Compare Obama’s reflective approach with the reports that emerged last week of Romney’s prep school cruelty towards a gay classmate, which were met with his unconvincing denial in the form of a memory lapse. The actual incident, a clear example of impulsive behavior, may be at least somewhat attributable to adolescent immaturity. Last week’s disingenuous denial, however, cannot: Romney’s claim that he doesn’t remember, seen in the context of his rapidly-developing persona as someone who will say anything to get elected, seems mostly like an automatic, impulsive response—to avoid both self-recognition and taking responsibility.
Even decades in the past, the attack on his classmate is troubling in its evocation of the youthful privileged sadism we recognize from the frat boy antics of former President Bush. Bush’s problems with impulse control continued into adulthood and characterized the thinking that shaped his presidency. The question now is, do we want to elect a deliberate or impulsive thinker to lead the country?