Quote of the Day: Resignation of Robert Grenell is Romney’s First Big Mistake

Our political Quote of the Day comes from Bloomberg’s Michael Kinsley, who in a column titled “Mitt Romney’s Bigotry Needs No Spokesman,” argues that the resignation of Romney’s foreign policy spokesman Robert Grennell amid attacks on Grennell from social conservatives who had an issue with him being is a big mistake that will hurt Romney with moderate voters.

Kinsley begins this way:

Mitt Romney didn’t exactly fire Ric Grenell, who is gay, as his foreign policy spokesman. But when the religious right got wind of Grenell’s hiring, his job started to shrink.

Grenell was told to sit in on conference calls with reporters and not say anything, which is tantamount to firing him. He was told to be silent not merely on gay issues. He was told not to talk about anything, even foreign policy. A spokesman who is not allowed to speak — even internally — doesn’t have much of a job. So Grenell quit, three weeks after he was hired.

For Romney, this is the first big flub of the general election campaign. Until now, his smooth-running machine was one of the more impressive things about his candidacy. It made you think that maybe, as a businessman, he really could bring some efficiency to the White House, if not to the government as a whole.

Besides being offensive, however, this episode is remarkably inept. Grenell apparently was completely open about his sexuality. Why did Romney appoint him in the first place if he was going to hang the guy out to dry as soon as there was any criticism? (And there never was much.) If you’re going to be a bigot, at least be smart about it.

Although, as a weak-kneed liberal, I hate to talk like this, this episode does make you wonder about Romney’s guts. He portrays himself (and probably thinks of himself) as a hard- nosed businessman, ready to make the tough decisions that professional politicians won’t.

He talks about Romney’s flip-flops on some issues, then concludes:

Many moderates and independents may still believe that at heart Romney is a moderate Republican who fortunately has no principles and will say whatever it takes to win. Actually, citizens of all stripes across the country more or less believe that Romney’s been faking who he is, but it’s moderates he must now convince that he’s been lying like mad for the past year.

He’s going to need a few really top-notch spin doctors to perform this operation successfully. Too bad for him that he just drove a good one away.

One fact is that there some moderates and independents I’ve met over the past year who liked the Romney incarnation who was Governor of Massachusetts. They liked a more moderate Mitt Romney and they would even be open to a more conservative version who was clearly more in the style of the Bush Republicans or traditiona 20th century Republican conservatives. But a key part of Romney’s campaign is to ensure the party’s conservative base, Tea Party members, and Republicans who are part of the party’s tea party political culture accept him as one of them.

It’s doubtful a huge number of voters will vote against Romney due to the bungling of the Grenell episode. But it will add yet another strand to the increasingly high plate of political spaghetti that gives many moderates and independents reason to pause about not just who Romney is but how he’d stand up to political pressures in the White House from his party’s most conservative elements.

Team Romney met conservative media in an off the record session yesterday, leading to some speculation of the Romney camp will begin avoiding mainstream media not of the Fox News ilk.

Meeting with conservative media was a smart move on Camp Romney’s part.

The Grenell affair — no matter how it is spun (and it is being spun) by Romney’s spokespeople — was not.

Romney today (finally) addressed the Grenell controversy on Fox News:

Mitt Romney address the Richard Grennell controversy for the first time this morning on FOX. “We wanted him to stay with our team,” he said, per NBC’s Garrett Haake. “He’s a very accomplished spokesperson. We select people not based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation… We select based on ability.”

The problem: this comes way after the fact so it won’t alter what did to him image — among voters who are happy Grenell is out because he was gay or those who are upset that he was essentially forced out or among those who think it suggests Romney would be a weak leader in the White House who would essentially follow political pressures.

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  • wesleypresley

    But at the same time Romney got into to bed with Robert E. Murray winning his endorsement and money.
    We now know for certain Romney is a firm global warming denier, and will oppose any mine safety rules.

  • slamfu

    “He portrays himself (and probably thinks of himself) as a hard- nosed businessman, ready to make the tough decisions that professional politicians won’t.”

    Let me tell you something about “hard nosed businessmen”. They are really pussies. Those are the guys that run into an issue with regards to managing people, and instead of taking the route to really fix problems, take an axe to them and act like they’ve done something difficult. When in reality, all they’ve done is take the easy route. Its easy to fire people. Its hard to make them excel and be productive. But when you are a CEO, you can fire folks, do a restructure, pat yourself on the back for being a tough guy, and move on. Good actual tough business leaders don’t do that unless its absolutely necessary. Unless they’ve exhausted the playbook on how to turn things around.

    Presidents don’t have the options CEO’s do. People keep pitching the fact that he was a CEO when in fact I think that is a detriment to being a political leader since the jobs are so different. They should be pushing the fact he was a state governor. But I assume since he sponsored the healthcare thing they want to stay away from that. God forbid, he tried to help poor people one time then ran in a national GOP campaign. What an idiot.

  • Rcoutme

    As for ‘helping’ poor people:

    He raised the rent on low income housing occupants.

    He cut eyeglasses and dental for adults on Medicare.

    He cut all funding for the suicide hotline.

    He increased the quantity of lotteries in the state. (I just love putting the most recent two together).

    That is not really ‘helping’ poor people. Also, only about 8% of my state did not have health insurance (iirc), so it was more a mandate to ensure that all of us would have health insurance via a government program. Then he failed to fund the thing properly.

  • bluebelle

    Rcoutme–
    So much for his campaign pledge to fix the holes in the safety net

  • StockBoyLA

    It’s never a mistake when a politician does something which allows voters to understand his values, priorities and how he will lead while in office. :)