With Mitt Romney under attack for being a textbook bully, the predictable right-wing response is to wail that childhood actions aren't relevant to a presidential campaign.
This is a choice argument coming from the crowd that spent the last weeks screaming about President Barack Obama eating dog as a child.
But aside from the hypocrisy, such childhood parables are relevant—they inform us, character-wise, of where a candidate has come and how far he has traveled.
What does Obama eating dog tell us about his character? It tells us he was an obedient boy who did what his stepfather told him to do, even if what he was asked to do was distasteful. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, Republicans aren't spreading that story to impugn Obama's character, because they know there's no validity to that. They are spreading the story to cast Obama as an "other" who is un-American and just different than the rest of us. In other words, it's birtherism in another guise.
On the other hand, Romney's bullying has been so resonant precisely because it confirms what we already know about the Republican—that he is a callous, privileged, entitled asshole. He is such a jerk, that he even bullies the 1 percent. He is such a jerk, that his campaign-selected prep school friends trashed him as well, calling him "evil" and "like Lord of the Flies." It's not hard to see what happened: The governor's son bullied everyone into submission and he mistook that for friendship. He is the classic mean entitled rich kid from every 80s teen movie.
It is confirmation that Romney isn't just an insufferable dick today, but that he has always been that way. Had Romney responded to the bullying revelations with a heartfelt apology, admitted that his behavior was wrong, and called for an end to bullying in schools today, that would show the kind of maturation and growth in character that would render the issue into a positive for him. But of course, he didn't. He just doesn't think he ever did anything wrong.
So it's not so much his behavior as a child that's in question, it's his lack of maturation and growth as a human being.
It's relevant because we see the exact same Romney on the campaign trail—mocking the ponchos of NASCAR fans, laughing at the cookies proud
Ohioans Pennsylvanians had laid out for him at a picnic, talking about how much he didn't give a shit about the poor, torturing poor Seamus on family vacations, "joking" to unemployed people how he—rich asshole—was also "unemployed," laughing about Michigan auto workers losing their jobs, bragging about how much he loves to fire people, etc.
He's a dick. We suspected, sure, but now we know that he always was one. That he doesn't remember the incident is just more evidence that for him, being a bully was normal, average, status quo behavior for him. And no one remembers an average day.