Openly gay foreign-policy spokesman for Romney campaign resigns; Update: “He wasn’t under wraps”

posted at 5:52 pm on May 1, 2012 by Allahpundit

Jen Rubin suggests that he quit in frustration, because Romney was too afraid of social conservative disapproval to let him speak for the campaign right now even though the OBL anniversary has pushed foreign policy front and center in the campaign. True?

In a statement obtained by Right Turn, Grenell says:

“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.”

According to sources familiar with the situation, Grenell decided to resign after being kept under wraps during a time when national security issues, including the president’s ad concerning Osama bin Laden, had emerged front and center in the campaign.

The response from Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades:

“We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons,” Rhoades said. “We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.”

Annnnnnnd the inevitable point-scoring from the Obama campaign:

“Today we learned that in the year 2012, a Republican nominee for President can’t have a gay person as spokesman,” wrote Obama Digital Director Teddy Goff on Twitter. “This is the kind of bigoted, anti-gay extremists a Romney administration would find itself held hostage to,” added pro-Obama super PAC founder Bill Burton. “After a brief and wondrous moratorium, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell once again firmly in place inside the Romney campaign,” said former White House speechwriter Jon Lovett.

The theory, I guess, is that social conservatives turned up the heat on Romney to the point where Grenell felt obliged to muzzle him in lieu of firing him altogether. One minor problem with that speculation: There’s no solid evidence (yet) that any social-con heavy hitters made a major fuss about this. (Update: Wrong. See below.) There’s been some grumbling online — Rubin has a few pieces linked — but Romney surely knew there would be when he hired Grenell. To get him to do a 180 and silence his new spokesman out of fear of a “values” backlash among the base, someone with serious political muscle must have objected. Who? Another minor problem with the going theory: Grenell’s been working for conservatives for years. According to WaPo, “Grenell is perhaps best known for being George W. Bush’s top spokesman at the United Nations, serving under Ambassadors John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad.” Bolton, in fact, reportedly phoned Grenell to try to talk him out of quitting. That is to say, social conservatives have had plenty of time to adapt to the thought of Grenell speaking on behalf of conservative pols. If they’re suddenly up in arms about it, why now? Are they in fact up in arms? And why would Romney risk alienating pro-gay Republicans — not to mention handing Obama a talking point for gay swing voters — by hiring a gay spokesman if he wasn’t prepared to stand by him? (Note that even now, Rhoades’s statement embraces Grenell by insisting that they wished he would stay.) Reminds me of when Komen irritated liberals by cutting ties to Planned Parenthood and then irritated conservatives by reestablishing ties. Mitt’s organization usually isn’t that amateurish. Have they been so here, or is there more to this story?

One other detail about Grenell. Before he was hired by the campaign, he was famous for his acerbic political posts on Twitter — so much so, in fact, that several hundred of them quietly disappeared after he joined the campaign, presumably because they might potentially embarrass Romney. Rubin’s sources say that played no part in his decision to leave, but my sense is that he’s caught more flak for that publicly than he has from social cons for his orientation. Make of it what you will. Exit question: If Romney was worried about how Grenell might be received on the right, why not turn him loose as a critic of Obama’s OBL-related attack on Mitt? That would have gotten conservatives on his side.

Update: A source tells ABC there is indeed more to the story:

But, in an interview with ABC News, a source familiar with Grenell’s departure from the Romney campaign disputed the “under wraps” suggestion.

This source said Grenell, whose hiring was first reported on April 19, had not yet started his duties as the campaign’s top national security spokesman and was in the process of moving from Los Angeles to Boston.

Tuesday would have been his first actual day on the job.

“He wasn’t under wraps; he wasn’t a spokesperson yet,” according to the individual with knowledge of Grenell’s hiring and resignation. “If he had wanted to, he would be a spokesman right now.”

ABC notes that radio host Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association was critical of Grenell’s hiring, but Ed points out on Twitter that Fischer’s also had things to say about Mormonism that likely wouldn’t make his opinion too influential inside Romneyworld.

Update: From National Journal: “A source close to the Romney campaign denied that Grenell resigned because of complaints about his sexual orientation. Rather, the source said, Grenell had become a story himself, which a spokesman should never do.” That’s great, except that by resigning he’s become a much bigger story than he was. Scroll up and read those statements from Obama’s campaign again. They’re having a field day with this.

Update: I was wrong — there are some prominent social cons who objected to Grenell’s hiring. Tony Perkins’s Family Research Council criticized Romney for it here (scroll down) and both Gary Bauer and Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center have complained about it. Did any one of them turn up the pressure on Romney privately? If he was going to bow to them, why did Romney hire Grenell in the first place?


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