Thursday, May 3, 2012

If You Can't Stand Up to Homophobes, How Can You Stand Up to Iran?

The Romney campaign seems to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  Right now, with the GOP nomination basically sewn up (as it has been since Rick Perry flamed out, because there is no way in hell anyone's going to nominate Newt or Santorum unless it is for the category of "least likely to ever be in charge of anything") the smart play is for Mitt Romney to move hard for the political center.  Die-hard liberals will never abandon the Democrat, and hard core conservatives will never abandon the Republican.  The moderates--those who may not hate Obama but aren't thrilled with him either, who are leery of big government but can see its value at times--are going to decide this election.

I've suggested before that if Romney wants to be competitive with Obama, he needs a "Sister Souljah" moment, where he chastises the more extreme or polarizing elements in his own party to signal to moderates that he is not beholden to these toxic folks.  He failed to do so during the Sandra Fluke kerfuffle, and these opportunities don't come too often in a campaign.  But they do recur.

The latest was the hounding of Romney campaign aide Rick Grennell, who recently resigned from the campaign amid some criticism from the party's right wing.  Some of this criticism had to do with blog posts and tweets (seriously, Twitter really should have been left for pre-teen girls and not grownups) by Grennell, but some of the nastier attacks were prompted by revelations that the aide is--horrors!--gay. 

It appears that Grennell's resignation may have been a surprise to the Romney team, so it seems unlikely that he was asked to resign.  However, this would have been a good chance to jump on the issue and make a public statement to the (sadly) far too influential gay-haters in his party--namely, to say that Romney couldn't care less what someone's sexual orientation is and that anyone focusing on that is just plain weird. This wouldn't require any policy discussions that would antagonize the base, but would be a good showing of loyalty to his aide--signalling that he'd defend them from bigots, and signalling to moderates that he wouldn't let the extreme elements of the party push him around.  Plus, how risky is it for Romney to stand up to these thugs?  It's not as though they'll sit idly by and let Obama get re-elected.  They're stuck with Mitt at this point.

Romney's failure to take this not so risky stance instead demonstrates that this is a timid candidate, too cowed by the more bigoted elements in his party.  Ironically, George W Bush--beloved by "Christian" conservatives and never really in danger from his party's right flank--would likely have done this, as the Bushes tended to be loyal to their aides, to a fault.

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