Official White House photo
George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990.
Last week, Senate Republicans effectively killed the Law of the Sea Treaty, despite the support of the Bush/Cheney administration, the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and James Baker. And why did the Senate GOP do this? Because of paranoid fears about the U.N. among right-wing activists.
It's not the only treaty in trouble. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities also enjoys bipartisan support, with Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) arguing that it would simply extend our Americans with Disabilities Act to people around the world. But once again, the right, led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), isn't happy.
"Parts of this treaty deals with abortion and the rights of children, issues that should be addressed by states, local governments and American parents not international bureaucrats," DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton told The Hill in an email. [...]
[S]ome home-schooling advocates are worried about "international bureaucrats" telling them how to raise their children. In a 2007 study, six percent of the parents of the nation's 1.5 million home-schooled students cited health or special needs as the reason for educating at home.
Rick Santorum is also helping rally conservative opposition to the measure, telling the right that the U.N. treaty would "usurp the rights and powers of parents here in the United States."
As a factual matter, this is absurd, but the larger takeaway from this is a reminder about the dwindling influence of the Republican foreign policy establishment. There was a time not long ago when a proposal on international affairs backed by Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and every living former Secretary of State from Republican administrations would have been seen as a no-brainer.
But as the Republican Party has become radicalized, the influence of the GOP foreign policy establishment has dropped to a modern low point. We saw this in 2010 during the debate over the New START treaty, and now we're seeing it again this year on Law of the Sea and U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
My first instinct was to describe the larger dynamic as the "demise" of the Republican Party's foreign policy establishment, but that's not quite right -- the GOP's foreign policy establishment isn't dead; it's just irrelevant. There are elder Republican statesmen who still want to influence their party with sensible advice, but too many within the party choose not to listen. Even when nonpartisan military leaders urge the GOP to take certain actions, Republicans have decided they don't care about the brass, either.
Jacob Heilbrunn argued a while back that we're witnessing the "twilight of the wise man," and that 2012 may well mark "the last gasp" of the Republican foreign policy establishment. The party that once considered foreign affairs one of its signature issues may never be the same.