Pakistani-American Businessman Takes on Romney

Earlier this week, a Pakistani-American businessman named Mansoor Ijaz published an article in the Christian Science Monitor, entitled, a “A Muslim Belongs in the Cabinet.” I heard about it via Josh Marshall and TPM.

The surprising revelation in the piece related to how Mitt Romney had answered a question from Ijaz about having a Muslim in Romney’s would-be Cabinet:

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 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.”

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they’re too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America’s Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.(link)

At first, I thought this was pretty troubling. While obviously you wouldn’t put someone of a particular religious background in your cabinet as a token, you also wouldn’t exclude someone from a high position because of their religious background, would you?

But — when questioned about it, Romney described the question differently: “His question was, did I NEED to have a Muslim in my cabinet to confront radical Jihad, and would it be important to have a Muslim in my cabinet. And I said no…” (full quote here; or, see it on YouTube)

If you put aside the bluster about taking on “Radical Jihad” (all the Republicans seem to talk this way), Romney’s explanation of his interpretation of the question and subsequent answer actually isn’t very controversial.

Moreover, once you start to look a bit more closely at Mansoor Ijaz, what you find is a lot of sketchiness.We could start with the CSM article itself, where Ijaz makes a series of wild claims about his role in international affairs:

As a private American citizen, I negotiated Sudan’s offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in 1997 when the US government had no relations with that country’s leaders. I felt there was still an opportunity at that time to unravel the metastasizing terror network being organized by Osama bin Laden and his followers.

I later initiated dialogue with an Arab counterintelligence official in the summer of 2000 that could have resulted in the extradition of Mr. bin Laden to a friendly Muslim country and neutralized Al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 planning. That summer, I also helped negotiate a cease fire in Kashmir, which brought peace to a region that has known constant conflict since partition between India and Pakistan. (link)

I believe he left out the part about where he also brought down the Berlin Wall with his own hammer, invented the Microwave oven, and rescued a cat from drowning in Antarctica.

Oh wait, he also single-handedly broke the A.Q. Khan scandal:

In early 2001, I notified national security adviser Stephen Hadley that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and militant Islamists, some of whom I had worked with during the cease-fire campaign, were actively engaged in the sale and distribution of Pakistan’s nuclear technology. Mr. Hadley asked me to make recommendations on how these proliferation activities could be stopped. I did so, mindful that, as an American Muslim whose father was a pioneer in Pakistan’s nuclear program, I risked harming the name of my family. But for the sake of my duty as a citizen, I helped the US government expose the illicit transfers. A.Q. Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear program, was arrested a few years later.

Thank you for all your efforts, Mr. Mansoor Ijaz! You get the Ahmed Chalabi Award for Flagrant Self-Promotion.

Incidentally, ccording to Wikipedia (which may not itself be 100% trustworthy — though this particular page is pretty well-documented), Ijaz’s claim that he helped negotiate a case-fire in Kashmir cost him a regular Pundit gig at Fox News.

(If you Google, more incidents of sketchiness start to emerge…)

I don’t love Mitt Romney, but I’m inclined to take his word for it over Ijaz’s on this question — and I think Josh Marshall may be barking up the wrong tree.

52 thoughts on “Pakistani-American Businessman Takes on Romney

  1. The post seems to be an awfully long winded way to say: “Nothing to see here, move along”

  2. Romney said a similar thing in Nevada as well: …when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently addressed a group of a prominent local conservatives at a Las Vegas fundraiser, George lobbed the first question: “If you are elected President,” he asked, “will you include any Muslim members in your cabinet?” In the seconds before former Massachusetts Governor Romney responded, you could have heard a pin drop.

    His (admittedly, very smooth) answer in a nutshell? “Not likely.”

  3. DizzyDesi, well, it’s a bit more than that. This story has been starting to pick up some steam in the mainstream media (do a search for “Mansoor Ijaz” on News.Google.com; here’s the New York Times on the issue). Romney is rising fast in most polls, and he is under a lot of scrutiny in the media right now as a result.

    My assessment is that Ijaz is probably twisting what Romney said. Though I should point out: as of now there is no videotape of Romney’s original answer, so no knows for sure.

