The imbroglio … shows that Romney remains beholden to his base — that he is, or feels, unable to weather even modest levels of heat over what was a purely policy-free concession to the center. Romney just isn’t going to be able to anger any portion of the Republican coalition.
You certainly can't look at this and think, "There's a campaign that's confident of holding on to evangelical voters."
Allahpundit has questions:
If Romney was worried about how Grenell might be received on the right, why not turn him loose as a critic of Obama’s OBL-related attack on Mitt? That would have gotten conservatives on his side.
Josh Marshall thinks Romney looks weak:
In the face of attacks meant to show he can’t stand up to Osama bin Laden, Romney shows he can’t stand down the far-right homophobes in his own party. The two things are worlds apart. Literally. But they put Romney in the same place.
The Romneyites are busy spinning that Grenell's concerns were all in his head. But the vicious attacks from the far right, the total silence from the Romney camp, and his own absence from a week of intense foreign policy debate sealed it for him. Grenell – who once worked for John Bolton – is not a wilting flower. He'd have toughed it out if his political mentors had quickly backed him. They could easily have used this as a pivot for the general election, showing that while they oppose civil rights for homosexuals, they don't actually want to remove them purely for their sexual orientation.
The trouble is: a huge swathe of the GOP base does want to remove these people purely because of their sexual orientation. When you listen to Fischer above or read Matthew Franck, you see a visceral notion that any public embrace of an openly gay person in a relationship who supports his own equality is anathema. It doesn't matter that his brief is foreign policy. I recall in the 2000 GOP Convention that Jim Kolbe, an openly gay congressman, gave a speech about free trade. The entire Texas delegation literally turned their backs on him – purely because he is gay.
But we are twelve years on, a majority of Americans now back marriage equality, including a tsunami of the under-30s. Many moderate middle class suburban voters don't like the idea of a campaign that cannot include anyone openly gay – especially when that person is about as neoconservative as you can get. The military issue has been resolved – and far from the calamity of a radical social experiment, it has been close to a total non-event. And yet the GOP – because of its fusion with Christianist fundamentalism – cannot have a single openly gay person out front. In Britain, there are now 19 openly gay Tory MPs, and the prime minister is backing marriage equality in a parliamentary vote this year. That's the difference between a sane and inclusive conservative party – and a reactionary rump of religious fanatics.
This much we already knew. What we know now is that Romney is helpless in the face of such pressure. In office, he will be a tool of the furthest right in his party. In fact, he has much, much less space to maneuver in than any president since George H. W. Bush. Because the base doesn't trust him, he has to be super-right-wing on issues like homosexual equality, climate change, more tax cuts, more defense spending, abortion, and birth control.
But allow me to end this sorry tale with a quote from a sane conservative at NRO, Kevin Williamson:
As Haley Barbour observed: “Purity in politics is a loser; unity in politics is a winner. . . . If you had to agree with Haley Barbour on every issue, it would be a mighty small party. That’s just a fact, and we need people to understand that at the end of the day, Reagan was right: A person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your friend and ally, not some 20 percent traitor.”
I suppose Haley Barbour forgot to include the no-homo caveat.