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L’Affaire Grenell

This afternoon, a frenzy erupted when the incoming Romney campaign spokesman on foreign affairs, Richard Grenell, quit before he started. Grenell is openly gay, and a fierce advocate for his views on marriage. The Romney campaign claims it all but begged him not to quit, but Grenell was evidently rattled by attacks from the Right on his fitness for his post.

Among those attacking him was Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute. Franck published his views on National Review Online, and they are nothing short of appalling. Franck says Grenell’s being gay should not disqualify him from working for Romney, nor should his support for same-sex marriage. But he reveals his disingenuousness when he writes this: “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.”

Actually, it is not at all reasonable.

Put aside the preposterous non sequitur of Obama’s privileging gay rights over religious freedom, which has nothing to do with what Romney would do in office. Grenell might be in line for such a State Department posting or he might not. It is conceivable such a posting would somehow touch on gay issues, but it might not. The election is not for months. Romney has to win before there are posts to be filled. And assuming Romney won, Grenell’s views on any subject in the fantasy post Franck imagines would be secondary to the policy of the United States government Grenell would be tasked with carrying out. That is true of any political appointee in the president’s service.

To suggest Grenell would do otherwise is to do him—a man Franck does not know—an incredible disservice, and suggests bad faith on Franck’s part, not on Grenell’s. Franck does not wish a gay activist to serve in the Romney campaign or the U.S. government. Others like him don’t either. That is the true purpose of his opposition, and such disingenuousness should be called out and opposed.

I don’t know what kind of spokesman Grenell would have made for Romney—he got into immediate trouble for deleting hundreds of tweets over the past few years featuring intemperate though often witty remarks about liberals and Leftists, and evidently got a lot of reporters angry during his tenure as a press guy at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. But he wasn’t my hire, he was the Romney campaign’s, and they liked what they heard. I’m sure they checked with Grenell’s former boss, my friend John Bolton, whose conservative bona fides is irreproachable.

People are suggesting this will be bad for Romney because it will hurt him with the gay community. But the professional gay-rights movement and its leadership will already come after Romney in relation to his Mormon beliefs and the church’s role in the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which forbade gay marriage in the Golden State before a court overturned it. Those folks do not constitute a constituency that would ever support Romney.

The question is whether it will hurt Romney with others. Since it seems clear the Romney campaign did not push Grenell out but rather that Grenell decided he didn’t need the grief he was getting from Franck and others, it will be hard to charge the candidate with bigotry in this specific case. I imagine the same issues that will motivate people to vote for Romney rather than for Obama will be in play for homosexuals as well.

As for Franck and whoever else may have led Grenell to throw in the towel, they have perversely made it less likely they will be heard with favor by those who are working hard to oust the administration that Franck rightly says has been so hostile to religious freedom issues—an ouster Franck and his colleagues have made a tiny bit more difficult with their shenanigans, and shame on them for it.

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