It was a very good or bad year: The press corps never tires of exploring the souls of our candidates when they were teen-agers.
This morning, we’re back to the fall of 65 on the front page of the New York Times.
The Times has had a fairly hard time explaining Candidate’s Romney’s various policy proposals. By way of contrast, our great newspapers are at their best recalling that good or bad year.
This is the way Michael Wines begins his 1900-word memoir of College Freshman Romney, 18 years old at the time:
WINES (9/12/12): Dissecting Romney's Vietnam Stance at StanfordMitt Romney was no Allen Ginsberg! Spelled backwards, his name was "Yenmor!"
It was late November 1965 when the poet Allen Ginsberg ignited the flower-power movement in Berkeley, Calif., urging protesters against the Vietnam War to greet the police with blossoms, not rocks. A few miles south, at buttoned-down Stanford University, young men would exchange chinos for jeans that academic year. An antiwar activist would become student body president; anti-draft protesters would occupy the university president's office.
That same November, a newly minted Stanford freshman named Mitt Romney was in Berkeley on a less rebellious mission.
Mr. Romney was on the AxeComm, a school spirit committee. His charge was to keep students at the University of California, Berkeley, from stealing the Stanford Axe, an old lumberjack's ax awarded to the winner of the universities' annual football game. He succeeded, infiltrating a cabal of Berkeley students under the pseudonym Tim Yenmor (his name spelled backward), learning their plans and planting disinformation about the ax's location.
''We were more concerned about protecting the ax from Berkeley students than about the war in Southeast Asia,'' said Michael Roake, another freshman who joined Mr. Romney on the mission. ''It sounds silly and trivial now. But at the time, we were very earnest.''
Are you concerned about Candidate Romney’s views about Russia or maybe Iran? At the Times, the scribes are concerned with Teen-ager Romney’s views about Vietnam.
His views about Vietnam in the fall of 65!
Does this “sound silly and trivial now?” To our ear, yes, it pretty much does—though the scribes will always hope to trick us with a passage like this:
WINES: It is unclear whether Mr. Romney's hawkish Vietnam stance in 1966, when he was 18 years old and first exposed to the larger world, presaged his hawkish foreign policy stance as a presidential candidate in 2012, in which he has promised more confrontational approaches toward China, Iran and Russia than those adopted by President Obama. But just as Mr. Romney's views on some other issues evolved over the years, his public assessments of the Vietnam War shifted markedly.Journalists are good at pretending that there may be relevance here.
Thanks to the Washington Post and the New York Times, we have an encyclopedic knowledge of Romney’s behavior in 1965. We have learned about his conduct toward a long-haired student at his private Detroit-area high school. We have learned about the way he tried to protect Stanford’s axe.
We still haven't learned about the way he underfunded those pension funds, when he was an adult. We still haven't seen an account of Bain Capital's conduct with respect to the Dade-Behring firm.
Meanwhile, what does Romney think about major issues today? Tomorrow, we’ll review Annie Lowrey’s recent report about his plainly absurd tax proposal.
The Times goes on at considerable length concerning the fall of 65. Concerning the fall of 2012, the paper may seem less concerned.