Richard Grenell is gay. Here’s the signal his appointment as Mitt Romney’s foreign policy spokesman was supposed to send:
When Grenell’s appointment was announced last month, most observers took it as a sign that Romney was starting to move to the center to win moderate and independent voters in November, a welcome change after a Republican primary process often dominated by religious-right candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.
Foreign-policy-wise, Grenell is a Bush-administration guy with impeccable neo-conservative credentials. So if anything, his appointment made the substance of the Romney campaign even more conservative.
But Grenell is gay. (Did I mention that already?) So he symbolized that Romney isn’t totally under the thumb of the Religious Right.
But then the Religious Right looked under its thumb and said, “Where’s Mitt?”
The reaction of the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer is worth watching, because if I just describe it you’ll think I’m exaggerating.
Fischer says this very slowly, so his radio listeners can appreciate just how beyond the pale the situation is:
Richard Grenell is an out, loud, and proud homosexual. And he is now the face of the Romney campaign on national security and foreign policy.
Horrors! Fischer begins by discussing Grenell’s advocacy of same-sex marriage in New York state (which I suppose could become a foreign policy issue if New York secedes from the Union) and then goes off on how homosexuals want to change the marriage laws, but
they don’t actually care about getting married … because they are not about commitment. Homosexuals are about short-lived relationships and frequent anonymous sexual encounters. … Now whether Grenell indulges in that, I don’t know.
Ignorance is never a reason to stay silent, though, so Fischer launches into a minute-long rant about gay promiscuity in general. You know: up to 1000 sexual partners, men having sex in public parks and restrooms, and so on. And then suddenly we’re talking about Grenell again. The segue goes like this:
This is endemic in the homosexual community: these random, frequent, and anonymous sexual encounters. And that becomes a serious issue when we’re talking about appointing somebody to a post as sensitive as a spokesman for national security and foreign policy.
Finely honed logic like that may be why Fischer’s lead was followed by other theocrats like Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer. And then not-specifically-religious voices like National Review and Daily Caller weighed in against Grenell.
For two weeks — even when the issue-of-the-day was a national security thing like the killing of Osama bin Laden — Romney kept Grenell in the closet (which kind of nullifies the whole “spokesman” thing) and waited for the storm to blow over. The campaign claims they wanted him to stay, but when Grenell was instructed not to speak during a national-security conference call he had organized, it was too much. He resigned.
This is a huge win…. I will flat-out guarantee you [Romney] is not going to make this mistake again. There is no way in the world that Mitt Romney is going to put a homosexual activist in any position of importance in his campaign.
He’s probably right. Mitt learned his lesson — and so should moderate swing voters.
The key to the art of flip-flopping is convincing people that you were lying to the other guy; your true heart is in what you’re saying now. As he heads towards the general election, Romney needs to be retiring severely conservative Mitt and taking Massachusetts moderate Mitt out of mothballs. Because … you know (shrug, wink), you have to say a bunch of crazy shit to get nominated. That was then; this is now.
The theocrats aren’t going to go along with that. And it doesn’t matter which version of Romney holds his true heart, as long as he wears a dog collar and the likes of Bryan Fischer hold a very short leash.
If that’s the case in a general election campaign, when swing voters have the most leverage, won’t it be even more true after Inauguration Day?
And finally, Romney’s willingness to be dominated raises an authentic foreign policy question that even the theocrats should be asking. Bring it home, Bryan Fischer:
if Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, coopted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me? I don’t think Romney is realizing the doubts that this begins to raise about his leadership.
At last, Bryan, you and I can agree on something.