  4. My assessment is that Ijaz is probably twisting what Romney said

    Thats unlikely Amardeep. Here is another account of Romney saying the same thing:

    She described the exchange this way: “His question was something to the effect of, `Considering the problems that we have with the Jihadist movement and the problems we have with the Middle East, would you consider having a Muslim as an adviser that can guide you as to what kind of decisions to make with regards to the Middle East?’” “He said, `Probably not.’” Aguirre added that what Romney said next surprised her. “He said something to the effect of, `They’re radicals. There’s no talking to them. There’s no negotiating with them.’ I can’t remember the exact words he used, but that was the explanation
  5. Interesting background on Ijaz, Amardeep. But according to Josh Marshall et al., Ijaz was actually asking a follow up question based on earlier comments by Romney as confirmed by other Republicans.

    Who knows what Romney actually said or meant, but it is a little quick to say that TPM may be barking up the wrong tree if they have independent confirmation of his comments. Though they clearly missed the background on Ijaz that you found.

  6. This will make Romney a hero for the GOP crowd and especially the GOP primary voters. The last thing GOP voters want to see is a muzzie in the Cabinet and this will help Romney in the primary.

  7. Incidentally, according to Wikipedia
    which brought peace to a region that has known constant conflict since partition between India and Pakistan.

    Good we can all stop fussing then :)

  8. The last thing GOP voters want to see is a muzzie in the Cabinet and this will help Romney in the primary.

    Specifically in the South Carolina primary, or so says Harper’s Magazine.

    Some are calling Mitt’s statement a gaffe. I don’t think so. This is the most cautious, most carefully planned performer on the Republican side of the stage. He leaves nothing to chance. This statement is a calculated attempt to play the race and religion card in the South Carolina primary.
  9. are you perhaps blaming the messenger instead of the message? throwing the baby with the bathwater? I wouldn’t let Romney get off scotfree just because of an Op-Ed writer’s thin resume. I haven’t seen MR’s you-tube defense but the substance of his remark and previous history suggests that he would not give a seat at the table to a member of a community on the basis of religion alone using representation as his defense! which is so weird considering that his own community is only 1.4% of the population! by that criterion they’d would be kicked off the ranch in most cases on account of rounding errors. Further the question specifically was about whether being a “qualified American” would be a factor in MR’s hiring decision! So MR’s response is taht he would ignore a qualified American and look at population quotas to save him from the position of having to hire a minority ! Hey I’m not a muslim, but today its a muslim tomorrow it could be a surd! Yes absurd!

  10. Thats unlikely Amardeep. Here is another account of Romney saying the same thing:

    Well, if you trust Romney’s various responses to the accusation yesterday, he’s not trying to say he would exclude Muslims from his cabinet just because they’re Muslim.

    The earlier incident that’s being described (the one where Mansoor Ijaz wasn’t present) is more troubling, but it’s also a bit sketchier. Two people have verified that he said “Not likely” in response to the point-blank question about Muslims in his cabinet, but what he might have said after that isn’t well confirmed (Aguirre, for instance, says she can’t remember exactly what he said.)

    Note that the people at the earlier fundraiser aren’t writing opinion pieces about it to castigate Romney (all the while promoting themselves — it almost seems as if Mansoor Ijaz is saying, “hey, I would make a great Cabinet appointee, wouldn’t I? Pick me!”).

  11. Mitt Romney’s answer seemed to be some sort of proportional representation/affirmative action criterion for deciding if a Muslim should be in his cabinet. Funny that, coming from a republican and a Mormon (last I checked, they weren’t a significant fraction of the population to merit a presidency, by this metric).

  12. I took it as Romney saying he wouldn’t just include a Muslim based on their population representation, but I didnt take it to mean he would not take a Muslim just because they are a small percentage of their population. In short, he’s not going to be looking specifically for a Muslim for a cabinet position (as he might for a Hispanic or African American), but if one is capable, theres no indication he would reject solely on religion.

  13. Amardeep good post. We had talked about this on the USINPAC 2008 Presidential Election Blog yesterday none the less you hit the nail on the head on how controversial this statement is. Furthermore what is more interesting is that we do get a piece of his mind and as a resident of MA I can tell you that minority appointments were few under his Governorship in the Commonwealth. The truth is he believes in what most republicans do, its not about skin color or race its about your credentials. I think Romney does believe in having the best person in the job, coming from the corporate industry.

    Thats an interesting thought though at large, should a Presidential Administration or Cabinet have some racial demographic considerations or should color be blind and just pick the best individual for the job?

