In all the pieces I read yesterday on the Grenell matter, three stand out, with Jennifer Rubin’s The lesson of the Grenell episode leading the pack.
The Huffington Post reporter Jon Ward, surprisingly enough, pretty accurately (and succinctly) summarized the tensions between Romney and social conservatives*:
Because of his Mormon faith and some moderate positions on social issues, Romney has never been popular with the conservative evangelical base of the Republican Party. Many conservatives say they will still vote for Romney because they so strongly oppose President Barack Obama. But this amounts to a fragile alliance between Romney and these voters.
So the Romney campaign had to tread carefully in defending its hiring of a man who was not only openly gay but who also had agitated publicly for Obama to reverse his opposition to gay marriage.
And on HotAir, Allahpundit denies that this was “some sort of anti-gay purge,” given that “Team Romney continues to praise Grenell publicly”:
. . . if this is . Here’s [Romney senior adviser Dan] Senor saying the campaign was lucky to have him and yesterday campaign manager Matt Rhoades issued a statement insisting that “We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.” If you’re trying to placate social conservatives who object to Grenell’s hiring, that’s an odd way to do it.
Said blogger also addresses the issue of whether “Grenell was being kept ‘under wraps’ by the campaign”. I remain dubious of that claim, in part, because of the biases of those with access to the source (CNN, Huffington Post, Andrew Sullivan), but primarily because it doesn’t make sense. As Allahpundit puts it:
Why try to turn down the heat over Grenell’s hiring by making him lie low when you could have turned him loose as an attack dog against Obama and won conservatives over that way? Unless I’m missing something, there have been no surprises about Grenell since he joined the campaign: He’s openly gay and was well known for being confrontational and sometimes snotty with his political opponents on Twitter.
If the campaign wanted to show that Grenell were more than just an advocate for gay marriage, that he was indeed (as he has long shown himself to be) an articulate defender of the conservative foreign principles which unite Republicans of all stripes, they would encourage him to speak out.
If thus the campaign had indeed silenced him, they blundered and significantly so. They could have used his words to show that they had hired him to speak out on foreign policy issues, not gay ones.
(Had intended this post to be more comprehensive than it is, so will address the question of what more the campaign could have done — as well as consider Ward’s point that the campaign thought the flap had blown over in a subsequent post.)
*though he’s wrong to suggest evangelicals are the base of the GOP. If they were, Romney wouldn’t be the presumptive nominee.
But Richard Grenell, the political strategist who helped organize the call and was specifically hired to oversee such communications, was conspicuously absent, or so everyone thought.
It turned out he was at home in Los Angeles, listening in, but stone silent and seething. A few minutes earlier, a senior Romney aide had delivered an unexpected directive, according to several people involved in the call.
“Ric,” said Alex Wong, a policy aide, “the campaign has requested that you not speak on this call.” Mr. Wong added, “It’s best to lay low for now.”
Wonder who that senior aide was — and if he realizes how absurd his request was. And whether higher-ups in the campaign were aware of this directive. Methinks that aide should be taken to the woodshed.