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The Richard Grenell Fiasco: How a Cynical Political Move Blew Up in Mitt Romney's Face

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A week ago a Washington reporter contacted me to discuss Mitt Romney's hiring an openly gay foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell. She thought it was a watershed moment for the GOP and made the comment that if Bryan Fischer, the extreme-far-right American Family Association radio host who attacked the appointment, was the Romney campaign's only problem, then they were doing pretty good.

Fast-forward several days: Bryan Fischer is holding Grenell up like a jackal he's just captured and skinned alive.

"So this is huge, ladies and gentleman," Fischer bellowed on his radio program yesterday, after hearing the news that Grenell had resigned. "This is absolutely huge, that a homosexual activist in a very prominent place in Mitt Romney's campaign has stepped down. He has resigned, and it's very clear from The Washington Post that he has resigned because of pressure put on the Romney campaign from the pro-family community. So, ladies and gentleman, this is a huge win, and it's a huge win for us in regard to Mitt Romney."

Actually, I believe this is a big win for progressives and for gay journalists and commentators, as well. We drew out the conservative leaders in addition to Fischer, like Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and other commentators on NationalReview.com and The Daily Caller, by bringing forth and continually highlighting the true facts about Grenell, which, to most Americans, are completely acceptable, but which, in the eyes of the evangelical right, make him a radical homosexual. As I wrote in a post last week, Grenell isn't just gay, like some other gay Republicans who stay quiet about their homosexuality. He's a gay man who very publicly expressed that he wants to get married to another man and who believes President Obama isn't adequate on LGBT rights.

Why is it this a win? Because Grenell was being used for cover by a candidate with abhorrently anti-gay positions, a man who has promised to "propose and promote" a federal marriage amendment if elected president. I don't buy the argument made by some that it was a measure of progress that Romney hired a gay man as his foreign policy spokesperson when he's using that gay man to make himself appear moderate to independents while promising the GOP base that he'll make gay people into second-class citizens. Actual progress in the GOP will come when their presidential candidates stop bowing to bigots and refuse to sign their extremist pledges. Otherwise, it's all window dressing.

We were proven right that Grenell was being used for cover by virtue of the fact that Romney so easily cut him loose the moment the cynical scheme blew up in his face. Predictably, I've started to see some in the media buying the Romney campaign's late and desperate counterspin in which campaign officials claim that they were supposedly begging Grenell to stay but that he left on his own for personal reasons.

But even Jennifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post blogger who broke the story of the resignation and who later was contacted by "senior officials from the Romney campaign and respected Republicans not on the campaign" who said they tried to persuade Grenell to stay, doesn't seem to be buying it. She's the only one who appears to have been in contact with Grenell himself, having received a statement from him, in which he pointed to "the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues" as his reason for resigning.

After referring to the claims of the campaign senior officials, Rubin notes:

During the two weeks after Grenell's hiring was announced the Romney campaign did not put Grenell out to comment on national security matters and did not use him on a press foreign policy conference call. Despite the controversy in new media and in conservative circles, there was no public statement of support for Grenell by the campaign and no supportive social conservatives were enlisted to calm the waters.

If that reflects the sentiments of Grenell himself, it means he believes that they had thrown him under bus from the beginning, as soon as the criticisms started. In resigning, he was simply crawling to the curb.

This entire fiasco presents a hard truth to our media, which seems to want to think otherwise: Mitt Romney is anti-gay, no matter what he supposedly truly believes (and can we please not forget he's a devout Mormon?). He can't be anything else and keep the support of his party because the chasm that separates the GOP base from the rest of America is now bigger than the Grand Canyon. The Ohio Arts Company does not make an Etch A Sketch large enough for this. The GOP has gone so far to the extremes that it's preposterous to think Romney or anyone can pull it back anytime soon. You thought Rush Limbaugh was something? Meet gay-bashing, Muslim-bashing, immigrant-bashing, you-name-it-bashing Bryan Fischer, today crowned as the new king of the GOP.