Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.

Team Romney is still fairly new to the general campaigning mode. Missteps are inevitable. The Richard Grenell story shows that. First, they seemed to think putting an “openly gay” man in a high profile position (foreign policy), a man well known for his support of marriage equality, wasn’t going to be a problem. It shouldn’t be, but given the just concluded round of Bachmann / Cain / Perry / Santorum / Gingrich rightwing rhetoric, how the Romney campaign could have been surprised at the onslaught from Bryan Fischer, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, etc, is amazing.

Secondly, having Grenell help organize Romney’s first big foreign policy moment, via a phone conference with international news outlets, but then doing this : (via Think Progress):

“˜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.’

“The campaign” has such a safe, don’t-blame-anyone-in-particular sound to it. Not expecting repercussions to the “lay low” directions is difficult to understand.

Third, when it became clear Grenell wasn’t going to go along with such things, “the campaign” tried to keep him onboard (but very quietly), and then said he really hadn’t officially started his job, and so really didn’t resign … thinking this would satisfy anyone “” Grenell, his supporters or his detractors “” is another stumble.

How could they think they could appoint an “openly gay” man, and this would be 1) good enough to get some moderate votes, but 2) small enough not to lose “social conservative” votes? When the opposition quickly escalated, they never came out in “stand our ground” support of Romney’s choice. Maybe that’s because they really aren’t sure what their ground is.

This is not what leadership looks like. Although, it does look very familiar. There’s something about walking the line, trying to please disparate voting blocs, abandoning appointees or nominees when things start heating up, and taking a cautious, incremental approach in efforts to avoid controversy … that’s all very familiar, in a bipartisan kind of way.

The same Think Progress report includes this:

“˜It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,’ an anonymous “˜Republican told the Times. “˜They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.’

That’s wanting to have it both ways, but “the campaign” really should know that isn’t how the “religious right” plays the game.

American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer declared a “huge victory,” and took the obvious next step, as reported at Right Wing Watch. Fischer said

… that since Romney is partial to “˜political convenience’ over “˜political conviction,’ conservatives must keep up the pressure on him “˜since the governor has demonstrated in the Grenell affair that he is maneuverable.’

Being perceived as “maneuverable” surely doesn’t make “the campaign” happy. From the same piece, a response from “conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd,” who said

… you can’t be the party of freedom and the Constitution if you’re not going to understand that the Constitution enshrines the First Amendment and not gay rights.

It’s extreme, but this general view of “the homosexuals” exists alongside “woman as womb” and labeling persons as “illegals.” These views still manage to scare candidates on Left and Right. Romney just gave them another reason to insist on their way. At Catholic Bandita:

It’s not Grenell’s “˜sexual orientation’ that we conservatives have a problem with. It’s that he is public about it and that he advocates for policy that threatens religious freedom. This should not be a difficult concept for a presidential candidate to understand. “˜Gay rights’ and religious freedom do clash.

Classic arguments: “I don’t care what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t try to shove it down my throat,” meaning, “as long as you don’t demand equality,” in marriage or anything else.

But what about those Republicans who are not of this mindset? Andrew Sullivan writes:

Romneyites are correct when they say they tried to talk (Grenell) out of (resigning). But they kept and keep their views quiet. The gay-inclusive elements in the elites simply do not have the balls to tackle the religious right. And this is particularly true of Romney, as this case now proves. The Christianists gave Bush a pass on social issues because of his born-again Christianity. They trust Mormon Romney not an inch. And this week demonstrates without any doubt that Romney will therefore not be able to deviate from their wishes an iota.

Mitt Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom appeared on CNN, but as Igor Volsky writes, Fehrnstrom

… failed to harshly criticize conservative right wing activists who had derided the aide as a “˜homosexual activist’ … .

Instead … Fehrnstrom found false equivalency between “˜voices of intolerance’ in both political parties … .

At HuffPo Jon Ward notes that the Romney campaign had distributed statements in defense of Grenell.

But the Romney campaign did not blast the statements out to its entire email list but instead provided them to reporters upon request. This added up to a more passive defense of Grenell than an active one.

Prejudice is personal, but always includes the generalized “other.” You’re “less than,” you don’t meet the standards and norms imposed from those who think they’re in positions to make such judgments. Politically, I disagree with Mr. Grenell in significant ways. And I dislike what, to me, are the sexist remarks he’s made. But I abhor the attacks from Fischer and company, and while not surprised at Romney’s “passive defense,” find it as revealing as such cautious, fearful actions always are.

Meanwhile, such “maneuverability” provides cover for timid Democrats, who really don’t have to do much to look better.

(Romney Pro Gay Flyer, unedited, via Think Progress)