Commentary: Betraying Bob Dole

The Kansas City StarDecember 13, 2012 


Mary Sanchez is a columnist with the Kansas City Star.

MBR — Kansas City Star/MCT

Anyone who meets former Sen. Bob Dole quickly gains an understanding of his war injury.

Through decades of public service he became adept at offering his left hand first when greeting people, a grip that came across as gracious, not awkward.

He doesn’t shake with his right hand because his right arm was severely injured in World War II by German machine gun fire. Dole was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

So when this 89-year-old war hero, the former majority leader, appeared last week before the U.S. Senate, you might assume that he was greeted warmly.

To his face, he was.

But after his wife, Elizabeth Dole, rolled his wheelchair out of view, a cowardly display of what passes for politics today took over.

Dole appeared in support of a United Nations treaty asking the world to follow the U.S. lead in how it treats people with disabilities.

After Dole was out of earshot, all but a handful of Republican senators voted it down, 61-38. Two-thirds support was needed for passage.

The treaty was modeled after American law, the Americans With Disabilities Act, which Dole helped enact in 1990. Yet some of the senators voting against the treaty tried to make the case that it would undermine American sovereignty.

The U.S. law is the model, the lead, the way things already are in America.

The treaty was asking for other nations to catch up to our lofty example.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas voted no. It was a still unexplained flip-flop, as Moran had once supported the measure. Senators Pat Roberts of Kansas and Roy Blunt of Missouri also voted against it.

Here is one of the convoluted ways some opposing senators justified their vote: They claimed home-schooling would be undermined. The fear is that U.N. goons would force American children with disabilities into public schools.

The treaty has already been ratified by 126 other countries around the world, other countries that think the U.S. has the right idea when it comes to how the disabled should be treated.

The striking image from this episode of political paranoia was the frail Dole, in a wheelchair, his disability compounded by aging.

One reason for his appearance was to emphasize how the Americans With Disabilities Act aids injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The senators voting no managed to let their fear make two strikes. They undercut America as a global leader of human rights.

And they disrespected Dole as an American war hero.

To reach Mary Sanchez send email to

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service