    Also I encourage all Sepia Mutiny readers to come check out http://www.usinpac2008.com it is a complete presidential portal looking to connect the indian american community to the upcoming presidential election. I am a volunteer and am passionate about getting our community out there on the political map so am always interested in your thoughts, ideas and contributions. vmehta@usinpac.com

    Thanks,

    Varun

  14. Amardeep,

    Good post. I think I agree with you that I will take romney’s words over this self promoting business man.

    But the larger point is what is wrong with GOP in general. Is this the best group of candidates they can throw up. Romney, Guiliani (I was a big supporter once but think he is not Presidential material), Huckabee and Thompson. The one serious candidate worthy of the Presidency, McCain, is not being given a serious chance by the pundits.Romney should go back to Bain capital and work with Blue eyed blond haired colleagues.

  15. Well, if you trust Romney’s various responses to the accusation yesterday, he’s not trying to say he would exclude Muslims from his cabinet just because they’re Muslim.

    Of course, I’m sure that Romney is more than happy to have it both ways — not exactly saying in so many words that he’d exclude Muslims from his cabinet, but still letting that impression linger among Islamophobes. Kinda like the way Bush plays both sides of the street on the connection between 9/11 and Iraq.

  16. “This will make Romney a hero for the GOP crowd and especially the GOP primary voters. The last thing GOP voters want to see is a muzzie in the Cabinet and this will help Romney in the primary.”

    from the full account in the cited Liberty Watch Magazine, it appears that at least some of the GOPs think differently:

    “In short, George and many other Nevada conservatives aren’t too thrilled with Romney’s exclusion of mainstream Arab-Americans and Muslims from important positions. Furthermore, we are witnessing military socialism and boneheaded foreign policy worm their way through our government, creating political mountains out of what should only be molehills.”

    and:

    “Unless the Republican presidential candidates come to terms with and properly address the issue of Arab-American and Muslim participation in our foreign-policy decisions, I fear that the 2008 election will be a blowout — and not in conservatives’ favor. This is bad news for America.”

  17. Thats an interesting thought though at large, should a Presidential Administration or Cabinet have some racial demographic considerations or should color be blind and just pick the best individual for the job?

    Merit should be the only consideration in cabinet selection.

  18. Also I encourage all Sepia Mutiny readers to come check out http://www.usinpac2008.com it is a complete presidential portal looking to connect the indian american community to the upcoming presidential election. I am a volunteer and am passionate about getting our community out there on the political map so am always interested in your thoughts, ideas and contributions. vmehta@usinpac.com

    SM Intern,

    what are the boundaries of own-blog (own semi-germane organization) plugging? Especially exhortations to the end of diverting traffic away from SM? ;)

  19. what are the boundaries of own-blog (own semi-germane organization) plugging? Especially exhortations to the end of diverting traffic away from SM? ;)

    Excellent question. ;)

    If it happens more than once, it starts to smell like spam.

  20. 12 · Rahul Funny that, coming from a republican and a Mormon (last I checked, they weren’t a significant fraction of the population to merit a presidency, by this metric).

    Yeah, but with their practice of baptism of the dead, they’ve got a huge fraction of the historical population! ;-)

  21. muralimannered

    I am not trying to divert traffic away from SM. We are trying to build an online community and anyone in the blogging community knows this only happens by linking with other blogs, groups and organizations. It would be spam if I posted the link with out any information hundreds of times but the truth is I am working on a passion project that I think many people would be interested in. We are already linking to sepia mutiny and talking all the time.

    Why are people negative so often, why can’t we all just be friends?

    :)

  22. Why are people negative so often, why can’t we all just be friends?

    I’m not being negative, just fair. When somebody(or some bot) comments about the topic and then proceeds to plug their own blog/organization I get a little bit suspicious. I asked the intern and the intern answered. In the end, it is the SM Intern who defines what constitutes inappropriate plugging–not you.

    Furthermore, from your comment, it didn’t seem like you read Amardeep’s post at all.

    none the less you hit the nail on the head on how controversial this statement is.

    That is not what he wrote, this is what he did:

    If you put aside the bluster about taking on “Radical Jihad” (all the Republicans seem to talk this way), Romney’s explanation of his interpretation of the question and subsequent answer actually isn’t very controversial.
    Why are people negative so often, why can’t we all just be friends?

    I’m breaking out the violin right now.

