While chatting on the phone the other night, I got an incoming call from the lovely and ever-gracious Nicole. I was sitting at my laptop and e-mailed her that I was on the phone with Bader Qarmout. She immediately wrote back: “Who is Bader Qarmout?”
It’s as good a question as any: a couple of weeks ago I asked myself the same thing while perusing the latest headlines over at Conservative New Jersey, where it appears the Jordanian-born candidate for the upcoming Republican U.S. Senate primary has become the bête noir du jour of Rob Eichmann, Conservo-Jacobin Extraordinaire and court jester of the GOP State Committee.
But I am getting ahead of myself: there will be time enough to deal with Eichmann’s idiocy. I recently spent several hours in conversation with Mr. Qarmout in an effort to learn more about him than is available in the biography he posted on his campaign website.
Bader Qarmout was born on July 31, 1968 in the kingdom of Jordan. He was the second-youngest of nine children brought into the world by George and Dalal Qarmout. George worked in the food service industry, serving parties at the Hotel Philadephia and was often called upon for special occasions at King Hussein’s palace. For her part, Dalal had her hands full caring for six boys and three girls (the oldest was born in 1953 and the youngest in 1969).
The Qarmouts were Christians who could trace their spiritual lineage well beyond five generations; they resided in a part of the world not renowned for its tolerance of any creed that does not submit to the will of Allah. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the nascent rise of militant Islam made life in the Middle East – even in countries that were largely tolerant of Christianity – increasingly intolerable, and George cast an ever-lingering gaze westward…in the direction of America.
In the mid-1970s, having secured the necessary paperwork from the State Department, the Qarmout family began its emigration to America, making California their first destination. At the tender age of 8, Bader arrived from Jordan in 1976 – the bicentennial year of America’s declaration of independence.
“I spoke very little English when I first got here,” he explained. “Thankfully, English is a far easier language to learn than Arabic and I was young enough to absorb it like a sponge.”
Eventually, the Qarmout family left California for New Jersey, where Bader’s father and older brothers initially worked at a plastics factory in Moonachie, at which time the entire family lived in a large RV parked on a lot adjacent to the factory. By any metric, they were desperately poor and yet Bader insists that “If we were poor we never knew it. You know, people use poverty as an excuse for everything they are unwilling to do for themselves. Those years gave me an idea for a book I’d like to write one day. I even have the title for it: No Shame in Being Poor – Stories of People Who Survived and Overcame Poverty.”
After years of hard work, the family pooled their resources and bought their first home in Paterson, NJ. A few years later, George Qarmout leased a convenience store/deli in Riverdale and moved his family to Pompton Lakes. The Qarmouts eventually owned and operated that business and, before long, had opened eight different stores. George worked long days, leaving the house before dawn and returning long after the sun had set. Dalal baked the bread for the store and then went home to look after the children and prepare supper.
As a youngster, Bader worked after school and on weekends at the family business. He had to abide by family rules and a strict curfew influenced by the evangelical Christianity embraced by his parents – a form of ora et labora that would establish the framework governing the rest of his life. Through the example set by his father and brothers, Bader learned to appreciate the American work ethic as the only honest means to upward mobility. He also learned that there are no shortcuts to success, either in business or education:
Bader’s parents also placed a high value on education. Bader graduated from Sussex County Vocational Technical High School and was the recipient of the Superintendent’s Round Table Award for leadership in 1987. He received his Associates of Arts focusing on psychology from County College of Morris in 1989.
Bader received his Bachelors in Psychology with a minor in Political Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1991. He later received a Master’s degree in social work with a Drug Counseling minor from Rutgers University in 1993.
Through hard work and good fiscal management, Bader purchased his first building at the age of 23. He also continued to work in the family business and teach at the County College of Morris.
Although George was a conservative, Bader was a teenager who, in college, registered as Democrat, although he didn’t vote. Not long after he graduated and entered the real world, he changed his party affiliation to Republican and hasn’t looked back since – although he did vote for Ross Perot in 1992 – the year he met his future wife, Jennifer Fox.
“Jennifer was and is a Reagan conservative,” he noted. “She is also of Swedish and Canadian descent, which means we had nothing in common ethnically. But we did share a deep love for America.”
In 1994 Bader Qarmout – together with his father George and his mother Dalal – became a naturalized citizen of the United States. George passed away a year later, but in the twelve months before then never missed an opportunity to speak with pride about becoming an American. Dalal survives him and presently dotes over 33 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. Nevertheless, in the course of nearly two decades after George passed on, the Qarmouts continue an annual tradition he founded:
On New Year’s Day the family gathers for a big dinner where any and all misgivings or disputes are aired and resolved, so as not to sully the next 364 days with bad feelings or bad blood.
After Bader’s dad passed away in 1995, he bought the family business, selling it in 2009 to his brother in order to fund his work toward a doctoral degree at Penn State University. He also taught – and continues to teach psychology and sociology as an adjunct professor at his alma mater – the County College of Morris.
“When I was invited to teach at CCM,” he recalls, “I jumped at the opportunity, because this was my alma mater and by returning to teach there, I felt as if I was able to close the circle – giving back so much of what had been given to me.“
In 1998 Bader and Jennifer married and eventually settled in the Sussex County town of Newton, where they presently reside, raising a son and three daughters.
“I love this place,” he told me, “and I love the fact that my children have so much open space and fresh country air.”
The picture below was taken on the north rim of the Grand Canyon in July, 2011 while Bader, Jennifer and their children were visiting his extended family:
These days, Bader Qarmout can be said to have achieved the American Dream: he’s a successful real estate investor who owns numerous commercial and residential properties (including an establishment known to the locals in Newton as O’Reilly’s Pub & Grille) while doing what he loves to do – teach others.
So what on earth possessed him to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Robert Menendez? He could have run for a seat in the House of Representatives, a seat in the NJ legislature or even a seat on the local council. Why target Menendez?
Sussex County is a solid and reliably conservative stronghold, with excellent representation in the U.S. House and the NJ legislature. As for local government, I suppose I could have run for a seat on the council, but what would that accomplish? The threat to our republic exists on the federal level and any local or even statewide solution is meaningless if we don’t rid Washington, DC of the likes of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and all the other Democrats and liberals who are destroying this nation.
He repeated what he wrote on his campaign site: “The America that my parents gave me is not the same America that I am giving my children.”
I reminded him that the grim reality of political science decrees he is nothing more than a latter-day Don Quixote, tilting at a latter-day windmill. This was his response:
I know that. But this is what I’m thinking: I can’t just sit here and be silent. I have to rise up and do something – anything – because when my children ask me what I did to save their future, I can at least tell them I tried to give them the country my parents gave me. I’m standing up because I refuse to sit. My opponent [Joe Kyrillos] can raise plenty of money, but I can raise people. Let’s face it: he inspires and motivates no one. He’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. We cannot send the same people to do the same things and expect different results.
I present to you Bader Qarmout: candidate for U.S. Senate.
Now it’s your turn to do the vetting, New Jersey.