As Heraclitus observed, character is destiny [Fragment 121, for those who keep track.] Or, as my old friend Zina Tillona observed many years ago, when we were sitting around wondering what sort of dean a friend of ours would be, "Most people do most things the way they do most other things." Her point, and perhaps that of Heraclitus as well [who knows about the pre-Socratics?], was that people have styles of behavior that do not change even when they are elevated to more exalted positions. A woman who lined her carefully sharpened pencils on her desk with the points exactly in a row when she was in school will probably be an obsessive neatnik when she becomes CEO of a multi-national corporation.
Which brings me to the story that has just surfaced about Mitt Romney's behavior as a prep school boy. If you do not live under a rock, you probably have heard that Mitt reacted to a classmate who dyed his long hair blond and wore it over one eye by expostulating, "He can't do that. It isn't right." After brooding about this offense to his All-American sensibilities for several days, Mitt rounded up a posse of boys and assaulted the poor kid. As the others wrestled him to the ground and held him, while he cried and pleaded with them, Mitt took a pair of scissors and cut off bunches of his hair.
A youthful prank, Mitt's defenders say. Asked about it, Mitt chuckled, amused at the description of the event, saying first that he had no recollection of it [even though five [!!] of his classmates came forward and confirmed it independently], then that he was sure no one thought the boy was homosexual, and finally that if he had said [!!] anything to offend, he was sorry.
People grow up, they gain experience, they learn a great deal about the world, but they do not really change all that much. A young man of sixteen who is a privileged, mean-spirited bully whose idea of amusement is assaulting the weak and helpless tends to grow into a privileged, mean-spirited bully of an adult man whose idea of amusement is assulting the weak and helpless. Mostly what he learns in life is how to conceal his character more successfully, so that it is not quite so obvious what a despicable coward he is.
Romney is learning, as many have before him, that a run for the presidency is a very bad way of concealing one's faults.