High school Romney vs. high school Obama

Sure, you may know which man -- Mitt Romney or Barack Obama -- you want to see running the country, but which one would you have wanted to know in high school?

We learned four years ago that young Barack was a laid back, not overly studious kid who loved basketball and occasionally smoked a little weed. The kids at Punahou, the prestigious Honolulu prep school Obama attended, never expected their amiable but seemingly unmotivated classmate to one day become the most powerful man on the planet.

At Cranbrook, the Michigan boarding school Mr. Romney attended, there could well have been those who thought young Mitt might amount to something someday. His dad, after all, was governor and was being touted as a candidate for president. However, if you were a certain type of student at Cranbrook back in 1965, the idea of Mitt Romney getting any kind of power over people would have been frightening.

A story in the Washington Post based on interviews with several of Mr. Romney's fellow students alleges that young Mitt was a bullying rich kid who had it in for boys who were too different.

One boy, in particular, caught Mr. Romney's attention -- a shy, new kid at the school named John Lauber who had bleached blonde bangs that dipped across one eye. According to those interviewed, young Mitt was bugged by Lauber's hair. "He can't look like that," Mr. Romney told one of his friends. "That's wrong. Just look at him!"

Mr. Romney pulled together a pack of boys and went to Lauber's room, where they tackled him and pinned him down. As Lauber, with tears streaming down his cheeks, screamed for help, Mr. Romney pulled out scissors and chopped away at the kid's hair.

That was the worst, but not the only of Mr. Romney's bullying high school pranks, according to the Post. At least one person suggested that young Romney had it in for boys he suspected of being gay.

After Mr. Romney's campaign spokesperson initially denied the story, Mr. Romney went on Fox radio to say he did not remember the incident, but he was sorry about it anyway. "I'm a very different person than I was in high school, of course, but I'm glad I learned as much as I did during those high school years," Mr. Romney said in the radio interview.

Well, I assume he is different, just as Mr. Obama is different from the kid he was. Still, Mr. Romney could not seem to suppress a nervous chuckle as he talked about the bullying episode, just as the same chuckle erupts when he talks about firing people. It makes a person wonder if the guy has empathy for people who are different from him, who have not lived the privileged life he has enjoyed.

The rap on Mr. Obama has been that he is a little too cool and aloof. The rap on Mr. Romney may be that he is just plain callous.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.