The resignation of Mitt Romney’s gay foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell after he was denounced by anti-gay hate groups shows that Romney would not be a moderate on social issues if elected.
That’s the conclusion from new information on how anti-gay bigots got the Romney campaign to muzzle Grenell, unearthed by the gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan.
Following the appointment, which the Romney people gloated about, Grenell was attacked first by Bryan Fisher of Southern Poverty Law Centre designated hate group the American Family Association — “Romney picks out & loud gay as a spokesman. If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead” — then the right-wing blogosphere weighed in with National Review’s Matthew J. Franck saying Grenell being gay meant he was a potential fifth columnist for Barack Obama.
Campaign and journalist sources tell Sullivan that in response, the terrified Romney campaign thought their best option was not to let Grenell do his job but to muzzle him.
He’d been part of organizing a conference call to respond to Vice President Biden’s foreign policy speech, now known best for the “big stick” remark. Journalists were puzzled on the call why the chief advisor wasn’t there. He was, but he’d been told to shut up.
This wasn’t the first time Grenell had been ordered to be mute.
Says Sullivan, if a fire-breathing neo-conservative like Grenell, who was prepared to stay silent on his support for gay marriage, cannot be tolerated then this shows Romney’s “fundamental weakness” against the far-right social conservatives. He writes that: “Grenell was prepared to stay silent on gay issues entirely and do his job. But that wasn’t enough. Romney’s anti-gay agenda is therefore deeper and more extreme than Bush’s.”
Sullivan points out that, yes, the campaign tried to get Grenell to stay and, yes, privately, other Republicans tell him they’re dismayed at events. But none of them are prepared to publicly speak out against people like Bryan Fisher. He writes:
The gay-inclusive elements in the [Republican] elites simply do not have the balls to tackle the religious right. And this is particularly true of Romney, as this case now proves. The Christianists gave Bush a pass on social issues because of his born-again Christianity. They trust Mormon Romney not an inch. And this week demonstrates without any doubt that Romney will therefore not be able to deviate from their wishes an iota. He has no room to maneuver. The notion that he could be a moderate on social issues in office is, alas, a pipe dream.
Or as a commentator on The American Conservative put it:
Romney missed his Sister Souljah Moment. If he really wanted Grenell on his team, he should have gone public and said that Grenell was the person he had chosen for the job and he wasn’t going to be intimidated by individuals with outdated bigoted views.
Romney’s numbers would have gone up by ten points. As it is, he looks like a milquetoast.
Picture of Richard Grenell, Fox News screen grab