Did anti-gay conservatives force out a gay Romney aide?
The campaign's openly gay foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell, quits — after facing a barrage of complaints over his support of same-sex marriage
Trouble in Romney Land: After a turbulent two weeks, Mitt Romney's newly appointed foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell, abruptly resigned on Tuesday. The brash Grenell, who was forced to delete dozens of tweets he had written badmouthing prominent figures, ruffled feathers from the start. Social conservatives objected to Grenell's appointment because he is openly gay and a vocal advocate of same-sex marriage, which Romney opposes. Indeed, Jennifer Rubin reported in The Washington Post that Grenell had been forced out by "anti-gay conservatives." Here's what you should know:
Were conservatives rallying against Grenell?Some were. Matthew J. Franck at National Review, for example, recently declared that "Grenell is more passionate about same-sex marriage than anything else," going on to speculate how Grenell would react if Barack Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage at the Democratic National Convention. "How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?" The right-wing argument, Rubin says, is essentially that Grenell could "not be openly gay and serve on a GOP presidential campaign."
And that's why Grenell quit?That's essentially what he says. In a statement, Grenell explained that his "ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues." Rubin also reports that Grenell was irked that the campaign kept him out of sight even though foreign policy issues, including President Obama's ad on the killing of Osama bin Laden, were dominating media coverage.
What does Team Romney say?Campaign manager Matt Rhoades rejects any suggestion that Grenell's bosses wanted him to go: "We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons," Rhoades says. "We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."
What about the Obama campaign?Obama's supporters "wasted in no time in attacking" Republicans over the incident, says McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed. Bill Burton, co-founder of the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, tweeted that Romney's campaign was being "held hostage" by "bigoted" extremists.
Okay... but was Grenell forced out, or not?It's not entirely clear. Six GOP insiders — including Rhoades, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton — urged Grenell to stay put, insisting that the anti-gay attacks didn't matter, say Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns at Politico. But some Republicans say the campaign didn't want to publicly bat down Grenell's critics either, for fear of angering the GOP base, especially evangelicals. And given Grenell's strong support for same-sex marriage and Romney's opposition to it, says Byron York at the Washington Examiner, the truth might be that Grenell rejected the Romney campaign, not the other way around.
How will this affect the campaign?It's "a great day for Obama," Chris Barron of GOProud tells Politico. By declining to publicly defend Grenell, Romney missed what could have been his "Sistah Souljah moment," allowing him to appeal to centrists by smacking down party hardliners, as Bill Clinton did in 1992 when he criticized the hip-hop activist's racial views. Actually, this will help Romney, says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. Grenell, judging by his "caustic tweets," would have reflected badly on the campaign. He was a "bad hire," and Romney is better off without him.