The Republican Party’s ‘Grenell’ problem

My good friend Ric Grenell recently made waves in the presidential election over his hiring as foreign policy spokesman for the Romney camp. Last week, after a brief two-week stint as spokesman, he resigned. To the far left, Grenell sparked outrage as his quick wit and sarcastic humor via Twitter irked some women (he apologized immediately to the few he offended). To the far right, Grenell was labeled a gay activist who was going to promote gay marriage globally. Both of these extremist views are dead wrong, and both of these political factions are worse off for having Grenell on the sidelines and not in the game.

Having spent the past eight years with Grenell and his partner both professionally and personally, I have witnessed one of the brightest minds in our foreign-policy debate. Not only did Grenell dedicate his career to public service in San Diego, New York and at the United Nations, he energetically wore a badge of honor defending freedom and human dignity on a global stage. I witnessed his generosity to those on both sides of the political spectrum, to gays, to straights, to women, to media folks, who all enjoyed his company during many holiday parties, events and dinners. Sure, Grenell often stirred the pot in dialogue with friends and family, but what do you expect from a career conservative living in New York City and Los Angeles?

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The anti-woman/Twitter argument from the left is so funny considering he spent a reputable career defending freedom and democracy — mostly against nations that persecute women. Media personnel covering these issues were left-leaning technocrats staked out at the liberal bastion called the United Nations. Of course they are going to disagree. He was defending the Bush/Bolton foreign-policy doctrine, something that is antithetical to the core of a left-wing media society. These attacks and mischaracterizations are hurtful to the very people the left is trying to protect. What is even more frustrating is the gay media attacks on Grenell, claiming he chose “power over principal.” These activist journalists need to realize that having advocates in both parties is the only way to win over hearts, minds and ultimately equality. 

Additionally, the fact that the far right can hound someone relentlessly to the point of resignation is a troubling thought in 2012. Even more troubling is that the Romney camp wasn’t strong enough to fight back and protect its own. Right-wingers have an infatuation with the private lives of others and an obsession with sexuality in the political process. What they are doing — judging someone because of their sexuality — is fundamentally un-American. 

The GOP nominee, an expert in business and management, made a key decision to hire the most qualified people for his team. The campaign made a calculated decision to hire Grenell, and the campaign was better because of it. In the aftermath of all of this, we learned the campaign muzzled Grenell to appease the religious right. Denying an employee the right to do the job he was hired to do simply because he is gay is something I would expect to happen in 1950s Hollywood, not in 2012 politics. 

In recent interviews, the Romney team has explained that it never wanted Grenell to leave. I find it interesting that the campaign came to his defense after he resigned and not while he was being lambasted by the intolerant right. In the past, I was willing to overlook the safe-play-calling by the campaign team as an attempt to glide into the spot as the nominee. Now that they are in full campaign mode, inaction on their part regarding Grenell has me questioning their ability to truly stand on principal. Actions speak louder than words.  

My hope is that Mitt Romney realizes no vote is worth taking away one’s dignity. Standing up for freedom means freedom for everyone. The GOP has a “Grenell” problem. There is no place in the Republican Party for right-wing hate. Not if they want to win in 2012.  With Grenell in the trenches, the GOP is a better place.    

Greenawalt is the former chairman of the Log Cabin Republican N.Y. State PAC and served on the LCR National Board.