Farris responded that all of them had “reached incorrect conclusions.”
The committee approved the treaty by a 13 to 6 vote, with three Republicans joining Democrats in support. The six Republican opponents issued a minority report that said there was no reason to enter into an international “entanglement,” concluding: “Proponents of this treaty believe its ratification would signal to the world our commitment to advancing the interests of those with disabilities. The US Senate should not ratify this or any other treaty on these grounds.”
Supporters predicted quick ratification by the full Senate. But two weeks after the hearing, Farris’s assertion was echoed by two of the Republican Party’s most influential conservatives. Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, favorites of the Tea Party, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Times that said the treaty “calls for government agents to supersede the authority of parents of disabled children and even covers abortion.”
Dole and other supporters of the treaty viewed the charges as laughably false. The treaty legislation clearly stated that it required no change in US law, and there were no new abortion rights, they said.
But Farris seemed to have shaken the Republican Party. Plans for a quick vote in the full Senate were put on hold.
To get to the office of Michael Farris, a visitor drives about an hour from Washington to arrive at the town of Purcellville, population 8,043, a mix of old-world Virginia and strip mall suburbia. It is here in the Appalachian foothills that Farris more than a decade ago established Patrick Henry College, a Christian liberal arts institution with 300 students. It also serves as headquarters for his political power base, the Home School Legal Defense Fund.
Sitting in his college office, surrounded by busts of George Washington and Patrick Henry and a wall-mounted elk head, Farris proudly explained how he set out to kill the disabilities treaty — and, not coincidentally, take on some within the Republican Party.
Farris has a history of run-ins with moderate Republicans. A father of 10, he was defeated in his 1993 bid to be lieutenant governor of Virginia after one of Dole’s closest colleagues, then-Senator John Warner of Virginia, took the unusual step of declining to endorse him. Since then, Farris has used his home-schooling organization to take on moderates that he says are ruining the GOP.
“There are two parties in Washington,” Farris said. There is “the evil party,” meaning Democrats, and “the stupid party,” referring to many Republicans, he said.
Unlike some Republicans who say the party should moderate its positions in the aftermath of losses in the 2012 campaign, Farris said the opposite approach is the best prescription. What Republicans need to do, he said, is listen to grass-roots members whose primary concern is liberty and sovereignty. That is why he seized upon the disabilities treaty. He saw it as an attack on American ideals and values.
And he saw something else. It is, he said, the ideal “wedge issue” for future political campaigns. It also played into fears that the United Nations threatens American sovereignty.
UN spokesman Dan Shepard, asked about Farris’s claim that the UN could dictate American disabilities policy, said it was “absolutely not true . . . it is not like any one swoops in and takes children. The UN doesn’t have an army, it doesn’t make laws for any member state . . . every member state is sovereign.”
Nonetheless, the assertion that the UN could supersede US law and have control over home-schooled children spread across the Internet. Within weeks, Farris’s group, along with allies, had placed an estimated 250,000 calls to the offices of wavering senators. Some of the heaviest emphasis was placed on calls to the two Kansas senators, Roberts and Moran.
“We just beat them to death with calls,” Farris said of the Kansans.
Farris, meanwhile, stood by his assertion that he understood the treaty better than Republican supporters such as Thornburgh. Farris, a graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, said he has better legal training when it comes to treaties.
“I have an LLM in international law from the University of London,” Farris said, referring to a postgraduate degree that is similar to a master’s program. Asked for details, Farris said he didn’t go to London for the degree; it came in a “distance learning” course and culminated in a proctored exam at a local community college.Continued...