“He is just flat wrong,” Farris said of Thornburgh’s sworn testimony that the treaty won’t change US law. “If he wrote that on an international law exam, at any law school, he would fail.”
Thornburgh, describing Farris’s claims as “outrageous,” said in an interview, “It is one thing to face down a rational argument, quite another to deal with fantasies and exaggeration, which was the case here.”
But the campaign against the treaty had taken hold. As supporters planned for a December vote, Farris launched a public alliance with former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who had argued during his failed bid to become the 2012 Republican presidential nominee that the party had been undermined by moderates.
At a Capitol Hill press conference, Santorum appeared with his daughter, Bella, who was born with a potentially fatal disability. The treaty, Santorum maintained, could prevent parents from having children such as Bella. He said it would put a doctor “in position to say ‘we will do what we believe is in the best interest of your daughter, Bella, which is not to have her have a physical or mental disability that could lead to suffering and death but that person either should have an abortion or should not be given treatment. We shouldn’t be spending resources on a child like that. It is in her best interest not to live with these medical and physical disabilities.’ ”
Even amid the onslaught of Farris, Santorum, and Tea Party leaders that was unsettling to so many Republicans on Capitol Hill, Dole still believed that key supporters, such as his home-state ally Jerry Moran, would bring enough votes to win approval.
Just months earlier, the Kansas senator had supported the treaty, vowing to be among those “standing up for the rights of those with disabilities.” Dole had thought the support was iron-clad, but he eventually received a letter in which Moran informed him that he would oppose the treaty. A number of senators learned privately about Moran’s decision days before the vote.
Moran, asked last week why he abandoned his initial support, responded: “That was an early position. It was trying to be helpful to Dole.” Moran’s new position was that, as he put it in a written statement after the vote, “foreign officials should not be put in a position to interfere with US policymaking.” He had signed on to the argument put forward by the treaty’s harshest critics.
Asked why he changed from the position he had taken in a press release, Moran noted that treaties don’t have cosponsors and said: “I’m quoted in a release.”
So was Moran saying he was never for the treaty?
“No, I’m not saying that,” Moran said in the interview, conducted as he walked through corridors of the Capitol. “I’m saying I tried to help [the treaty] come to the floor, and had never made a conclusion as to whether I was for or against it, and concluded that it was a bad idea to have the United Nations involved in this.”
Moran’s turnabout was devastating to efforts for a bipartisan vote. (Roberts, the other Kansas senator, also wound up opposing the treaty.) Senator Richard Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who had been part of the bipartisan group of supporters that included Moran, recalled the shock when he learned of Moran’s decision. “We needed a handful of conservative Republicans to stand with us . . . at some point many Republicans were very concerned about a conservative reaction to their vote on behalf of this treaty. We started seeing a number of them switching their votes.”
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who also was part of the bipartisan group, said the opposition from home-schoolers was crucial and unexpected. “It came out of left field. Who ever thought this would ever be part of the discussion?”
‘A lesson about this town’
The day of the treaty vote began just like old times. It was Dec. 4, 2012, and Dole arrived on Capitol Hill to bipartisan acclaim. Several hundred people, including Democrats and Republicans, packed a Senate room to celebrate Dole’s role in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Back then, Dole’s own disability was hard to see.
He clutched a pen in such a manner so that people would not try to shake his right hand; his right arm hadn’t functioned normally since he was injured in World War II. Still, he had stood ramrod straight and strong.
On this December day, however, he showed the wear of having been in and out of the hospital for extended periods during the prior three years. Just a week earlier, he had been treated for an unspecified illness at a nearby naval hospital, where he had watched the debate about the treaty on C-Span. Continued...