Senate Republicans’ profiles in moral cowardice
In 1945, in the mountains of northern Italy, a U.S. Army second lieutenant, attempting to reach a downed radio man, fell wounded under a hail of German machine-gun fire. When the lieutenant was brought to the hospital, the doctors at first thought he would die; even after he pulled through surgery, they assumed he would never walk again. But though his right arm, nearly severed by bullets, was forever crippled, the lieutenant did walk again — all the way to Capitol Hill, where Bob Dole would represent the state of Kansas for nearly 40 years in the House and Senate, his career culminating in the Republican Party’s nomination of him for president in 1996.
On Tuesday, as the 89-year-old Dole looked on, the same party that once nominated him cowardly rejected what may very well be his last cause.
On that day, as you may already know, the Senate voted on the U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This treaty, which Dole had vocally supported, would extend to the rest of the world many of the rights that disabled Americans already have under the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Such a vote should be a policy and moral no-brainer. But Republicans voted it down; the treaty fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority required for ratification.
The 38 Republican senators who voted no felt pressure from the rightward fringe, which fanned fears of a conspiracy where the United Nations and foreign governments could dictate to the parents of disabled children.