What Will Romney Do about Bryan Fischer’s Gloating Over Grenell?

A few more thoughts on my post yesterday about how Richard Grenell’s resignation from the Romney campaign played out according to the religious right’s plan: to make Romney  look like he was caving to their immense power.

Andrew Sullivan talks to some foreign policy reporters and Romney campaign insiders and concludes:

Their response to the far right fooferaw was simply to go silent, to keep Grenell off-stage and mute, and to wait till the storm passed. But the storm was not likely to pass if no one in the Romney camp was prepared to back Grenell up. Hence his dilemma. The obvious solution was simply to get Grenell out there doling out the neocon red meat – which would have immediately changed the subject and helped dispel base skepticism. Instead the terrified Romneyites shut him up without any actual plan for when he might subsequently be able to do his job. To my mind, it’s a mark of his integrity that he decided to quit rather than be put in this absurd situation. And it’s a mark of Romney’s fundamental weakness within his own party that he could not back his spokesman against the Bryan Fischers and Matthew Francks. I’m with GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia on this.

Irin Carmon talks to Bryan Fischer, who opines:

“The reason I was concerned is that this, I believe, was a shout-out on Governor Romney’s part to the homosexual lobby, because he knew that Grenell was a homosexual activist,” Fischer says, noting that the hire came only after several Christian right groups and the National Organization for Marriage had already endorsed Romney. “Richard Grenell could not possibly have been the only qualified individual that Governor Romney could find … If it wasn’t about homosexuality, than why did so many gay rights groups celebrate the hire?”

Romney and Fischer have been enemies for some time; Fischer may possibly still hold a grudge against Romney from the Values Voters Summit last year. While religious right leaders, since Rick Santorum’s departure from the scene, have been lining up to support Romney, Fischer has indicated he’s unlikely to do so–so why would Romney even bother trying to satisfy him? It had to been other pressure from the right, exemplified by Matthew Franck’s discussion at National Review, that the hire proved Romney was still a gay-marriage-flip-flopper.

The anti-gay right’s freakout, as I said yesterday, is not just about Grenell being gay (although, of course, they can’t stand that). Romney’s greatest weakness with the base is that they don’t trust his anti-gay bona fides; the Grenell hire presented them with the opportunity to put the screws to the campaign to take a side. Fischer may have been the most outspoken media hog of this campaign, but he’s unlikely the only player. 

Romney’s, and the GOP’s, problem now is that Fischer is running around declaring victory for this. So the public perception is that the campaign caved to a demagogue who has claimedthat gay sex is “domestic terrorism”; called gay adoption a “terrible, terrible, inexcusable, inhumane thing to do to children”; and has written “today in America, it is chic in some homosexual circles for individuals to wear replicas of Nazi Germany uniforms, complete with iron crosses, storm trooper outfits, military boots, and even swastikas.”

Republican politicians have had many opportunities to declare Fischer out of bounds, or at least put some distance between them. But they have declined to do so, for the most part, except for Romney’s rebuke at VVS. Recall what Romney said then:

Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.  The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart.

I guess the “changed a single mind” part isn’t quite true.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email