A couple days ago, Kevin Williamson blogged here that there is nothing of interest in the fact that Richard Grenell, a former Bush administration staffer at the U.N. mission and now appointed foreign-policy spokesman for the Romney campaign, is gay. Kevin also blandly remarks on reports that “Mr. Grenell supports gay marriage, while Mr. Romney does not,” and he adds: “Unnoted is that Barack Obama, who also has gay staffers, also opposes gay marriage.” Well . . . so Obama says. If actions speak louder than words, the president’s actual position might be described rather differently.
I agree that Grenell’s being openly gay is, in itself, of no consequence for his service in the Romney campaign. Nor is the fact that he supports same-sex marriage — if, that is, we were assured that this view would have no influence on American foreign policy. But Grenell has made a particular crusade of the marriage issue, with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment. And when the Obama State Department is already moving to elevate the gay-rights agenda to a higher plane than religious freedom in the foreign policy of the United States, it is reasonable to wonder whether Grenell, after taking such a prominent place in the Romney campaign’s foreign-policy shop, would be in line for an influential State posting where he could pursue his passion for that same agenda.
There’s no denying Grenell’s intensity about these matters. Jonathan Capehart, blogging at the Washington Post, reports that when he (Capehart, that is) was invited last month to dine at the White House, Grenell pestered him with tweets about whether he would upbraid the president over his failure (so far) to advocate the cause of same-sex marriage. In one of his tweets, Grenell said: “im an activist looking to make sure you and i get equal protection from the liberal media. i out hypocrites.” Later he said to Capehart, “you didn’t stand up to power but sipped wine instead.”
Not content to tweet his discontent, Grenell attacked Capehart in the pages of the Washington Blade, the local gay paper. It was pretty tame stuff for the Blade, I imagine, but it’s a little disconcerting to see a man just hired by the Romney campaign write passionately about how “gays are going to win support for their political issues.” Are there really “gay political issues,” and does Richard Grenell believe they are the most important reason he is in politics — as certainly appears to be the case for a man who calls himself an “activist”?
Capehart, for his part, wonders aloud whether it is Grenell who has been “outed” as a hypocrite, since the man who was so hot for “marriage equality” in March is now working for a candidate who is endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage, supportive of a federal marriage amendment, and devoted to upholding DOMA. Good question. It might have been useful for the Romney campaign to think about it too.
And they might have thought about something else as well. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Grenell has been scrubbing his Twitter account of tweets now considered too sharp-tongued to leave at large in the visible twitter-verse. A veteran observer of campaigns had this to say when the Tribune called:
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an expert on political communications at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, said it was puzzling that Romney’s campaign would hire as an official mouthpiece someone with a history of posting aggressive and personal comments on the Web.
She said it was “not clear why the Romney campaign would take on an operative with the rhetorical tendencies evident in the now-suppressed postings.”
Hiring a loose cannon and thinking you can lash him to the deck is an interesting personnel choice. And come to think of it, has the Romney campaign seen all the now-deleted tweets? Or did Grenell dispose of some of the hottest ones before his new colleagues thought to ask?
— Matthew J. Franck is Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey