Jonathan wrote about this weak WaPo hit on Mitt Romney earlier today. In some ways, this story actually highlights the difficulty the Obama campaign has had in finding anything scandalous in his past. Biden was a plagiarist. Obama has spoken openly about his drug use. Meanwhile, Romney…cut some kid’s hair as a prank in high school? It’s not very nice, but wasn’t that sort of stunt par for the course in 1960s prep schools?
Anyway, now that Romney has apologized for a practical joke from 48 years ago, the difficult path to healing and redemption can finally begin:
Okay, before anyone sputters about media bias, remember that the Post assigned David Maraniss to write probing stories about Barack Obama’s pre-teen and teen days. And he wrote them, starting off on the journey that would conclude with his Obama bio, out next month. There’s just no story of the young Obama hassling a swishy kid.
But the point is that all the (vaguely) worthwhile dirt Maraniss has on Obama is coming out this year, after Obama has had close to a full term to define himself and the stories have less of an impact. Where was the trenchant reporting on him in ’08? Compare today’s Romney story to how Maraniss buried Obama’s drug use (which was already old news anyway) on the last page of his big five-page story on Obama’s younger years in 2008. Not that it mattered, as he broke no new ground on the issue, other than getting some reassuring quotes from Obama’s friends:
Some have suggested that [Obama] exaggerated his drug use in the book to hype the idea that he was on the brink of becoming a junkie; dysfunction and dissolution always sell in memoirs.
But his friends quickly dismissed that notion. “I wouldn’t call it an exaggeration,” Greg Ramos said. Keith Peterson said: “Did I ever party with Barack? Yes, I did. Do I remember specifically? If I did, then I didn’t party with him. Part of the nature of getting high is you don’t remember it 30 minutes later. Punahou was a wealthy school with a lot of kids with disposable income. The drinking age in Hawaii then was 18, so a lot of seniors could buy it legally, which means the parent dynamic was not big. And the other partying materials were prevalent, being in Hawaii. There was a lot of partying that went on. And Barack has been very open about that. Coming from Hawaii, that would have been so easy to expose. If he hadn’t written about it, it would have been a disaster.”
In the scheme of things, Obama’s teenage drug use matters about as much as Romney’s high school pranks – which is to say very little. But the stories were emphasized differently, and that’s the problem.