When Rome fell, its citizen’s cringed in horror at what seemed like “barbarians at the gate.” The truth was, Rome had many opportunities to build the kind of world that would be guided by common principles, but chose instead to claim the benefits it could gain by the sword. When Rome was strong it chose to use its power for its own self interest. It did not protect the weak from the strong because it was strong. It should not have been surprised that others would pillage it by the same principle when it grew weak. The truth was, Rome had become the most barbarian state of all.

When I was a child, Republicans were conservative, but they did not live by the barbarian’s principle of the right of the strongest. They believed in caring for the earth and in keeping our international treaties. Bob Dole is a relic of that earlier time. This week when the Senate voted on ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, Bob Dole was there in his wheel chair hoping his Republican collegues would realize how important is the human right of access for people with disabilities. They killed it any way.

It is stunning to think what has become of the Grand Old Party in the last decade. The treaty protecting people with disabilities was passed by “old school” Republican George H.W. Bush. It had the support of “old school” Republicans like John McCain and Dick Lugar. But the “new school” Republicans killed the treaty saying that holding America to international standards was “an assault on US soveriegnty.” All of the 38 negative votes were by Republicans.

But most Senate Republicans saw it as a threat to American “sovereignty,” even though the treaty wouldn’t have required the United States to change its laws. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty with bipartisan support in July, Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) explained the proposal simply “raises the [international] standard to our level without requiring us to go further.”

In other words, we wouldn’t actually have to do anything except say we like the treaty — and then wait for other signatories around the world to catch up to the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act. -Steve Bennen

The word “republic” means “a thing of the people.” When our own leaders say such government is not necessary, or when they say our nation should not hold itself to any international standards, they are cutting the sinews of our republican life together.  When our own leaders are acting thus, we need not fear barbarians at the gate, they are already inside.