Mitt and the Muslim Cabinet Question

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Nov 28, 2007 10:53 AM
Mansoor Ijaz was calling the Romney campaign's push-back "bulls**t" yesterday.

To Allah, it sounded like perhaps Romney had been asked a question that suggested he appoint a Muslim based on the number of Muslims in America-- a sort of quota system-- to which Mitt then responded:
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. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Ijaz insists, in an interview with Geraghty, his recollection is the right one:

He started his reply by restating the question, in which he said to the audience something like "the question is whether I would have Muslim advisers on policymaking where "jihad" is concerned – I then stopped him and clarified once more what my question was, "actually Governor, whether you would bring Muslim American advisers into your cabinet in policymaking roles", and then he answered very directly, very bluntly and without any hesitation in thinking about his answer: "based on the numbers of American Muslims who live in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslim advisers could serve at lower levels of my administration."
TPM has two accounts of Romney saying the same thing, but more ham-handedly, at another event:

The witness, Irma Aguirre, a former finance director of the Nevada Republican Party, paraphrased Romney as saying: "They're radical. There's no talking to them. There's no negotiating with them."

A second witness, a self-described local registered Republican named George Harris, confirmed her account.
It all sounds waaaay too careless and stupid for the famously disciplined Romney camp. It would also be extremely counter-productive and unlikely for the Romney campaign to be playing religious bigotry cards.

Here's what Romney says happened:
"No, that's not what I said. His question was, Did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet in order to confront radical jihad, or would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet?' And I said no, I don't think you need a Muslim in the Cabinet to take on radical jihad any more than we needed a Japanese American to understand the threat that was coming from Japan or something of that nature."

Romney continued, "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."