Kerry’s Charge

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Alert: We have just 24 hours to decide!

So warns John Kerry in the Huffington Post. “The Senate,” he writes, “ is on the eve of a major decision that — regardless of outcome — will ripple around the globe.”

Huzzah! Perhaps — finally — the Senate is going to pass a budget? Perhaps it’s going to get serious about the entitlements that are bankrupting the country’s future? Perhaps it’s going to buy President Obama a calculator?

“Here in the Senate, with all the world’s eyes watching,” Kerry avers, we can “transcend politics.” “The Senate floor” he continues,

has been the place where speeches are given about American exceptionalism — the question now is whether, even in an age of polarization and gridlock, we can use the Senate floor to do something that makes the Senate worthy of the word “exceptional.” 

The speeches weren’t this good when they passed the 13th Amendment.

What is the reason behind Kerry’s paean? Well, he wants the Senate to “approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and keep faith with the best of America’s tradition of leadership in the world when it comes to empowering people living with disabilities, wherever they live.”

Sounds about right. Maybe you’re in favor of the treaty, and maybe you’re not. Maybe, like me, you couldn’t care less, because you don’t recognize the U.N. as anything other than a wasteful talking shop that, thankfully, has no sovereign claim on the government of the United States. Do it, don’t do it, who cares? It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

But that John Kerry considers this a worthy use of his time, of that sort of language, and of his first op-ed in almost six months is telling. When the big problems appear intractable, the tendency is toward the small or the irrelevant. It’s easier to posture about saving the world and stand idly “on the side” of those who have no electoral claim on you than it is to be a part of tough decisions that might irritate your constituents. But then this is what politics has become. Forget actually having to do anything. The important question is what you think about it, man! Don’t bother with the soup kitchen, just tell your Facebook friends that you like soup kitchens.

As the Heritage Foundation’s Steven Groves told Betsy Woodruff last week, “There is no American living here in the U.S. whose life will change one iota because the United States joins this treaty. So why the heck are we going to join it?” Well, because we have nothing better to do. Right? Wrong. In 1997, wasting time on this wouldn’t have mattered so much. In 2012, it’s positively lethal. “As America lurched toward sequestration and continued to spend 3 billion dollars more per day than it took in,” it might say on page 415 of America: Decline and Fall, ”the Senate debated a United Nations treaty that had no bearing on the United States. And the people clicked ‘Like.’”

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