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.