- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It must not be easy being the keeper of the flame for big government these days. Washington is bankrupt, both fiscally and ethically, to the point where one senses they are related. Government is losing money, losing support, losing credibility and losing dignity.

So it goes with The Washington Post. Like the host of its symbiosis, the newspaper is losing money, losing customers, losing credibility and losing dignity. Last Friday, it ran an above-the-fold, front-page article on Mitt Romney’s days in prep school. It is the latest step in a nauseating descent into obsession with Romney trivia, starting with his dog, his grandfather, and now a single incident with a classmate in prep school.

So let’s review our knowledge about these events.

Mr. Romney took the family dog on vacations, putting him in a crate on top of a station wagon. Scandalous, until we learned that the Romneys loved the dog enough to take him along on vacations. His grandfather, or perhaps his great-, or great-great-grandfather, lived in Mexico and may have been a polygamist. Just as scandalous, until we confirmed that his father and grandfather were monogamous. Now, based on a single incident when he was in prep school, he must be a bully. At least he never shoved and humiliated a girl in front of his classmates just to show he wasn’t her boyfriend. But this is about Mitt Romney, no one else.

Just in case you are interested in what a prep school is, it is a private high school - often a boarding school - where faculty are focused on teaching students, as opposed to being taught by unions. Students are expected to apply themselves in a competitive environment, and they occasionally let off steam. They don’t have the opportunity to relax by getting wasted in Hawaii.

We do not know what really happened that day in prep school. Several students, including Mitt Romney, got together and forcibly cut a student’s long hair, according to the Post. Another student later caught him smoking and had him expelled. As any high school student that isn’t high can confirm, the second incident was far, far worse. But Mr. Romney did not do that.

You might not know it, but there really is a story here. The alleged victim of the incident is dead. That was convenient. It made it all the easier for the Post to exploit him. He was different, reportedly an emerging homosexual, according to the newspaper. That must have made the teenaged Mitt Romney, who would have had no way to tell what his orientation was, an emerging homophobe. Perfect timing, if you want to try to rescue a fumbled, reluctant and cynical announcement about gay marriage - or at least change the subject.

The alleged victim’s sisters and family issued a statement. They said that they are aggrieved by the exploitation of their brother for political purposes and that the Post story is inaccurate. They say their brother would have been furious at this. They loved him, obviously. The Post does not. What the family does not understand is that the abuse of their loved one’s memory is not just politically motivated. It also has a financial purpose. A desperate business is trying to try to sell its newspapers at the expense of anyone it chooses, dead or alive. In a pathetic search for another Watergate, there is apparently no one it is unwilling to try to take advantage of.

The reality is that one incident involving several students does not make one a bully. A bully is a serial abuser. A bully is one who tries to assert power over others repeatedly, for personal gain or gratification. Make no mistake, there is a real bully in this story. However, it is not any of the adolescent participants in events like these. It is a discredited, money-losing newspaper which, like the government it supports, has descended so far into an ethical morass it is oblivious to both the consequences and appearance of its impropriety. As the joke goes, it is black and white and yellow all over. But it is no joke to the victims of the serial abuse by the newspaper, in this case the sisters of that apparently different young man whose memory they cherish.

Our Founding Fathers set the nation’s capital in a swamp. As that story goes, the idea was that no one with any dignity would want to spend much time there. They had no way of knowing how right they would be. But they also had no way of knowing how many people would be able to find so much comfort in its fetidity, and would be so oblivious to their own hypocrisy.

Warren L. Dean Jr. is a lawyer and an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law Center.

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