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An exchange in The Corner over the weekend between Kevin Williamson and Matthew Franck encapsulates how the dynamic between economic and social conservatives often becomes dysfunctional. Here’s how it went down:

  1. Williamson made fun of a post at the Atlantic that was breathlessly amazed Romney would have a gay man as an adviser, even on foreign policy.

  2. Franck responded raising alarm that the adviser in question is an aggressive advocate of gay marriage.

  3. Williamson argued that people who support gay marriage should be welcome in the foreign policy apparatus, and went on to make an extended series of arguments for why the marriage debate should be low priority for conservatives.

  4. Franck’s rejoinder argued that the marriage debate is core to liberty and should be an extremely high priority.

These are serious posts by serious people and there’s a lot of substance in them to chew over, if you’re interested in the marriage debate vis-a-vis conservatism and how social and economic issues relate to one another. But there’s one other issue I really want to highlight.

Franck makes the point that the outcome of the marriage debate will hinge . . . in large part on how many conservatives think about marriage the way Williamson does versus how many think the way Franck does. Yet I think Franck himself is talking in ways that reinforce people like Williamson in their views.

Although Franck’s follow-up post gets into serious substance, his initial post isn’t a discussion of the issues but a personal diatribe against Richard Grenell, the foreign policy adviser in question. It bears the inquisitorial title “Who Is Richard Grenell, Anyway?” Franck says the problem is not that Grenell supports gay marriage, but that he does so “with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment.” Franck then lays out a number of tweets and other comments from Grenell that don’t rise even close to a level that would justify such characterizations. A few of the statements Franck himself makes in these posts are comparable in their tone to the statements from Grenell that Franck says are evidence Grenell is “unhinged.” Worse, in his follow-up post, Franck goes so far as to insist that if Barack Obama endorses gay marriage Grenell will stab Romney in the back and switch to support Obama. (Where’s the  Department of Precrime  when we need it?)

If Franck wanted to reinforce the perception that advocates of marriage are motivated by irrational animus against gay people, mission accomplished.

(My thanks to Franck for gracefully correcting my spelling!)

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