Dana Millbank tells the story of how Rick Santorum went back to the US Capital this week to help lobby against the human rights of disabled people. That’s right — Mr. Culture of Life is fearlessly lobbying against the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. This treaty was actually negotiated by the George W. Bush’s administration and has been ratified by 126 nations, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, and Syria.
The former presidential candidate pronounced “grave concerns” about the treaty, which forbids discrimination against people who have AIDS, are blind, use wheelchairs, and the like. “This is a direct assault on us,” he declared.
(Senator Mike Lee from Utah) Lee, too, has “grave concerns” about the threat to U.S. sovereignty. “I will do everything I can to block its ratification, and I have secured the signatures of 36 Republican senators, all … saying that we will oppose any ratification of any treaty during this lame-duck session.”
Santorum praised Lee for having “the courage to stand up on an issue that doesn’t look to be particularly popular to be opposed.” Courageous? Or just contentious? The treaty requires virtually nothing of the United States. It essentially directs the other signatories to update their laws to more closely match the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even Lee thought it necessary to note that “our concerns with this convention have nothing to do with any lack of concern for the rights of persons with disabilities.”
Their concerns, rather, come from the dark world of U.N. conspiracy theories. Opponents argue that the treaty, like most everything the United Nations does, undermines American sovereignty – in this case via a plot to keep Americans from home-schooling and making other decisions about their children.
The treaty does no such thing; if it had such sinister aims, it surely wouldn’t have the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Republican senators such as John McCain, and conservative legal minds such as Dick Thornburgh.
So there you go. The man who seriously defended his right to fetishize a stillborn fetus with the rest of his family is seriously trying to undermine the leadership of the US in treating our disabled — but alive! — people with some respect and dignity. This treaty will cost us little since we already have the ADA and a raft of state laws that sometimes go beyond the ADA requirements. Ratifying this treating adds the weight of the US commitment to human rights (at least sometimes) to a world-wide effort to ensure that disabled people have the rights they deserve.