On national security, if there is a common thread that unites these ideas, it's a posture that sees virtually any form of international cooperation as a threat to American sovereignty. From nuclear arsenal reductions to Internet governance, climate talks, and space exploration, Heritage seems to see unaccountable international organizations chipping away at American power everywhere it looks. (Then there is the kooky stuff: The foundation has been at the forefront of hyping the supposed threat from electromagnetic-pulse weapons, Newt Gingrich's favorite nonexistent national security threat. The think tank even pushed for an annual "National Electromagnetic Pulse Awareness Day," which doesn't seem to have caught on much beyond Heritage's Massachusetts Avenue headquarters yet.)
Heritage's views on innocuous treaties like the CRPD are a prime example of its almost reflexive habit of putting forward ideas that appeal to its hard-line conservative base without backing them up with fact. The foundation's experts often seem to have trouble deciding whether the United Nations is an ineffective waste of money or an existential threat to national sovereignty. The result is a major political party in the United States that instinctively flinches whenever the letters "u" and "n" are uttered.
Consider Heritage's work during this summer's debate surrounding the drafting of another inexplicably controversial international agreement, the Arms Trade Treaty, which would regulate international small-arms transfers. The vast majority of Heritage's energy went toward fanning fears of a U.N. plot to take Americans' guns, painting the text as a clear threat to the sanctity of the Second Amendment before a single word was ever put to paper. The end result was an Obama administration that was so reluctant to face the full weight of the right's clamor over the Arms Trade Treaty that the United States scuttled any vote on the text until after the election.
Enter DeMint, whose appearance on CNN's The Situation Room on Dec. 6 couldn't have done a better job of highlighting just how close his worldview fits with his new role at Heritage. Pressed by host Wolf Blitzer about whether he voted against the treaty based on its content or his dislike of the United Nations, DeMint leaned heavily toward the latter. "The United Nations cannot take an issue of that importance and carry it effectively around the world. They're -- This is the group that wants to make Palestine a state; they're the group that wants to regulate the Internet," DeMint said. "If you look behind the scenes at the United Nations, this is not something that we want to turn over, the rights and opportunities for the disabled."
Outgoing Heritage President Edwin Feulner immediately agreed with DeMint, telling Blitzer, "We're with him. We did some of the early background on it. Our guy Steve Groves was writing papers on this weeks and weeks ago." Groves's papers include screeds against not only the CRPD, but ones also calling for blocking U.S. ascension to every treaty before the U.S. Senate including, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a harmless gender-equality measure that the United States is the only developed country yet to ratify.
In an age of entrenched partisanship, it's difficult to fault Heritage for choosing to frame its arguments from a certain ideological perspective. But it's certainly fair game to call out the organization for formulating those arguments in what is all too often a vacuum of facts, particularly considering the rise of Heritage's 501(c)(4) arm, Heritage Action for America, in 2010. In launching the initiative, which they called the "fangs" of the organization, Feulner and Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham promised to "guarantee that when a wavering congressman thinks of voting for higher taxes, increased regulation, or a weaker national defense, television ads in his home district will remind him that a vote for bigger government is a vote for less freedom." It seems to work: In the run-up to the disabilities-treaty vote, Heritage Action teamed up with anti-abortion groups and home-schooling advocates to successfully pressure several Republican senators into dropping their support. (To give you some of the flavor, a blog post on its website intoned ominously that "liberals -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- in Congress are trying to subject our country … to the whims of some board of 'experts' in Geneva, Switzerland.")
Heritage's antipathy for the United Nations runs so deep that even the Model United Nations, that educational bit of role-playing that has taught millions of high school and college students about international affairs over the years, is part of this sinister conspiracy of global domination. In fact, Heritage has been determined to expose the evils of Model U.N. for decades, publishing in 1983 a backgrounder titled "The Model U.N. Program: Teaching Unreality." In it, the think tank warns that "core curriculum for the Model U.N. simulation" is "the same curriculum used at the U.N. itself -- the New International Economic Order."
This is the work of a serious organization?