Bob Dole is probably mad as hell right now. And he has every right to be. In fact, he should leave the Republican Party in protest!
Dole, a lifelong Republican politician who was disabled during World War II, made an extraordinary appearance on the Senate floor Tuesday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled.
Dole, now 89, frail and in a wheelchair (and just six days out of the hospital), hoped his presence would sway his party to approve the treaty, which is modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act that he pushed through Congress in 1990.
But his party, now controlled by the hard right, rejected it. With 38 Republicans casting "no" votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty.
Opponents like Tea Party favorite Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) argued that the treaty by its very nature threatened U.S. sovereignty and could lead to the state, rather than parents, determining what was in the best interest of disabled children in such areas as home schooling.
Supporters said such concerns were unfounded.
"I am frankly upset," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), "that they have succeeded in scaring the parents who home school their children all over this country."
The treaty, already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, was negotiated by the George W. Bush administration and signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
"This is one of the saddest days I've seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wakeup call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement after the vote. He continued:
"We need to fix this place because what happens and doesn't happen here affects millions of lives. Today the dysfunction hurt veterans and the disabled and that's unacceptable. This treaty was supported by every veterans group in America and Bob Dole made an inspiring and courageous personal journey back to the Senate to fight for it. It had bipartisan support, and it had the facts on its side, and yet for one ugly vote, none of that seemed to matter."
So this is what the Republican Party has become since Dole left office.
Still, it won't be an easy for Dole to leave the GOP. After all, he's been a Republican since he first ran for public office in 1950. He served in Congress for 35 years as a Republican, including stints as Republican National Committee chair and the party's leader in the U.S. Senate. He was also the GOP vice presidential nominee (in 1976) and presidential nominee (in 1996; he lost both times in the general election).
But with Tuesday's vote, it is crystal clear that the party that he has faithfully served for 62 years has left him. Please Mr. Dole, take a stand against this nonsense and declare your independence!