Political Animal


May 03, 2012 2:48 PM Ricgrenellgate

By Ed Kilgore

It’s becoming clear that Mitt Romney’s campaign is going a fine job of turning an internal staff issue into a real problem that just won’t go away easily. I’m referring to the Ric Grenell saga, which is in the process of complicating (to use one term for it) Team Mitt’s relationship with what’s left of gay Republicans, with moderates and libertarians who put up with the Christian Right only when it stays in its place, and with the news media, including its very favorite blogger, Jennifer Rubin, who occupies some valuable online real estate at WaPo. All this is happening at a key transitional moment where the Romney campaign should be executing a smooth pivot to its general election staffing and message.

The latest turn in the story is the revelation (first via Andrew Sullivan, and then the New York Times) that the Romney campaign was, well, kinda lying when it put out the word that Grenell quit before he was really on board, and might have been playing his own “gay politics” game at poor Mitt’s expense.

Grenell was in fact on board, if not on the payroll, and actually organized a key conference call of foreign policy reporters on April 26 but was forbidden to speak on it. So he was “under wraps” after all in the midst of the general election campaign’s first big week of foreign policy controversy, because the Romney campaign was fearful of more social conservative blowback over his hiring. They figured it would eventually blow over, but weren’t giving Grenell any assurances of when he could, so to speak, come out of the closet.

Any way you look at it, the Romney campaign screwed this up royally, either when they hired Grenell, or when they refused to defend him from homophobes, or when they told him to keep his mouth shut, or when they lied about why he quit, or maybe on all these occasions.

To those who object that this whole kerfuffle is classic “inside baseball” that actual voters don’t know about and wouldn’t care about, I’d say I agree, with this qualification: it’s a hell of a lot more relevant to the presidential election than Hilaryrosengate, which did not involve the Obama campaign at all, but which the Romney campaign itself has just held out as a model for coordinated conservative gabbing between now and November. Hence the title of this post.

If the Romney campaign is going to play silly games with news coverage of the campaign and keep making mountains out of molehills, it’s in a poor position to complain when other people notice the mountains it’s made out of its very own molehills: particularly when said molehill covers up its tangled positions on issues of sexual orientation and its unsavory relationship with the Christian Right.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • boatboy_srq on May 03, 2012 3:09 PM:

    If it weren't for "voter fraud," the Romney campaign - indeed, the whole of God's Own Party's efforts these last few years - would seem to be aiming for the smallest voter constituency outside Vegans For Beef: the caucasian, male, heterosexual, FundieXtian, landowning 1%er. It's no wonder they're up in arms over all those other people voting if these are their True Leaders of A Free Society - er, "eligible voters."

  • martin on May 03, 2012 3:11 PM:

    Let the purge begin!

    It it time for the Republican party to do the right thing and purge all gays from its ranks. Let them know there is no place for them anywhere in the conservative ranks, that sexual orientation is the deal breaker. Maybe, Maybe, Maybe then the self hating gays of the GOP will finally get the message and quit working to elect this scum.

    The "conservative" gays can easily find a place in the Democratic party, which has always had clusters of right wingers who will support every Republican fiscal and warrior fantasy.

  • Peter C on May 03, 2012 3:15 PM:

    So, Romney will not hire the best team because of the irrational hatred of his supporters? He sounds like a spineless chickenshit whom we cannot trust to run the whole federal administration and staff it competently.

  • emjayay on May 03, 2012 3:18 PM:

    martin: They could set up concentration camps with showers and ovens and GOProud would still stay Republican. They have practically done that already.

  • boatboy_srq on May 03, 2012 3:19 PM:

    @Peter C - d'you think they ever notice that the ones that can pass all the various Reichwing's litmus tests turn out to be more suited to the Rubber Room than the Oval Office?

    Yeah, me neither.

  • Ron Byers on May 03, 2012 3:22 PM:

    Peter C, exactly. That is why this issue is important. Once he hired Grenell, Romney's duty was to stand behind his man until and unless Grenell screwed up. He didn't. Romney comes off looking like a chickenshit. I don't want a chickenshit in the White House. Nobody does.

  • T2 on May 03, 2012 3:25 PM:

    So Romney hires a guy known to be gay to all of D.C. and a long time GOP policy attack dog. Then somebody tells the Religious Republicans and Romney dumps the guy in a heartbeat, then tries to lie his way out of it. I think I'm starting to see why the GOP hierarchy doesn't like Mitt Romney. He's a slimeball.

  • mudwall jackson on May 03, 2012 3:37 PM:

    the man who is so afraid of offending a portion of his base that he'll cast off a competent member of his staff because of his sexual orientation wants us to believe that he would have had the courage to go after osama bin laden.

    even dick cheney, for all his faults, for all his evil ways, has more moral courage than mitt romney.

  • T2 on May 03, 2012 3:43 PM:

    yeah mudwall, and Cheney has a gay daughter so he can't do much there. But I would never go so far as to use either the work moral, or courage in reference to Dick Cheney. There's 4700 soldiers in Arlington thanks to his lies.

