Two weeks ago, the Romney campaign hired Richard Grenell—a long-time Republican and former staffer for the Bush White House—to act as a spokesperson on foreign policy and national security. Grenell received tough criticism from Democrats for a series of sexist tweets, but that wasn’t enough to spark reticience from the Romney team.
What was, however, were attacks from religious conservatives on Grenell’s sexuality. Conservative activists hammered Romney for hiring an openly gay spokesperson, and questioned Grenell’s commitment to the conservative cause. “Suppose Barack Obama comes out — as Grenell wishes he would — in favor of same-sex marriage in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention,“ wrote Matthew J. Franck at the National Review, ”How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?"
This afternoon, Grenell announced his resignation from the Romney campaign, citing the relentless attacks on his sexuality:
I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.
A few things to highlight. First is the remarkable fact that, in 2012, a gay person can’t serve as spokesperson for a Republican campaign, lest they attract criticism from conservative activists. Second, and significantly, is the fact of Romney’s weakness; as standard-bearer for the GOP, Romney was well within his rights to hold fast and reject attacks from the Right. That he didn’t—and allowed Grenell to resign—is a sign of Romney’s skittishness with social conservatives. He is worried enough about their support that he will cave to anti-gay bigotry if necessary. It’s also fitting that this comes on a day when we’re still debating President Obama’s decision to run on the killing of Osama bin Laden. Bowing to pressure from bigots isn’t a great way to inspire confidence in your “resolve.”
One last point. This incident is a better indication of how Romney would govern than anything he’s said or any plan he’s released; he is completely captive to the right-wing, and will cave if they push him. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re tempted to describe the former Massachusetts governor as a moderate.