Romney Endorses Religious Discrimination in Government

This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

Of all the presidential candidates, Mitt Romney should be the very last one to publicly endorse discrimination on the basis of religion. He's a member of a religious minority, he's been the target of discrimination, and he's spent the better part of 2007 imploring Americans to judge public officials on their ideas and character. To show prejudice on the basis of faith, Romney has said many times, is "un-American."

And yet, there was Romney in Las Vegas recently, insisting that he would discriminate against a religious minority if he's elected president. From a report in the Christian Science Monitor from diplomat Mansoor Ijaz:
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."
This is more than just offensive; it's a special kind of stupid. Indeed, Romney would likely have faced no flack at all if he'd only said what was expected: "When picking members of my cabinet, I will judge them exclusively on the basis of merit and qualifications." It's not as if Republicans would respond, "Hey! If he's judging officials on their fitness for office, a Muslim might get a cabinet spot!"

But, no, Romney had to pander to the right's most crass instincts, and argue that Muslims don't deserve a cabinet position because they're a small religious minority.

It's painful to recognize, but in modern Republican circles, there is widespread tolerance for intolerance. Open and unabashed discrimination towards certain Americans -- Muslims and gays, among others -- is not only acceptable to too many conservatives, it's expected. It's why Romney's vow to discriminate against Muslims will probably not hurt him politically -- given the ideology of the GOP base, it might even help him.

That said, his comments raise a few questions.

First, Jewish Americans represent a fairly small percentage of our population. Does this mean that Romney would oppose cabinet positions for Jews, too?

Second, by basing cabinet slots based on population percentages, isn't Romney embracing a quota system?

Third, if Romney supports quotas in employment, why did he say the exact opposite yesterday on CNN?
BLITZER: The charge -- the charge is that you have no diversity in your inner circle, no African-Americans who are really involved in your decision-making process.
ROMNEY: Well, I do have inner-circle members of my team that are African-American and also Hispanic-American and people of various backgrounds. So, he just happens to be ill-informed.
But I also think that suggesting that we have to fill spots based on checking off boxes of various ethnic groups is really a very inappropriate way to think about how we staff positions.
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