  • thebewilderness on May 03, 2012 3:47 PM:

    How long did he work for them without getting paid or being on board or whatever the current euphemism is these days for having a job?

    Maybe that doesn't matter much to a lot of people, but it seems a pretty obvious question to me. Either he worked for them or he did not.

  • suekzoo on May 03, 2012 3:48 PM:


    If Romney won't stand up to the religious bigots, how will he ever defend the nation against the "Soviets?"

  • dalloway on May 03, 2012 3:59 PM:

    And when the Christianists hand him the Constitutional amendment declaring the U.S. a Christian nation, where gays and the undocumented are denied citizenship, what's President Mitt going to do then?

  • rrk1 on May 03, 2012 4:06 PM:

    While there's no question that devout Mormon Romney is a slime ball, the Log Cabin Syrup crowd, and GOProud, are beneath contempt. Every one of them needs to be outed, if they aren't out already. Working for the homophobes and religious bigots while knowing they are looked upon as even less than second class citizens is a psychological disconnect beyond comprehension.

    Romney has clearly demonstrated that he is a spineless robot in the control of his handlers and the religious right. Obama pushes back, not often enough, but he has on occasion demonstrated some moral courage. Romney hasn't, and won't.

  • Hedda Peraz on May 03, 2012 4:23 PM:

    My Momma done tol' me, "You're known by the company you keep."

  • T2 on May 03, 2012 4:36 PM:

    "a spineless robot in the control of .... the religious right. " But thats the funny thing rrk1, the religious Right/Evangelicals think Mormonism is a cult and I think it is a pretty sure thing that the leadership of LDS Church do not feel like their boy should be "controlled" by the Evangelicals. This whole mess is going to come to a head at some point with guys this crackpot Fisher going off.

  • Kathryn on May 03, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Great comments, the Right Wing Extremist Party convention in Tampa has the potential to be a genuine unresolved freak show what with all the factions, Ron Paul and his delegate grabbing, Santorum, Gingrich, "religious" conservative activists, gutless, soulless wild and crazy guy Mitt, the overcompensating Ann, pass the popcorn but keep the mute button handy.

  • tom on May 03, 2012 5:24 PM:

    There is not a glimmer of daylight between Romney and the most extreme GOP. This election will be a referendum on the GOP's political practice since 1992. The GOP would like to make it a referendum on Obama, but I think that Obama is too good a campaigner to let that happen. Romney cannot triangulate between his "more moderate" self and the GOP extremists. They will not let him. So, the campaign comes down to a referendum on them. It's time to knock some sense into the GOP. The only way the USA moves forward from here is a crushing defeat for the present GOP.

  • Patrick on May 03, 2012 5:33 PM:

    The republicans will never have to strap Romney to the hood of their car; Romney's just a lapdog.

  • mudwall jackson on May 03, 2012 5:39 PM:


    i'm not talking about cheney's gay daughter. my reference was to pete williams, cheney's openly gay spokesman when he was secretary of defense. and do you think i was really complimenting the former vp when i called him as otherwise evil? geez!

  • boatboy_srq on May 04, 2012 9:09 AM:

    Reading through the comments, and following my earlier snarks...

    I'm astonished that after all our grousing about Multiple Position Mitt, we're still surprised that the man who says completely different things to different constituencies rather than explain positions comfortable to some but not to others, would pick someone with foreign policy chops (pleasing to the neocon hawks) and drop him for personal issues (displeasing to the FundiEvangelicals) and then act surprised that anyone was offended - or even noticed. The man (and I use that term loosely) has an allergy to telling people what they don't want to hear, and is far better at changing his story to please his listeners than at defending an uncomfortable truth.

    I'm less POd at Romney for what he's said, than for lacking either the self-awareness or the moral compass to provide a single policy or proposal that has held across all the various portions of the electorate. Anyone he's pandered to these last several months, had they followed him to every engagement, would at some point have stalked off, thoroughly pissed that he'd throw them under the bus the moment it gave him advantage with some other consituency rather than speak up in their defense. The only way he's managed to keep going is to keep the various groups far enough apart that none of them who still support him have experienced him abandon them without hesitation or regret simply for political expediency. The one consistent driver to Romney's campaign is that he really, really wants to be President: all the rest - including his campaign staff, apparently - is window dressing, and disposable.

    Plain and simple: the man is a climber, a thief, a bully and a coward. This is not a set of characteristics that one associates with Presidential material.

    In 2008 I half expected GWB to declare a national emergency and suspend the election, because he still had libruls to suppress, banks to rescue and Islamofascists to exterminate; it would have been horrific, but at least he'd have had a reason and judging from prior actions would have been ready to defend it. I now fully expect that if Romney (FSM forbid) is elected in 2012 then he'll suspend the 2016 elections simply because having achieved his career goal he doesn't want to be replaced.