Rachel Maddow called it! Wednesday night she wondered why Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney delivered what was billed as a major talk in North Carolina - and never mentioned the antigay Amendment One on that state's May 8 ballot. Mark this day, April 18, as the day Romney pivots to appeal to mainstream voters for the general election.
Well, given the Pew Research Center poll two days ago indicating that gay marriage is the issue of least importance to voters, it may not be surprising then that Thursday afternoon the Romney campaign announced that Romney has hired openly gay Richard Grenell, a former spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations appointed by by President Bush, as his national Security and foreign policy spokesperson.
The Washington Post reports:
Grenell brings foreign policy chops and more than a decade of political experience to the aggressive but relatively young Romney staff. His is one in a series of hires as the presumptive Republican nominee rapidly expands his small staff as it moves into the general election against President Obama.
Grenell has been based in Los Angeles since leaving the Bush administration. How do we know he's openly gay? Well, it's right there in Wikipedia - citing a Sept. 27, 2008 article by The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld:
Grenell, the longest-serving spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador whose final day was Friday, September 26, started inquiring nearly four years ago about having his partner, Matt Lashey, listed in what's known as the United Nations' Blue Book, a reference guide of contact information for different member states of the United Nations as well as diplomatic personnel and their spouses.
Though Grenell and Lashey met in New York and have been together six years, they cannot legally marry in the Empire State. "It is not an option for us in New York, but hopefully someday soon it will be," he says. "In my mind, and in Matt's mind, this is it. We're married."
Grenell has also blogged on the Huffington Post, where he wrote this piece entitled: "Gay Leaders Need a Tea Party Style Shakeup -- 111th Congress a Total Failure." An excerpt:
Gay Americans from outside Washington should demand that they stop sacrificing progress to further their personal political careers. It's time we found some young gay leaders who will work for equality and not be concerned about pleasing the Democratic Party.
Gay politics are not black and white. It isn't true that all Democrats are good on gay issues and all Republicans bad. The outcome of the Prop 8 vote in California, where the traditionally Democratic state also overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama for president, proves that Democrats have a lot of work to do in their own party. Republicans have failed us, too. I am not suggesting we dismiss the GOP sins of advocating for small government policies while practicing intrusive, big government tactics. But Republicans who advocate laissez-faire principles can be great allies, just as liberal Southern Democrats can be strong opponents working against us. But Solmonese and Sarvis have never seen it this way. For them, it's all a process to help the Democratic Party win more seats. And for this failed strategy, they should be judged harshly.....
It is painfully obvious that the national gay leaders have promoted their own partisan agendas and careers within the Democratic Party instead of working to ensure passage of civil rights.
OK - now that Grenell is probably the highest ranking openly gay member of Romney's campaign, might we see the GOP candidate pivot in a more pro-equality direction? Oh, at the end of his HuffPo piece, there's this:
Follow Richard Grenell on Twitter.
R. Clarke Cooper, in the back on the left, was Chief of Staff and Grenell, first row, left, was Spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the middle. (Photo from UN photo service, via LCR's Cooper)
R. Clarke Cooper emailed me his reaction:
"Ric will be a tremendous asset to the Romney camp. Having served with Ric, I can attest that his experience in the multi-lateral environment of the UN and familiarity with domestic and international media make Ric a strong voice."