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Should FDR Have Chosen a Japanese-American Cabinet Member?

December 3, 2007

The Christian Science Monitor published an article written by Mansoor Ijaz entitled "A Muslim Belongs in the Cabinet." Ijaz, a fund raiser for Democrat candidates made himself the center of the article he wrote about the recent "political fundraiser in Las Vegas." He claims that he asked Republican presidential candidate Mitt 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."

Ijaz reported that Mitt Romney "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.'"

Is that an exact quote or is that just what he thinks Mitt Romney said? Is that a tape of this exchange? If so, where is it? Let's see an actual transcript - since obviously Mansoor Ijaz cannot claim to be an independent journalist in this situation. Or, let's at least get Mitt Romney or other witnesses' version of this story before concluding that is what was said.

Is Mansoor Ijaz correct in stating that a Muslim "belongs" in the Cabinet? What would the media response have been had the question been, "whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Mormon faith in his cabinet as advisers" - since there are three times as many Mormons in the USA as there are Muslims? How about had the question been "whether he would consider including qualified Jews in his cabinet as advisers since the existence of the State of Israel is a foreign policy issue?"

This sounds as if Monsoon Ijaz thinks there is, or should be, an affirmative action program to put Muslims in key government places.

After Ijaz's article hit the news, to its credit CBS news asked Mitt Romney for his version of the encounter at the fund raiser that was closed to the media. Romney responded that Monsoor Ijjaz's question "was, 'Did I need to have a Muslim in my cabinet to be able to confront radical jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my cabinet.' Romney said his response was: 'No I don't think that you have to have a Muslim in the cabinet to be able to, to take on radical jihad any more than during the Second World War we needed to have a Japanese-American to help us understand the threat that was coming from Japan,' or something of that nature.'

Romney's actual response, of course unreported by the Democrat fund-raiser Mansoor Ijaz, was fast and brilliant. What he said was that instead of filling his cabinet posts with ethnicity in mind, he would choose his cabinet members based on merit.

Asked if that included the possibility of appointing a well-qualified Muslim, Romney said, "I'm open to having people of any faith and ethnic group but they would be selected based on their capacity and their capabilities and the values and skills that they could bring to the administration, but I don't choose people based on checking off a box."

What is scary to me about this story is that most of the media seems to think it was Mitt Romney's inaccurately reported response, not Mansoor Ijaz's totally stupid question that is the gist of the story here. In fact, now that we have what Mitt Romney says he said, I think his response not only was brilliant, but a great example of what we need in the White House after the 2008 election.

I am of the World War II generation. If anyone during World War II had asked President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the election campaign of 1944, whether he should have a Japanese-American in his cabinet to help us "understand the threat coming from Japan" he or she would have been either totally dismissed as a crazy person or would have been charged with treason.

Yet, another Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, is reported to have said, "I think his comment is indicative of how he might govern, and I think it's absolutely wrong."

Well, that makes it easy. I think Mitt Romney is totally right to select people based on merit rather than on ethnicity, or perhaps gender or the money they can contribute or some other "box" that leads to bad government. So, I won't be voting for John McCain.

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Copyright ©2007 Mary Mostert