This column was first published today at CONSTRUCTION.
This is Amercia [SIC]
In the last installment of the Etch A President saga, a young future Republican presidential candidate reacted angrily to taunts of “Wiiiillard!” from fellow Cranbrook School students. Willard Mitt Romney’s distaste for his first name may seem petty but was nevertheless deep-rooted, remaining with him from Cranbrook to Bain Capital to the Massachusetts state house to the Salt Lake City Olympics to the 2012 presidential campaign, when he was still denying his name was Willard.
Why? Why such distaste for a name? Despite money and fame and power, Romney could never accept his true moniker, even if “Willard” means brave/strong and “Mitt” is a mere diminutive form of “Milton,” which quite realistically and ridiculously means “the settlement by the mill.” Perhaps you’re now thinking, Well what does Barack Hussein mean, either? Actually, “Barack” is another form of the Hebrew “Baruch,” which means “blessed,” while “Hussein” means “good looking.” Honestly, that’s quite a presidential name.
To be sure, “Mitt” sounds both cooler than “Willard” and more American than “Barack.” So we can perhaps try to empathize with Romney on that day at Cranbrook School when he reacted angrily to taunts of “Wiiillard!” from his friends Kraut and Butch, Moonie, and Flip.
But when the taunting also came from John Lauber, a slightly flamboyant and presumably gay kid on campus, Romney was pushed over the edge. It didn’t help that Lauber had already corrected Romney’s misspelling of “Amercia” during class that day, a dyslexia that would stick with Romney for life. He couldn’t retaliate the day of the name taunting, as he had a date with Ann Davies for a Vernors ginger ale (the oldest surviving ginger ale in America and the pride of Detroit), but he would not let go of a grudge, perhaps hypocritical given his staunch Mormon faith and penchant for proselytizing.
The point is, Romney was resolute, both to his faith and to his grudges.
So weeks later, when Lauber bleached his hair blond and swished it sideways to drape over one eye, Romney saw an opening for revenge.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Kraut, real-life name Matthew Friedemann, who didn’t pause long to ponder the reasoning. After all, Romney was the son of the state governor and a faithful churchgoer who had already spent months trying to convert him to Mormonism and the Republican Party. Romney had even tried to convert Friedemann’s grandma. When his friend John Maxwell one time questioned the Mormon faith, asking, “How can you believe that thing about the tablets?” the future politician replied: “Well how can you believe that bit about the Virgin Birth and the Holy Trinity?”
Romney was pious, if a prankster.
“We can’t let that haircut defile the Cranbrook code,” continued Romney. “This is Amercia.” [SIC]
“Actually, it’s America,” said Butch.”
“Just find me a pair of scissors.”
“Wait,” said Kraut, “aren’t you aware of the potential ramifications that this incident could have on your future career as a businessman and politician? Imagine yourself running for high office one day and a reporter from some Washington newspaper comes snooping around digging up skeletons and old grudges.”
“I have actually gone over the issue, Kraut, and determined several things: One, culpability could easily be denied, as in five decades neither I nor any of you could possibly have a clear recollection of today. Two, even if such an incident were to come to light, I could still win a presidential nomination because of my outrageous wealth, perseverance, and simple delegate mathematics. Now, hand me those scissors.”
Indeed, even after this incident would come to light, Romney would still clinch the Republican presidential nomination with a win in the Texas primary.
“But still, wouldn’t you be embarrassed and your reputation tarnished?” asks Moonie.
“I would say that don’t recall this incident. Or that I don’t think I don’t recall it. Or maybe I would recall a recollection of the incident. Um, okay, there’s no question that I have done some stupid things while in school, and obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.”
“So you would admit and apologize?” asks Kraut.
“If I were to recall the incident, this would be an apology. The scissors, please.”
At least this can be said for Romney: He would take his own advice, boasting the most manicured hair of perhaps any presidential candidate ever. As the New York Times has highlighted:
By far his most distinctive physical feature, Mr. Romney’s head of impeccably coiffed black hair has become something of a cosmetological Rorschach test on the campaign trail, with many seeing in his thick locks everything they love and loathe about the Republican candidate for the White House. (Commanding, reassuring, presidential, crow fans; too stiff, too slick, too perfect, complain critics.)