Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quota for Muslims

Mansoor Ijaz wrote in csmonitor I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today.

He is right.
He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified.
You select cabinet secretaries based on the most qualified, not on a quota basis.
But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

Captain Ed blogged Ijaz, however, started off by doing exactly what he accuses Romney of doing -- playing identity politics. The presidential Cabinet includes only a small number of positions, and Ijaz wants Romney to commit to holding a position open for a Muslim, regardless of qualifications. Which position should this nameless Muslim take? Homeland Security? Defense? State? And what qualified candidates does Ijaz have for these positions?

As it turns out, Ijaz has someone in mind: himself. Ijaz spends four paragraphs talking about what a great candidate he himself would be, given his service to the nation. Nothing on his resume rises to the level of running the Pentagon, Homeland Security, or even the Department of the Interior. He would certainly make a good advisor to the FBI or the CIA, or perhaps the State department -- the kind of position Romney acknowledged as a possibility.

Ijaz also gives some indication that he didn't even understand his own question:
Imagine how a qualified American Muslim FBI director, sensitized to the genuine concerns among Arab and Muslim communities about civil rights violations, would be able to ensure that FBI actions and policies target the real bad guys, not communities as a whole.
If the communities would help root out the bad guys, there would be no need to target the entire community.
The FBI Director is not a Cabinet position. The FBI director reports to the Attorney General. Romney's answer doesn't rule out that kind of assignment, assuming -- once again -- that a Muslim has the qualifications for the job.

Romney should have emphasized that in his answer. The point in picking Cabinet officials should be to find the best people for the job, and had Romney emphasized that, he would have shown Ijaz as the small-minded questioner he was. Instead, Romney gave a direct answer in the same sense of identity politics that Ijaz used, and noted that in that kind of system, plenty of other minorities would have claim on Cabinet positions before Romney worked his way down to the Muslims, Sikhs, Laplanders, and Vietnamese.

Ijaz thinks he's skewered Romney for bigotry. Instead, he has only outed himself as a self-promoter and identity-politics obsessive.

Captain Ed blogged As it turns out, Ijaz left a few items out of his resume in the Christian Science Monitor in yesterday's essay. In 1997, the Washington Post reported Ijaz's involvement in presidential politics -- for the Democrats:
Mansoor Ijaz, a 35-year-old businessman, was precisely the kind of political activist the White House was seeking last year to help finance President Clinton's reelection campaign.

Wealthy and well-connected, Ijaz was more than willing to pitch in. By Election Day in November, he had raised $525,000 for the Democratic cause, including $250,000 from his personal funds and $200,000 donated by guests at a fund-raising reception for Vice President Gore at Ijaz's New York penthouse in September, according to Federal Election Commission records, White House documents and Ijaz.

Think Progress tries to spin this into racism on Romney's Part Religious Minority Candidate Mitt Romney Comes Out In Favor Of Religious Bigotry.... Note to Romney: As a Mormon running for President, you’re going to need to come up with a better justification for religious bigotry against Muslims.

According to the CIA World Factbook (which uses 2002 numbers), Mormons comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population, while Jews and Muslims comprise 1 percent each. Based on 2001 numbers, there were 2.8 million Mormons and 1.1 million Muslims in the United States. Surveys since that time indicate that the number of Muslims may have eclipsed the number of Mormons living in the U.S.
What does that have to do with anything?
Moreover, according to a recent Pew survey, Americans are about as familiar with Mormonism as they with Islam:
They know no Morman has flown planes into buildings to kill people,
Think Progress blogged Romney falsely spins his anti-Muslim bigotry.

After facing intense scrutiny for his bigoted comments about Muslims serving in public office, Mitt Romney attempted to “clarify” his position during a campaign stop in Florida by saying he opposes religious quotas:
It’s something I rejected, number one. And number two, point out that haven’t given a lot of thought to the people I would have in my Cabinet. I don’t have boxes I check off in terms of ethnicity, and it’s not that I need a certain number of people representing ethnic groups. Instead, I would choose people based on their merits… I’m open to having people of any faith, ethnic group. But they would be selected based on their capacity and capabilities and what they could bring to the Administration, but I don’t choose people based on checking off a box.
In his spin, Romney conveniently forgets his original argument that a Muslim shouldn’t be given a cabinet position “based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population.” As Matthew Yglesias points out, the original “account of Romney’s answer makes it seem as if Romney has no problem in principle with the idea of a Muslim quota,” but he “just doesn’t think there are enough American Muslims to justify a cabinet post.”

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