Kevin Williamson is making progress. In his reply to my post about Richard Grenell, he has gone from blandness to high-minded insouciance about the presence of a self-described “activist” on same-sex marriage’s being recently hired by the Romney campaign as foreign-policy spokesman.
Williamson’s thoughts on marriage are familiar ones. Marriage, he argues, is a thing with its own real nature, and “changing words” so that “marriage” now includes same-sex couples “does not change reality.” Quite right. Yet somehow it follows, for Williamson, that it matters not whether the state enforces a lie about this reality. Sorry, this is double-plus-ungood. It matters, for justice and for freedom.
He also thinks that the institution of marriage is “ruined” already, and so it is no use trying to “save” something already lost. Marriage is badly wounded, and Williamson correctly identifies some of its assailants. But his response is like that of the fellow who looks at the only house available to him, observes its leaky roof and termite-infested beams, and decides to let the arsonist next door set the place on fire — while planning to build nothing to take its place for him to inhabit.
Williamson is quite sure that it is harmless to hire an ardent advocate of same-sex marriage for a prominent place in a campaign pledged to defeat same-sex marriage, because the hireling’s brief runs to matters not directly related to the issue. If he thinks that the gay-rights agenda doesn’t have any bearing on American foreign policy, he’s not paying attention. If he thinks that influence doesn’t run up as well as it does down in the hierarchy of a campaign, that voters are not inclined, with some justice, to regard hiring decisions such as this as an indication of the seriousness of the candidate about such a subject, and that it doesn’t matter whether the campaign is seen to be unequivocal on an issue that moves many millions of voters, then he is not the keen observer of politics I took him for.
Kevin Williamson “detest[s] the gay marriage debate.” Join the club. None of us in the thick of defending marriage thought years ago that we would find it necessary to do so. But necessity is imperious, and can’t await the leisure of “days of peace and plenty.” The marriage debate is as important to the future of a free society as anything else he has named.
Williamson says I charge Mr. Grenell with being a “fanatic,” and intimates the word might be used of me as well. I never used that word. I did say Grenell’s devotion seems “unhinged,” but that was on the basis of the uncontested tales of Jonathan Capehart about the feverish badgering he received just a month ago — on view, for one place, in the Washington Blade. And I did call Mr. Grenell passionate about the issue. In this respect he and I are like one another, and unlike Williamson. Grenell and I know what is at stake, and he knows that if more conservatives think as I do, his most important cause is doomed, whereas if more conservatives think as Williamson does, he wins. I would go so far as to say that one is not a complete, thoughtful, consistent conservative unless one gets over one’s detestation of the “gay-marriage debate” and gets in this fight for justice.
One word more. It seems pretty plain that, whatever fine record he compiled in the Bush administration, Grenell is more passionate about same-sex marriage than anything else. So here’s a thought experiment. Suppose Barack Obama comes out — as Grenell wishes he would — in favor of same-sex marriage in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?