CNN Asks If GOP Blocking UN Disabilities Treaty Is 'Stand Against People With Disabilities'

CNN was completely aghast at conservative Republicans who on Wednesday rejected a United Nations treaty for disabled persons. Network anchors cast them as extreme and out of touch.

"The United States taking a stand against people with disabilities?" asked a flabbergasted Carol Costello. "It's a treaty that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Just sounds like a no-brainer, right?" anchor Ashleigh Banfield later insisted.

Both anchors, full of pathos, pointed out former Senator Bob Dole who was in a wheelchair on the Senate floor as the vote was taken. "And after all of that, Bob Dole was wheeled off of the floor by his wife, and then the vote came and it was rejected. It was rejected," Banfield described in disbelief.

"On its surface, Wolf Blitzer, it would seem like political suicide to vote down a treaty that promotes the rights of people with disabilities. But there has to be a good reason as to why someone would vote it down. What is it?" Banfield asked, providing a small benefit of the doubt for the GOP dissenters.

It took CNN's Wolf Blitzer to bring up the fact that Rick Santorum, who himself has a loved one who is disabled, spoke out against the treaty. He added that those opposing the treaty "don't trust the United Nations" and "They don't want international law, in their words, to interfere with domestic laws here in the United States, whether federal laws, state, or local laws."

"Can you explain to us why conservative Republicans are opposed to a treaty that would, in John McCain's words, promote rights for disabled people, including our own veterans overseas?" Costello asked earlier during the 9 a.m. hour, as if the treaty was a "no-brainer."

A transcript of the segments, which aired on CNN Newsroom on December 5 beginning at 9:33 a.m. EST, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: The United States taking a stand against people with disabilities? Former Senator Bob Dole took to the Senate floor in his wheelchair to push for support of the United Nations treaty that helps disabled people around the world. Despite that, senators voted against the treaty, something that would presumably have had a wide margin of support.

(...)

COSTELLO: In rejecting this treaty, the United States broke from 125 countries that have ratified the treaty, including Syria and Saudi Arabia. Some Senate Republicans actually voted to approve the measure, like Senator John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, to name a few. But members of the Tea Party banded together to ultimately block the measure, because they say, if the measure passed, the United Nations would impose its will on disabled people and their families in the United States.

(...)

COSTELLO: So, Ana, I want to start with you. Can you explain to us why conservative Republicans are opposed to a treaty that would, in John McCain's words, promote rights for disabled people, including our own veterans overseas?

ANA NAVARRO, Republican strategist: Well, you know, first of all, I don't think it was a stand against people with disabilities. It was a stand against this treaty. It was a stand against a United Nations treaty.

There were a number of concerns. I read the statements by both, you know, John McCain and also some of the other senators that voted against. They're not Tea Party senators, as Senator Reid is describing them. They are thoughtful people who pay attention, people like Lindsey Graham, senators like Rob Portman, senators like Marco Rubio. They are Republicans who give -- you know, who give a great credence to things like sovereignty and who don't want to give authority to the United Nations. They want the Americans with Disability Act to be the golden standard by which we guide our actions.
    
(...)

[11:39 a.m. EST]

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: I'm going to describe for you a very dramatic scene for a moment. A wheelchair moving slowly to the center of the Senate floor, and in that wheelchair, an 89-year-old war hero, a hero who earned two Purple Hearts, who also earned a Bronze Star. And that hero appeals for recognition of a treaty. It's a treaty that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Just sounds like a no-brainer, right? The war hero is right there to the right of your screen. You recognize him. It is Bob Dole, one-time Republican presidential candidate and 30-year Senate leader. And in a very emotional moment, Democrats and Republicans walked over to him to greet him. And then Democratic Senator John Kerry, who also has two Purple Hearts, who also was nominated to run for president, gave his most impassioned speech of the year.

(...)

BANFIELD: That's pretty powerful stuff. And after all of that, Bob Dole was wheeled off of the floor by his wife, and then the vote came and it was rejected. It was rejected. Wolf Blitzer is with us now to talk a little bit more about this. On its surface, Wolf Blitzer, it would seem like political suicide to vote down a treaty that promotes the rights of people with disabilities. But there has to be a good reason as to why someone would vote it down. What is it?

WOLF BLITZER, host, The Situation Room: First of all, you need 67 votes to ratify a treaty. You need a two-thirds majority in the Senate. They got 61. They didn't get 67. As a result, it was rejected. It wasn't ratified. They are going to try again next year.

A whole bunch of Republicans, including Senator John McCain, for example, were passionately in favor of ratifying this treaty. But a lot of other Republicans, by and large conservatives, they hate the United Nations, they don't trust the United Nations. They don't want international law, in their words, to interfere with domestic laws here in the United States, whether federal laws, state, or local laws.

And one of the most recent other major reasons why they rejected this treaty, these Republicans, by and large, who voted against ratifying this treaty, Ashleigh, was because of the powerful words that Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate said. As you know, he has a severely disabled child, a little girl. And he said, I don't want international lawyers, I don't want the United Nations in New York, I don't want foreign countries telling me or telling our local officials what they can or cannot do as far as treatment for little Bella, his daughter. And that was a powerful factor in convincing a lot of these Republicans to reject this treaty. They didn't see that they needed the international community, in effect, to get involved in what was going on here in the United States.

The counter-argument, of course, was we wanted to bring – by ratifying this treaty, those who support it said, we wanted to bring the rest of the world up to the U.S. standards in hoping those with disabilities, but that obviously didn't resonate, at least not enough, to get the 67 votes.

BANFIELD: I'll bet you, though, we end up seeing something like that in campaign ads in a couple of years.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014