Purging the gay guy

    Today we shall contemplate the fate of Richard Grenell, because his precipitous rise and fall as a Romney campaign spokesman speaks volumes about the candidate’s spineless servitude to the intolerant extremists on the Republican right.With foreign policy on the front burner – the Osama death anniversary, President Obama’s speech last night in Afghanistan – one might have expected to hear from Grenell. That’s why he was hired in the first place. Romney signed him up on April 19 to be the campaign’s foreign policy spokesman. Romney knew that the longtime Republican loyalist would do a decent job, having already served four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations during the George W. Bush era, most notably John Bolton.But there was a problem. A problem big enough to prompt Grenell’s resignation yesterday, after just 12 days on the job:The right-wingers who hate gay people hated Grenell. Because he is gay.To give you a flavor of the backlash against Grenell, let’s check in with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. Four days after Grenell got the job, here’s what Fischer wrote: “Why is (Romney) putting someone who engages in such behavior in such a prominent position in his campaign?…Given the propensity for members of the homosexual community to engage in frequent and anonymous sexual encounters, the risk to national security of having a homosexual in a high-ranking position with access to secret information is obvious.”(Grenell has been in a committed relationship for years; it’s the straight-arrow Secret Service that has been engaging in frequent and anonymous sexual encounters. But I digress.) Fischer also asserted last week on CNN that Grenell by definition is an advocate for “the homosexual agenda,” and that “the homosexual agenda represents the single greatest threat to religious liberty and association in America today.” He also assailed Romney for refusing to recognize that “homosexual behavior is sinful and that homosexual acts are offensive to God.”Fischer was not alone, of course. National Review blogger Matthew Franck insisted the other day that Grenell, by dint of his sexual orientation, can’t possibly be a loyal Republican. Franck was unnerved by the fact that Grenell supports gay marriage (as do a majority of Americans, though Franck seems unaware of that), and he warned that Grenell might defect to the Democrats. In Franck’s words: “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. How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?”Like others in the intolerant Republican caucus, Franck mistakenly assumes that all gay people are driven and motivated only by issues of sexual orientation. According to this mindset, Grenell’s foreign policy expertise doesn’t mean squat – even though there’s no evidence that Grenell’s sexual orientation ever impeded his work for Bolton or the other Bush ambassadors. The simple fact that Grenell favors gay marriage was supposedly proof that he shouldn’t have the campaign job. Franck insisted that Grenell’s “unhinged devotion (to the issue) suggests a man with questionable judgment.” And similar sentiments were voiced last week, in a series of tweets, by Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center.And so, four days after Grenell got the spokesman job, Fischer issued this warning to Romney: “He cannot win without the base. If he’s going to pander, he’d better start pandering in a big, fat hurry.”Well. Now we’re getting to the crux of the episode.Did Romney brave the bigot backlash by standing up for his new hire? Not a chance. He pandered in such a big, fat hurry that it’s surprising he didn’t offer to wash Fischer’s car.Romney’s response was to virtually lock Grenell in a closet. The guy had been hired to be the foreign policy spokesman, foreign policy was front and center these past two weeks, but Romney hid him from public view as if he were an object of shame. The intolerant right cracked the whip, and Romney bent for the lashing. So much for his “pivot” to the center.Grenell got the message. When he quit yesterday, he said that his ability “to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues.” He didn’t rebuke his 12-day boss for throwing him under the bus (that would have been way too impolitic), but he did add this delicious sentence: “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.”Translation: “Romney believed in me, but, as you can see, he didn’t back me when the heat was on.”All of which prompts a final observation. It’s clear that the bigots in “the base” don’t know any better. And it’s clear that Romney doesn’t know any better; he has few fixed convictions and he quavers like a hunk of jelly. But what about Grenell? What possessed him to believe that he could be a foreign policy spokesman for a party that continues to aid and abet such toxic intolerance? That long tenure at the United Nations blinded him to the realities of the contemporary GOP. Now he knows.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.