San­to­rum tri­umphant af­ter treaty for dis­abled re­jected

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - From the left Mon­day Tues­day Wed­nes­day Thurs­day Collins writes for The New York Times. Fri­day Satur­day Sun­day


you’ve prob­a­bly been ask­ing: “What ever hap­pened to Rick San­to­rum? The guy who ran for pres­i­dent in the sweater vest? The one who com­pared ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to bes­tial­ity and did 50 pushups ev­ery morn­ing?” It’s cer­tainly been on my mind.

San­to­rum is still in there swing­ing. Lately, he’s been on a cru­sade against a dan­ger­ous at­tempt by the United Na­tions to help dis­abled peo­ple around the world. This week, he won! The Se­nate re­fused to rat­ify a U.N. treaty on the sub­ject. The vote, which fell five short of the nec­es­sary two-thirds ma­jor­ity, came af­ter 89-year-old Bob Dole, the former Repub­li­can leader and dis­abled war veteran, was wheeled into the cham­ber to urge pas­sage.

“We did it,” San­to­rum tweeted in tri­umph.

Well, it doesn’t get any bet­ter than that.

The re­jected treaty, the Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, is based on the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act, the land­mark law Dole co-spon­sored. So, as Sen. John Kerry of Mas­sachusetts kept point­ing out dur­ing the de­bate, this is a treaty to make the rest of the world be­have more like the United States. But San­to­rum was up­set about a sec­tion on chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties that said: “The best in­ter­ests of the child shall be a pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tion.”

“This is a di­rect as­sault on us and our fam­ily!” he said at a news con­fer­ence in Washington. OK. The hard right has a thing about the United Na­tions. You may re­mem­ber that the se­na­tor-elect from Texas, Ted Cruz, once railed that a 20-year-old non­bind­ing U.N. plan for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment posed a clear and present threat to U.S. golf cour­ses.

The the­ory about the treaty on the dis­abled is that the bit about “best in­ter­ests of the child” could be trans­lated into laws pro­hibit­ing dis­abled chil­dren from be­ing home-schooled. At his news con­fer­ence, San­to­rum ac­knowl­edged that wasn’t in the cards. But he the­o­rized that some­one might use the treaty in a law­suit “and through the court sys­tem be­gin to deny par­ents the right to raise their chil­dren in con­form­ity with what they be­lieve.”

If I felt you were ac­tu­ally go­ing to worry about this, I would tell you that the Se­nate com­mit­tee that ap­proved the treaty in­cluded lan­guage specif­i­cally for­bid­ding its use in court suits. But, in­stead, I will tell you about own my fears. Ev­ery day I take the sub­way

Scot Le­high

Paul Krug­man

Dana Milbank

Mau­reen Dowd to work, and I use a fare card that says “sub­ject to ap­pli­ca­ble tar­iffs and con­di­tions of use.” What if one of those con­di­tions is slave la­bor? Maybe the pos­si­bil­ity of my be­ing grabbed at the turn­stile and carted off to a salt mine isn’t in the spe­cific law, but what if a bu­reau­crat some­where in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Trans­porta­tion Author­ity de­cided to in­ter­pret it that way?

No one should have to live in fear of forced la­bor in the salt mine just be­cause she bought a fare card at the Times Square sub­way sta­tion! I want some ac­tion on this mat­ter, and I am writ­ing to my se­na­tor right away. But about the U.N. treaty. In the Capi­tol this week, dis­abled Amer­i­cans lob­bied for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, ar­gu­ing, among other things, that it could make life eas­ier for them when they travel. Since more than 125 coun­tries have al­ready signed onto the treaty, there will cer­tainly be pres­sure to im­prove ac­ces­si­bil­ity to buses, re­strooms and pub­lic build­ings around the globe. It would be nice if the United States were at the ta­ble, try­ing to make sure the in­ter­na­tional stan­dards were com­pat­i­ble with the ones our dis­abled ci­ti­zens learn to han­dle here at home.

But, no, the sen­a­tors were wor­ried about the home-school move­ment. Or a boil­er­plate men­tion in the treaty of eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural rights that Sen. Mike Lee of Utah claimed was “part of a march to­ward so­cial­ism.”

At least some of them were. There would al­most cer­tainly have been plenty of votes to ap­prove the treaty if the Repub­li­cans had felt free to think for them­selves. The “no” votes in­cluded a se­na­tor who had voted for the treaty in com­mit­tee, a se­na­tor who had sent out a press re­lease sup­port­ing the treaty and a se­na­tor who ac­tu­ally voted “aye” and then switched when it was clear the treaty was go­ing down any­way. Not to men­tion a lot of really de­pressed-look­ing leg­is­la­tors.

The big worry was, of course, of­fend­ing the tea party. The same tea party that pounded Mitt Rom­ney into the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date we came to know and re­ject over the past elec­tion sea­son. The same tea party that keeps threat­en­ing to wage pri­maries against in­cum­bents who don’t do what they’re told. The tea party who made those threats work so well in the last elec­tion that In­di­ana now has a to­tally un­fore­seen Demo­cratic se­na­tor.

The threat the Repub­li­cans need to worry about isn’t in the United Na­tions.

Gail Collins

John Young

Leonard Pitts

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