Jennifer Rubin, one of the many conservative columnists at the Washington Post, is just appalled at the Religious Right reaction to Mitt Romney’s hiring of the openly gay Richard Grenell. She cites Ben Smith’s report on the backlash, centered on Bryan Fischer’s response:

A leading anti-gay figure in the Republican Party attacked Governor Mitt Romney for hiring an openly gay spokesman, sending a shot from the GOP’s socially-conservative base across the nominee’s bow.

Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, is probably the most straightforwardly anti-gay Republican to appear regularly in the party’s mainstream. Presidential candidates including Rick Santorum have appeared on his radio show, and he spoke at the Values Voter Summit in Washington in October.

He responded yesterday to Romney’s decision to hire an openly-gay — “out & loud gay,” in Fischer’s terms — foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell by calling it a “message to the pro-family community” of “drop dead.”

Ben Smith’s piece goes on to point out that Grenell is close to John Bolton, which should eliminate him from contention for any job more difficult than walking cats, but that’s neither here nor there.

Jennifer chimes in:

There plainly is a debate generationally, as I have reported, within the GOP on gay marriage. But while this goes on, there should, one would hope, be a consensus that animus toward gays and toward hiring gays to work in government (or anywhere else) is beyond the pale. Pols like Rick Santorum and social conservative groups who don’t want to endorse Fischer’s brand of hate shouldn’t associate themselves with him.

Yes, “one would hope” that blatant, naked homophobia should be off the table, but this is the modern Republican party we’re talking about, which has been overtaken by the same crazies the “insiders” used to cynically use for usefully stupid votes. We are aware that, yes, it does freak Beltway conservatives out that these people — the teabaggers, the Religious Right — have risen to positions of influence and are controlling many of the levers, but the party has been going that way for a while now. But I’d suggest that it’s highly  naive to assume that politicians like Rick Santorum “don’t want to endorse Fischer’s brand of hate.” Of course they do! They’re not particularly happy that their associations with people like Bryan Fischer get reported far beyond the echo chamber walls of Wingnuttia, as it destroys their chances with moderates, but just the same, you’ve got to dance with them that brung ya, and for far too many figures in the modern Republican party, “them that brung ya” are misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic voters yearning for an America that only ever existed in their minds.

It would be a positive thing for the party and our country if it was crystal clear there is no place in civil discourse for those fanning the flames of hatred toward gays and egging on fellow conservatives to discriminate against gays in hiring. Unfortunately, not everyone on the right agrees.

Nope, they don’t. This election is going to be fun to watch.