It's about as easy to lose track of Mitt Romney's political gaffes as it is to lose track of the number of drinks you've had during a beer pong tournament. Their pace is relentless, both are sort of shamefully satisfying, and ultimately they make your head hurt.
To save mental space, I've tried to assemble Romney's gaffes into a Frankenstein error, a Katamari of campaign stumbles: "Mitt Romney let the dogs out, only to fire them into a corporation to kill people via creative destruction and win a $10,000 bet." But there's always something new. This week, Romney's leadership of his advisors as well as his own words about leadership in protecting America seemed to suggest one thing: Mitt Romney believes that the United States cannot afford to elect Mitt Romney.
You've probably seen the first story: Richard Grenell, Romney's newly minted foreign policy expert, was silenced on a major conference call, unceremoniously closeted by the Romney campaign and subsequently resigned. Because he was gay.
Don't start the waterworks yet. Grenell played lackey to George Bush's UN Ambassador John Bolton, bearer of the Ur-Freeper mustache and the sort of person whose idea of a response to UN protests over bombing the Middle East to a sheet of glass would have been to don a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones. Grenell fit right in, and his nastiness extended to the personal, where he used Twitter to slam Rachel Maddow, Michelle Obama and Callista Gingrich's appearance without the leavening aspect of "not being incredibly obvious and unfunny."
All of which is to say that Grenell has a robust neoconservative background of being indifferent to killing a lot of people while also being a huge dick. Even with his history of sharing corporate-camp bunk beds with Bibi Netanyahu, Romney's unfair "Massachusetts Moderate" reputation needed counterbalance from someone like Grenell.
Unfortunately, all it took was the homophobic outrage of a far-right Christian loudmouth and director of an SPLC-designated hate group named Bryan Fischer to change the strategy of the presumptive GOP nominee's campaign. Grenell's homosexuality, which disrupted no aspect of Bush-era diplomacy, could somehow be fatal to Romney. Naturally, seeing the bar set so low, the National Review oozed under it:
whatever fine record he compiled in the Bush administration, Grenell is more passionate about same-sex marriage than anything else. So here's a thought experiment. Suppose Barack Obama comes out—as Grenell wishes he would—in favor of same-sex marriage in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?
After years of voting and working for the sorts of people who leverage restricting his civil rights in order to "mobilize the base," it's pretty safe to say that Grenell isn't jumping ship any time soon. When your own employers make you the boogeyman to get votes and you don't shop your resume around, you're probably a true believer. (And if sexual pursuits really motivate political behavior over all other concerns, where was the huge middle-aged male voting swing for McCain over his MILF policy?) But this is Planet GOP, after all, where gay people are fervid, priapic little deviants who can't help but indoctrinate children and think broken thoughts with the broken dicks that they keep trying to cram into the wrong openings. I mean, Christ, if the ambassador from Tehran is exotically long-lashed and Persian enough, Grenell might sell out our war plans for a handjob.
This might just be saucy, shabby sexual politics, but Romney's pitch to the American people is "LEADERSHIP" and capable management. When Romney's being charitable to Obama, he uses codewords to call him stupid ("in over his head") while championing his own expertise. Given his campaign approach, it's significant that the three natural responses to the Grenell matter are all negative:
- Romney had to hire, hide and accept/"encourage" the resignation of a man who was a political liability because of his noxious tweets, which shows basic managerial incompetence.
- Romney had to hire, hide and accept/"encourage" the resignation of a man who was a political liability because he was gay, which shows managerial incompetence because Grenell not only disclosed his man-love-bona fides, but Romney also somehow overlooked the fact that he represents the homophobia party.
- Romney lacks a leader's resolution, is willing to run from association with someone who served in the Bush administration and is willing to have his moneyed, lockstep electoral juggernaut stopped short and sent skittering rightward from some "Signs of Evil Countdown" evangelical radio meathead with a whopping 1,400 Twitter followers.
The first two are bad on their own, but the vacillating wussiness of the third was the sort of thing castigated by Romney himself. After Romney condemned Obama for "politicizing" national defense and the assassination of Osama bin Laden—a truly rich accusation coming from the party of "Mission Accomplished" and fishily timed political benchmarks in Iraq—people like William Saletan at Slate and Ben Armbruster and Igor Volsky at Think Progress printed substantial quotes from George Bush, Dick Cheney, Ed Gillespie and Zell Miller politicizing the war on terror and slamming John Kerry for his lack of leadership and resolve.
One person who joined them was Mitt Romney:
I think people know pretty well that he's a guy who has a hard time finding which side of a position to come down on. But I'm going to focus on the fact that our nation needs strong leadership. We're under attack, militarily, economically. Our very way of life is under attack. And we need to have... steady, strong leadership....
Not only does this quote challenge Romney's ability to manage his own staff of advisors and his attitude toward targeting bin Laden (to borrow another 2004 phrase, "He was against it before he was for it") but it impeaches him on practically anything else. He was for a woman's right to choose before he was against it. He was for stem-cell research before he was against it. He was for his own healthcare program before he was against it.
Militarily, economically... our very way of life is under attack. If Mitt Romney is to be believed, Mitt Romney is an existential threat to it. We "don't want presidential leadership that comes in 57 varieties." America needs resolute leadership it can count on, and Mitt Romney has ruled out a candidate like Mitt Romney in no uncertain terms. Unless, of course, he changed his mind about that.
"Mobutu Sese Seko" is founder of the blog Et tu, Mr. Destructo?