When the facts and law are not in one’s favor, there is a natural temptation to appeal to the emotions of your target audience in order to win an argument. This is referred to as argumentum ad passiones—an attempt to manipulate an audience’s emotions by pulling on their heartstrings in order to bring them to your side.
Such is the case with Senator John Kerry’s (D–MA) appeal in today’s Huffington Post in support of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international human rights treaty that is scheduled for an up-or-down vote tomorrow at noon.
Senator Kerry knows well that U.S. membership in CRPD will do nothing to advance the rights of Americans who suffer from disabilities. Indeed, in the materials accompanying the Administration’s transmittal of the treaty to the Senate, President Obama states that the rights outlined in the CRPD are already enjoyed by American citizens and that “existing U.S. law [is] consistent with and sufficient to implement the requirements of the Convention.”
If ratification of the treaty would have no effect on the rights of Americans with disabilities, what’s left, other than an appeal to raw emotion? Shrugging off the notion that ratification would enable a committee of “international disability experts” in Geneva to erode American sovereignty, Senator Kerry emotes:
That’s a threat to our sovereignty? That’s a price too high to pay to make sure that when American combat veterans who left their legs on a battlefield travel overseas, there’s a ramp in front of the building so they can enter and exit or use a bathroom? You tell those veterans that a committee’s advice is sufficient reason to deny them dignity and respect when they travel overseas.
So let’s get this straight:
- The United States should ratify a treaty that will not improve the rights of disabled Americans whatsoever;
- Ratification will somehow inspire a hypothetical foreign country to also ratify the treaty;
- Such ratification will further inspire that foreign country to fully comply with the treaty;
- A disabled American veteran can hypothetically travel to that foreign nation at some point in the future and benefit from accessible restrooms?
Such attenuated premises and conclusions strain credulity, which is exactly why Senator Kerry must rely on raw emotion to make his point.
To be clear, U.S. membership in CRPD would not advance U.S. national interests either at home or abroad. The rights of Americans with disabilities are well protected under existing U.S. law and are enforced by a wide range of state and federal agencies. Joining CRPD merely opens the door for foreign “experts” to interfere in U.S. policymaking in violation of the principles of American sovereignty.
Senator Kerry’s support for CRPD should come as no surprise, since he apparently hasn’t met a treaty that he doesn’t like. From the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty to the Law of the Sea Treaty, rarely has the Senator from Massachusetts concluded that a treaty does not advance U.S. national interests.
The United States should continue to lead by the example it has set for protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities through comprehensive legislation and enforcement—and leave emotion out of it.