High-school high-jinx nonsense

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Runaway government spending. Continued lethargy in the nation’s housing sector. Wall Street scandals. High unemployment. Turmoil in the Middle East. The imminent implosion of Europe’s economy. There are plenty of significant issues that the media could be asking the presidential candidates about. Yet some pundits and reporters insist on focusing on whether Mitt Romney might have engaged in behavior 50 years ago that could have caused a fellow high school student to feel uncomfortable.

The so-called mainstream media has sunk to a level of silliness that makes The National Enquirer seem professional by comparison.

Late last week, The Washington Post ran a story describing a prank Romney allegedly pulled on a fellow classmate in 1966. What the actions of a teenager decades ago has to do with the 2012 presidential election has yet to be explained, but supposedly Romney, with the help of a few friends, cut off the hair of a fellow classmate, John Lauber, who was also believed to be gay. The reporter, Jason Horowitz, tracked down some of Romney’s former classmates. Some of them were courageous enough to report the alleged incident as “disturbing” and “vicious” five decades later.

Romney, whose ability to excite the electorate has often been questioned, could have helped put such charges to rest by responding to this idiotic media attack forcefully. He could have — but did not — respond by clearly stating that such an effort to dredge up nonsense from the distant past has no place in a campaign for the presidency of the United States. He could have gone on to blast the reporter for wasting time on such silliness and refused to be drawn into defending actions that he indicated he could not even recall.

That’s how other candidates and officeholders likely would have responded. Can you imagine New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stumbling around and meekly apologizing for something he might have done in high school but could not even remember doing? Would former Speaker Newt Gingrich have permitted a reporter to ask such an inane question without slicing and dicing him to the delight of the viewing electorate?

Instead, Romney apologized for any pranks that “might have gone too far” — even though he could not remember them!

This was not a presidential moment for Romney. And considering that he’s trying to portray Obama as soft and too willing to apologize for past actions, Romney’s weak response could actually damage his campaign. If the GOP hopes to defeat Obama in November, its likely nominee will have to strengthen his backbone, which appears dangerously flexible right now.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 2008. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.