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Treaty Politics


It’s hard to know precisely what to say about the GOP’s rejection of the United Nations Disability Convention.  On the one hand, it’s true enough that the real impact of the treaty will be pretty limited. The number of states jogged into ratification/compliance by the US example won’t be particularly high, and US law already enshrines most of the treaty provisions.  On the other hand, it’s obvious that opposition to the treaty is drenched in a particularly noxious brew of stupidity and mendacity.

Two thoughts:

  • The ability of the social conservatives (with organizational assistance from the neoconservatives) to mobilize opposition to this treaty was genuinely impressive.  That several Republicans apparently shifted their votes at the last minute, and in the face of significant lobbying from Dole and McCain, suggest to me that there’s raw terror in the ranks of the power of social conservatives and Tea Partiers in the primary system.  If they can mobilize such opposition to a treaty that posed virtually no threat, I really wonder about the sustainability of the kind of norms that Scott often discusses on the treatment of judicial nominees. Will any Republican who votes for cloture on Obama’s next Supreme Court nominee, even if that’s followed by a “No” vote in the up or down, be subject to a well-funded primary challenge? The move of Jim Demint to the Heritage Foundation probably makes such challenges more likely, and more effective.
  • The overall effect of the abdication of serious foreign policy thinking (and I mean “serious” in a sense of the term that includes John McCain, with all the absurdity that entails) on the part of the GOP’s legislative cohort would seem to be an enhancement of executive foreign policy prerogative.  Agreements (bilateral or multilateral) once subjected to the treaty process will now be conducted by executive agreement; ongoing operations (whether legitimately covert or not) will increasingly be screened from Congressional oversight, as such oversight will amount to little more than efforts at point scoring.  To some extent it has always been thus, but the modern GOP seems (with a few exceptions) to have taken such tendencies to the extreme.  I suspect that this will apply to both Republican and Democratic administrations, although it may manifest differently.
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