As the fallout over the resignation of Mitt Romney’s openly gay foreign policy adviser continues today, much of the commentary is centered on the question of whether Romney’s aides pushed Grenell out in response to the uproar among social conservatives over the appointment. Romney aides are putting out the word that they did no such thing, and that they didn’t keep Grenell under wraps in any way.
But let’s say we accept this to be true. There’s still another question that hasn’t been answered: Why didn’t Romney or his campaign stand up more forcefully to the attacks as they were happening?
This, more than the question of whether or not Grenell was pushed out, is what is really galling even to would-be allies of Romney, such as the gay Republican group GOPround.
“The Romney campaign should have spoken up publicly in defense of Rick against the attacks over the past two weeks,” GOProud’s executive director Jimmy LaSalvia said in an interview with me just now.
“This was an opportunity to send an important message that Mitt Romney wants everybody to get behind him and to support his camapign,” LaSalvia continued. “They let that opportunity pass.”
Many liberals and Democrats are pointing to Grenell’s departure episode as proof that Romney — who has been insisting he would have had the fortitude and strength to order the Bin Laden raid — is a weak leader who is afraid to stand up to the extreme elements in his own party. The Romney campaign has been insisting in response that he was not pushed out. And Romney’s spokesman did say in a statement yesterday that the campaign is “disappointed” that Grenell resigned, because of his “superior qualifications,” which could have been interpreted as a shot at his social conservative critics.
But whatever you think of Grenell, the problem for gay Republicans like GOProud remains that the Romney campaign didn’t meaningfullly stand up to the attacks while they were going on. As Jennifer Rubin notes, prominent social conservatives were not privately asked to quiet the storm on the right. Romney’s aides may be right on the question of whether Grenell was or wasn’t asked to leave, but it’s hard to see how that changes the broader story here, or makes this whole affair any less of a referendum on Romney’s leadership or willingness to take on extreme voices within his own party.