Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Help Republicans Rescue Their Party from Itself

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Help Republicans Rescue Their Party from Itself

Article excerpt

Cruelty, fear, cowardice, xenophobia and disrespect invaded the inner sanctum of the U.S. government this week, bringing embarrassment and dishonor to what was once the greatest deliberative body in the world: the Senate.

This month, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, an 89-year- old Republican whose right arm was shattered in combat during World War II, was wheeled into the Senate chamber by his wife to rally support for a United Nations treaty that should have been entirely unobjectionable.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, negotiated under President George W. Bush and signed by more than 150 nations, takes a stand against "discrimination on the basis of disability" and in favor of "respect for inherent dignity." It's a largely symbolic document with implementation language that consists mostly of a weak recommendation for "due consideration" of its lofty aims. Even so, with U.S. leadership, it could promote compassion for the disabled in dozens of countries where they are cruelly shunned.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who long ago discredited himself as a serious person by championing junk science on climate change, said on the Senate floor, "This unelected bureaucratic body would pass recommendations that would be forced upon the United States if we were a signatory."

That's completely false. Not a single clause or phrase in the treaty impinges on national sovereignty, unless one believes -- as some xenophobic neo-isolationists do -- that the U.N. itself is a threat to the U.S.

Mr. Dole's dramatic appearance was meant to advance the values of compassion and nondiscrimination, not the U.N. He was trying to rally the 13 Republican senators needed to reach the two-thirds supermajority necessary for ratification. All Democrats voted in favor. In the end, only eight Republicans voted "aye," almost all of them senators who have announced plans to retire or are in safe seats.

Sometimes-reasonable Republicans such as Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee were profiles in cowardice and voted no. …

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