld.

This morning, Bolling apologized on Twitter for making the baseless accusation, but not before he repeated it on Sean Hannity’s show later that night.

There is no evidence anywhere that Obama ever sold drugs. He has, however, written that he used marijuana and cocaine while in college.

“Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it,” Obama wrote in a book long before running for Senate. “Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man.”

How does using drugs compare with than bullying a gay student? Does it even matter?

Candidates normally present their childhood and upbringing in a brighter light than reality, and the darker narrative presented by either news reports or opponents is usually the one that sticks. In Obama’s case, though, he controlled the story of his drug use by admitting to it years before he ran for office, whereas the narrative of Romney’s activities at Cranbrook has surprised his campaign.

Phillip Maxwell, a Cranbrook classmate who watched Romney clip the hair of the student four decades ago, told ABC News that the bullying from 1965 is relevant today because it illuminates Romney’s “character.”

“Early episodes are not dispositive, yet they are illustrative. Character and disposition are capable of change, but they also reveal themselves early on,” the Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote of Romney’s bullying. “Recklessness is a common side-effect of adolescence — drinking too much, driving too fast.  Meanness is another matter.  Yes, teenager are more prone to displaying the primal cruelty of ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Lord of the Flies’ than their grown-up selves.  But the Queen Bees of middle school have an unpleasant tendency to grow into the Real Housewives of Wherever.”

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