Grenell is the openly gay former foreign policy spokesman for the Romney campaign. Before that, he worked for Ambassador John R. Bolton at the
I don't think Fischer deserves the "credit" he's claiming, but it does remind me of the old line from
The political idiocy of Fischer's culture-war whoop over Grenell's resignation should be apparent. If you want a politician to adopt your position, you shouldn't then mock him for adopting your position. That's not smart politics or lobbying; it's public bullying as theater: "Ha! Ha! I made you do it!"
As for the reality, after talking to several people in and around the Romney campaign, I'm convinced it's just not true that Grenell was dumped to appease the religious right, or at least it's more complicated than that.
First of all, if the Romney campaign were trying to placate the religious right — as both the Fischer crowd and the liberal punditocracy contend — it has a funny way of showing it. "We wanted him to stay with our team," Romney explained on
That's hardly a dog whistle to the Fischer crowd.
But just because the team wanted to keep Grenell on board doesn't mean it was willing or able to let him do his job. It appears the campaign wanted to keep him muzzled until the criticism of the appointment blew over (such criticism also came from National Review Online, where I am an editor at large). The complaint seems to be that having a gay-marriage proponent in the Romney foreign policy shop is untenable. Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, writing at National Review Online, argued that the issue wasn't Grenell's sexuality per se but the fact that he was "a loose cannon" with an "unhinged devotion" to the issue of gay marriage.
I don't buy it, largely because the evidence is so scant. On one side there are some overly aggressive tweets from Grenell about a
His enemies now are a more mixed bag. Sensible social conservatives like Franck should understand that if you're going to oppose gay marriage, you will have zero chance of convincing anyone your position isn't driven by anti-gay animus if you're also opposed to gays working in policy areas that have nothing to do with gay marriage.
As for Fischer, I've avoided making him the avatar of the "religious right" the way some in the media have because doing so gives Fischer far too much credit and the religious right far too little. I've talked to many prominent Christian conservatives about this, and the idea that Fischer speaks for them is ludicrous. Fischer, who's argued that the 1st Amendment doesn't protect the religious freedom of non-Christians, doesn't speak for any members of the Christian right I know.
Gagging Grenell was a bad play for the Romney team because it guaranteed the issue wouldn't go away. The only way to dispel concerns about the man's fitness for the job was to let him do his job. Muzzling him until he resigned was the worst possible way to handle it because all it did was feed crocodiles like Fischer.