  23. Varun, you may find this post interesting. Would be curious to know your views since I don’t remember seeing anyone from USINPAC commenting and giving us their perspective.

  24. muralimannered thanks for the clarification…

    It seems that I wrote it wrong, I’m an Engineer what do you expect. I still am saying that Amardeep was right how controversial this statement is but in the sense just agreeing with how he thought it wasn’t controversial. My bad, any ways this represents what most similar “stunner” comments like these represent honestly nothing.

    I think more than statements it is there actions that are more important. Also I am glad you responded it should simply be based on achievement. From a math perspective I would really be interested to see if individuals were picked only on accomplishments if it would follow a distribution based on demographics or in essence what distribution it would follow.

    I have always thought that if Princeton and other Universities picked there students based solely on accomplishments it would be filled with all Asians and Desis…

  25. I have always thought that if Princeton and other Universities picked there students based solely on accomplishments it would be filled with all Asians and Desis…

    There’s a place for sentiments like these, and it’s not necessarily Stormfront.org

    Also I am glad you responded it should simply be based on achievement.

    It should. But there’s no way to quantify the qualifications for a Secretary or under-Secretary position. It’s a subjective judgment and the reality is that the person doing the judging will also likely have to take political vicissitudes into consideration–which in America, definitely involve race/demographics.

    Colin Powell was definitely qualified to be State Sec, but one cannot deny that his race can be regarded as a political bonus (or at least a rhetorical munition). it’s not an either/or situation.

  26. Varun, you may find this post interesting. Would be curious to know your views since I don’t remember seeing anyone from USINPAC commenting and giving us their perspective.

    Pakistan is based on the Two Nation theory and Pakistani-Americans lobby hard for annexation of Kashmir, but I’m sure you have a pat answer how the basis of that illiberal philosophy has nothing to do with anti-Hindu sentiment. I hate Modi but large segments of the SM crowd suspend their critical faculties when it comes to Pakistan

    Varun: Your participation here is a bit hamfisted and apropos of nothing…I say this as a pro-India friend. This blog takes a pan South Asia approach, my estimate is that less than 10% of its readership is sympathetic. Your online efforts are best spent elsewhere. I also recommend that you make it clear back in India that its achilles heel is law & order and that it is hard to advocate India’s cause when state governments abet large scale murder. Anyway, enough of this…please don’t respond to my comment

  27. “His question was something to the effect of, `Considering the problems that we have with the Jihadist movement and the problems we have with the Middle East, would you consider having a Muslim as an adviser that can guide you as to what kind of decisions to make with regards to the Middle East?’”

    Angrez,

    I know this isn’t the witness’ question verbatim, but the question is phrased in such a way as to suggest the questioner presupposes that terrorism performed by self-identified Muslims is a sufficient condition for doubting all american muslims’ ability to execute their duties in whatever post Romney could appoint.

    Current conservative political discourse in America doesn’t really allow for the critical disconnection of “muslim” from “Jihadi”

    You can’t blame Romney for pandering/agreeing with the party loyal while on a stumping trip.

  28. Ardy: My apologies for the above, there was nothing in your question that justified singling you out.

  29. Mansoor Ijaz is the chairman of Crescent Investment Management LLC. Little information is available on Crescent Investment management. Does Mr Ijaz have ties to Gulf Arabs?

  30. louiecypher

    I don’t know what you are talking about? I am a 21 year old American born student at BU?? The last time I went to India was 7 years back, obv I have family there but I really don’t understand where you are coming from on all this?

  31. Mansoor Ijaz is the chairman of Crescent Investment Management LLC. Little information is available on Crescent Investment management. Does Mr Ijaz have ties to Gulf Arabs?

    It doesn’t seem like a real company….

  32. Thanks for the reference…never heard of it but greatly appreciated. Seems very interesting!

    Fare thee well, down the slippery slope of hereditary determinism. It’s good to know that USINPAC is supported at the grass-roots level by aspiring eugenicists.

  33. From Wikipedia

    “A search for Crescent Investment Management results in a wavering “picture” of what the firm actually “is” and “does.” It is described as a:

    “New York investment firm that advises several OPEC member nations in the Persian Gulf”; [1] “New York private equity investment firm focusing on national security technologies”; [2] “New York-based hedge fund … which focuses on national security technologies”; [3] and “oil industry investment firm” [4] In 1997: Mansoor Ijaz “also acknowledged his commercial interests in effecting a reconciliation between the United States and Sudan. “

    It is important to know Ijaz’s ties to foreign rulers. It is one thing for Ijaz to speak as a Pakistani-American and quite another to speak as a representative for foreign tyrants. One cannot be sure if he is acting on behalf of foreign tyrants in embarassing an American presidential candidate.

