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Posted at 04:57 PM ET, 11/27/2012

PostScript: Milbank, Santorum and the U.N.

In Dana Milbank’s column today, Rick Santorum is fighting a surprising battle against shadowy, international, pro-disabled-access forces. Santorum, Milbank reports, is so upset about a proposed U.N. treaty on disabled rights that he has secured the promises of 36 Republican senators that no action shall be taken (sigh) on this issue until the new legislative session begins next year.

Now, it’s possible Santorum’s quest is totally bonkers, given that everyone likes disabled people being able to travel where they like, given that the odds of any action on any issue passing the Senate during the “lame-duck session” are vanishingly small, given the fact that Santorum’s concerns about sovereignty are just as applicable to any U.N. treaty the United States has signed before, and given the fact that the new Congress, post-lame-duck session, will have fewer Republicans than it does now. And given that Santorum’s likely goal here is a big doomed publicity stunt to position him for 2016, you could hardly pick worse publicity than piously standing against disabled rights.

But might it also be possible that Santorum has a point?

Sure.

At least that’s what a perusal of the comments to Milbank’s article convinces PostScript of. There are these vague, unexplained threats that are somehow SO POTENT in Santorum’s mind that he just has to abandon whatever commitment to worldwide disabled rights he has as a father and vow Senate obstruction and make a speech that will save the United States from whatever horrible things the United Nations will do once they have this treaty but can’t do now.

Skilled rhetorician that Santorum is, he has failed to persuade very many commenters to take him seriously. Many more are persuaded by Milbank’s applications of snark and world-weary incredulity. But the debate does trickle.

erinoconnell says it’s a publicity stunt, but not harmless:

The United Nations has no enforcement powers, and Santorum knows this. He has a law degree. Santorum is just pulling this stunt for attention, playing on the fears of the Republican base. What he fails to appreciate is that with people like him pretending this is a real threat, kooks down in Texas are actually arming themselves to ward off a possible invasion by the UN.

e_rowe’s objection is to the United Nations entirely:

The US should never sign onto any UN treaty under any circumstances ever, no matter what the supposed point of the treaty is.
Santorum is right on this one, which surprises me to the point that I wonder what the catch is, or if he’ll backtrack. Usually he’s all for American politicians telling other countries what their laws have to be. Perhaps he has in mind to do this directly through the regime in DC, rather than involving the UN.
Why not? Because it would imply that they acknowledge the authority of the UN.

BobB59 argues that this is an opportunity for America to exert moral leadership — and leaders are, by definition, part of a group:

This treaty is a good example of how the United States of America should provide moral leadership to the rest of the world. First, enact a law (the ADA) that codifies [humanity’s] more noble goals — in this case providing opportunity and protection to those facing physical or mental challenges. Second, let that law mature over time and tweak any issues that arise with its implementation. Third, point out to other world leaders that this is a truly worthy law that addresses the needs of the disabled in a humane and productive manner. Fourth, negotiate an international treaty that directs the signatories to enact their own laws modeled after the successful ADA.

mzcpmd explains the objection Santorum and others have to this particular treaty. It’s about the vagueness of what the treaty allows:

Just because currently there is no “enforcement mechanism” for UN human rights conventions does not mean that one will not be created at some point in the future — and then applied retroactively to human rights conventions.
Conservative advocates of people with disabilities (such as myself; I have a brother with Down syndrome) specifically take issue with Article 23, Section 4 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This section says, “States Parties shall ensure that a child SHALL NOT BE SEPARATED from his or her parents AGAINST THEIR WILL, EXCEPT when COMPETENT AUTHORITIES subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is NECESSARY for the best interests of the child.” Conservative critics of the UN CRPD find this language to be chillingly vague. It basically says that a disabled child can be forcibly removed from their parents’ care — even against the parents’ will — as long as a “competent authority” thinks that it is best. Who are these “competent authorities”? Psychologists? Social workers? Police officers? What criteria will they use to determine what is in the disabled child’s best interest? The language does not limit these powers of intervention merely to instances where crimes have been committed against the disabled child. Rather, a disabled child could theoretically be taken away from his or her parents without the parents even knowing what they did wrong.

wleeper says the U.N. treaty would supersede U.S. laws:

We are talking about the sovereignty of the US government here. This treaty trumps all local and state laws regarding treatment of people with disabilities.

harrietvane quotes the treaty itself (full text) to say it wouldn’t:

There’s a provision in the Convention that runs like this:
“Nothing in the present Convention shall affect any provisions which are more conducive to the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities and which may be contained in the law of a State Party or international law in force for that State. There shall be no restriction upon or derogation from any of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized or existing in any State Party to the present Convention pursuant to law, conventions, regulation or custom on the pretext that the present Convention does not recognize such rights or freedoms or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent.”
So there’s no “ceding” nor “superseding” involved.

Well, it looks like everybody is willing to agree and trust each other and make the world a better place. Heck yeah, United Nations!

By Rachel Manteuffel  |  04:57 PM ET, 11/27/2012

 
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