High School was a long time ago. And I like to think we’ve all grown up since then. But the story of Mitt Romney chasing down a classmate and forcibly cutting his hair gave me chills. And his so-called “apology” turned my stomach. “IF I hurt anyone,” Romney said. Did no one ever teach this man who thinks he’s qualified to be our next president that an apology that comes loaded with the word “if” is no apology at all?

I wasn’t bullied in high school, but I always felt just a few missteps away from the nightmare of being targeted.  After one of my best friends in junior high dumped me for not being cool enough, the popular girls mostly ignored me and I knew it was safer to keep it that way. Thinking about it now, a million years later, I can still feel the pain of being dumped and the humility of being invisible. Mitt Romney’s high school “pranks” may seem trivial to him, nearly fifty years down the road, but you can bet the living victims of those pranks have never forgotten how it felt. You can bet the “if” in the middle of his apology clanged like a high school fire alarm on their aging eardrums.

George W. Bush was fond of high jinks too, back in the day. You have to wonder: did that make it easier for him to condone torture? Does the youngster capable of bullying grow up to be the president who says yes to waterboarding? Or in Romney’s case: does such a boy grow up to be a man who is very good at acquiring companies and firing a lot of people without blinking an eye, just so he can make another quick buck he hardly needs?

It was unfortunate for Romney’s campaign team that the bullying story, with its gay-bashing undertone, coincided with President Obama’s announcement of his support for gay marriage.  Now we have the president who finally takes a historic stance for equal rights for all, “no matter who you love,” versus the candidate who, as a boy, eagerly led the charge against classmates who were “different.”

Unfortunate for Romney, too, that the story of an Inglemoor High School teacher whose chemotherapy coverage would have run out, had Obama’s Health Care plan not been passed into law, shared breaking-news coverage with the Romney bullying story. Like Obama’s mother, teacher Suzanne Black had to confront the bullies of the insurance industry as she battled cancer. No wonder the president wanted to give her the chance to introduce him to his Seattle supporters. Obama knows, from witnessing what his mother went through in her final months, what it’s like to have a moderate income and a serious illness.

And like the kids Romney and his pals picked on, Obama knows what it’s like to be the different one.

We spent eight years with an entitled frat-boy prankster for a president. Finally, we traded him in for the most unlikely president in American history: an African-American man with a Muslim name.  What a backslide it would be to elect Mitt Romney. What a triumph for entitled pranksters and fake-apologizers  everywhere.

“IF I hurt anyone:” guess what, Mitt, you did, and a real grown-up would own up to that.  Because a real grown-up knows how to apologize.

(A footnote: Of all the many commentaries and essays I’ve read on this subject, Tom Junod’s incredibly honest piece in Esquire stands out. I wonder if Mitt Romney could be persuaded to read it.)

Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at kbcs.fm and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area.  Podcasts available.

Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.