  34. I have always thought that if Princeton and other Universities picked there students based solely on accomplishments it would be filled with all Asians and Desis…

    Varun: For the good of USINPAC, which I tentatively support, please think before you post. You claim to be a supporter of USINPAC but I can bet the rest of the membership would want to put a muzzle on you just about now. How do you think your statements about university admissions, without the qualification that this gap in achievement is largely due to immigration policy favoring educated professionals, sounds ? You’re trying to build coalitions with the larger American community and you opt for unwarranted arrogance (consider that about 34% of India is illiterate)? You haven’t been to India for seven years, I recommend you get to know your “product” better by volunteering for any number of Indian NGOs working on education, rural development.

  35. Anyone watching the YouTube debate on CNN? This is the dumbest thing I have ever seen on TV. This has got to be a joke? You cant even see the debaters because there is a giant graph covering the whole damn screen. What purpose does a graph comparing the amount of applause between men and women do for me?

    Anyway this Romney guy is getting on my damn nerves!! This guy is promoting hate. He keeps saying that illegal immigrants get better scholarships then legal Americans, and Huckabee kept of correcting him, by saying there not special scholarships for illegal’s, they are scholarships earned by people, who happen to be illegal. This damn Romney guy just kept saying it and each time he did there was some KKK member raising his fist in the air for support.

  36. This damn Romney guy just kept saying it and each time he did there was some KKK member raising his fist in the air for support.

    Are you sure he wasn’t just an enthusiastic Spanish penitent ?

  37. Louiecypher in #31 – No issues. Actually if as Varun claims that the aim of the organization is to further Indian political interests vis a vis Pakistan or otherwise and the organization treats all people of Indian origin equally irrespective of religion, I am all for such an organization.

    Varun – thanks for the link. I now remember reading this and appreciate your pointing me to your responses.

  38. I was too cryptic, Murali. Romney’s pandering I understand. What I find creepy is that Amardeep’s first instinct is to slime Ijaz.

    I expect we’ll get an apology in due course.

  39. Anyone watching the YouTube debate on CNN? This is the dumbest thing I have ever seen on TV. This has got to be a joke? You cant even see the debaters because there is a giant graph covering the whole damn screen. What purpose does a graph comparing the amount of applause between men and women do for me?

    Shallow thinker@40, Though not live, this link shows you the responses of the candidates without the graphs

  40. angrez da putar on November 29, 2007 12:34 AM · Direct link I was too cryptic, Murali. Romney’s pandering I understand. What I find creepy is that Amardeep’s first instinct is to slime Ijaz. I expect we’ll get an apology in due course.

    amardeep called into question Ijaz’s motives which according to his past actions are at the very least questionable and IMHO suspect. There is no reason for him to apologize for providing evidence of a person’s questionable character.

  41. I was too cryptic, Murali. Romney’s pandering I understand. What I find creepy is that Amardeep’s first instinct is to slime Ijaz.

    You mean, are we in the midst of an Islamophobe, iow ;) ?

  42. “But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

    This is the part of Romney’s quote that really leaves me scratching my head. I don’t have the context so maybe there’s a reason for this, but as it stands, I don’t get it. Is he saying it’s OK for Muslims to do grunt work but not call the shots? Seriously, what does this mean?

  43. “In early 2001, I notified national security adviser Stephen Hadley”

    in 2001, condi rice was the national security adviser.

  44. Typical republican, right-wing behaviour Amardeep: don’t deal with the issue but find a way to discredit anyone who brings it up. It doesn’t matter what the background of this person is.

    Did Romney say that he would not consider a Muslim advisor? It appears that he did. That speaks volumes about him and his (typically) misguided ideas about the state of the world today. Why would he dissmiss out of hand the possibility of a muslim advisor? That’s the worrying thing in this issue. By just focusing on the background of the questioner you’re doing a real disservice. First rule of debate: don’t attack your opponent, attack his argument.

    Do you people in America even read the news when it has nothing to do with Britney Spears’s knikerless bottom? The war in Iraq right now was based on lies told by an Iraqi asylum seaker: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7075501.stm