Rick Santorum says he's "open" to running for president again in 2016. Insert joke here.

The odds of his winning the White House are roughly equivalent to the odds of Lindsay Lohan running a rehab center. Still, a modicum of attention must be paid — if only because he is Pennsylvania's contribution to the national sweepstakes (lucky us), and because his latest crackpot crusade is proof of his undimmed determination to tug his defeated party ever rightward.

Perhaps you haven't heard of his crusade; if not, you're excused, because in this holiday season you undoubtedly have other things on your mind besides Rick Santorum, the landslide '06 senatorial loser who could only manage 11 primary wins against the likes of Mitt Romney. Santorum is intent on keeping himself on the radar screen for the next four years, and what better way to kick off the process than to re-demonize a traditional right-wing bogeyman, the United Nations?

Here's the deal: Today, the U.S. Senate is slated to vote on whether to ratify a non-binding United Nations treaty - already ratified by 125 countries, and signed in 2006 by George W. Bush — that promotes equal rights for the disabled worldwide. The intent of the treaty is to encourage other countries to mimic the pioneering Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. That law, negotiated and signed by the senior George Bush administration, is basically the gold standard on how to protect and treat the disabled.

The treaty, officially called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is designed to export our best values — which is why, on the domestic front, it has been endorsed by 21 veterans groups, 30 faith groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the senior Bush, John McCain, Bob Dole, and virtually every group that advocates for the disabled, from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to Easter Seals.

But not Rick Santorum. He wants the Senate to say No.

In his new role as a columnist for World Net Daily (a website best known for spreading birther nonsense about President Obama), Santorum stokes the old right-wing paranoia about how the U.N. is supposedly a plot to trump American sovereignty. If the Senate passes the treaty by the requisite two-thirds margin, he warns, "it will become law of the land under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, would trump state laws, and could be used as precedent by state and federal judges." He somehow thinks that the treaty will empower U.N. officials (i.e., foreigners) to tell American parents how to raise their disabled American kids. He has been saying this in his emails (courtesy of his fundraising arm, Patriot Voice), and in press conferences (the U.N. treaty is "a direct assault on us").

But as former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh emphasized in Senate testimony back in July, there isn't a shread of evidence, anywhere in the treaty, that American sovereignty would be imperiled. Thornburgh, a Republican who helped negotiate the pioneering 1990 law during the senior Bush era, testified that U.S. ratification "will require no new domestic legislation," and that the treaty itself has specific provisions that safeguard American sovereignty.

On television this morning, Thornburgh said that the goal of the pact is not to impose the U.N. on America, but to promote America as the enlightened defender of the disabled. He warned that if the Senate rejects the treaty - as it may well do, thanks to the two-thirds requirement and the usual conservative naysaying) - America's relinquishing of "a leadership role on disabilities would send the wrong message domestically and globally."

But that would suit Santorum just fine, because he's all about concocting and exploiting fantasy demons. (Patriot Voice invites you to give Rick $5000 and join his Founders Circle.) His prime political purpose at the moment is to re-connect with the rabid right; paranoia about the U.N. is just the ticket. More broadly, he wants to ensure that he will part of the national conversation. He told a conservative magazine the other day, "I think there's a fight right now as to what the heart and soul of the Republican party is going to be, and the conservative movement, and we have something to say about that."

Looking ahead, the last thing Democrats want to see is a more moderate GOP. So when Santorum talks like that, the message from the opposition is: "By all means, Rick. Go for it!"


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