Jonah Goldberg
"If Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, co-opted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin?" So asked Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association, after claiming credit for Richard Grenell's scalp.

Grenell is the openly gay former foreign policy spokesman for the Romney campaign. Before that, he worked for Ambassador John Bolton at the United Nations, easily the most revered diplomatic official among the base of the Republican Party since Jeane Kirkpatrick.

I don't think Fischer deserves the "credit" he's claiming, but it does remind me of the old line from Winston Churchill about how an appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. The reality be damned, it certainly appears that the Romney campaign fed Grenell to the crocs.

The political idiocy of Fischer's culture-war whoop over Grenell's resignation should be apparent. If you want a politician to adopt your position, you shouldn't then mock him for adopting your position. That's not smart politics or lobbying; it's public bullying as theater: "Ha ha! I made you do it!"

As for the reality, after talking to several people in and around the Romney campaign, I'm convinced it's just not true that Grenell was dumped to appease the religious right, or at least it's more complicated than that.

First of all, if the Romney campaign were trying to placate the religious right -- as both the Fischer crowd and the liberal punditocracy contend -- it has a funny way of showing it. "We wanted him to stay with our team," Romney explained on Fox News last week. "He's a very accomplished spokesperson, and we select people not based upon their ethnicity or their sexual preference or their gender but upon their capability."

That's hardly a dog whistle to the Fischer crowd.

But just because the team wanted to keep Grenell on board doesn't mean it was willing or able to let him do his job. It appears the campaign wanted to keep him muzzled until the criticism of the appointment blew over (such criticism also came from National Review Online, where I am an editor at large). The complaint seems to be that having a gay-marriage proponent in the Romney foreign policy shop is untenable. Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, writing at National Review Online, argued that the issue wasn't Grenell's sexuality per se but the fact that he was "a loose cannon" with an "unhinged devotion" to the issue of gay marriage.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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