After four years with the most obstructive and do-nothing Congress in history, I thought nothing would surprise me. However, I was wrong — what the Senate did this week shocked me. And I think it shocked many moderate Republicans who still believe in allowing the United States to lead the world in showing compassion to those in need.
There was a vote to sign a non-binding U.N. treaty that would encourage other nations to adopt the same policies that a Republican president signed into law here over 20 years ago. The Americans with Disabilities Act guaranteed that disabled Americans would be given the same access to public places that the rest of us are given, along with other common sense provisions. It would in no way change any of our laws and would have no enforcement provisions — it would just be many nations coming together to agree that the needs of the disabled should be advanced and protected worldwide.
This was an action that had bi-partisan support. And every major veterans group supported it. As a matter of fact, almost everyone supported it, except for a small radical Republican minority who sees danger in the most benign government action and is determined to say no, just for the satisfaction of saying no.
It was heart-rending to see Bob Dole, in obvious poor health, gather his strength to appear in person, most probably for the last time, to show his support for a yes vote. And both McCain and Kerry, in their positions of understanding the needs of disabled veterans, appealed for passage.
And it was telling, during the vote roll call, that many who voted against it either whispered their “no” vote or just indicated their dissent with a hand gesture, rather than speaking up as they usually do. And I think that is because, even in their weakness to be able to stand up for what was right, they were ashamed of what they were doing.
I hope that the reasonable, moderate Republicans that have become victims of a small group with inflexible beliefs and demands will gather their strength to take back their party and once more become a party that embraces and values the rights of all.
Oh, by the way — even China had signed this treaty. So we are now in the enviable position of being less a champion for human rights than they are. The senators’ mothers must be so proud.