From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Episode 9A - 1954: The Defeat & Legacy of the Bricker Amendment

April 14, 2020 Logan Rogers Season 1
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 9A - 1954: The Defeat & Legacy of the Bricker Amendment
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From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 9A - 1954: The Defeat & Legacy of the Bricker Amendment
Apr 14, 2020 Season 1
Logan Rogers

Throughout US history, many Americans have been reluctant to get involved in international affairs, hoping to avoid the wars & problems of the Old World. After the Pearl Harbor attacks brought the USA into World War II, the isolationist mentality quickly changed, & the Americans co-founded & joined the United Nations to preserve world peace after the war. But isolationist sentiments soon re-emerged in the form of suspicion of the UN, particularly among Midwestern politicians like Ohio Republican John Bricker. Senator Bricker proposed a constitutional amendment designed to limit the power of international treaties & reduce the president's power to make executive agreements. It looked like the proposed Bricker bill would easily pass until President Dwight Eisenhower came out against it. Instead, the fate of this anti-internationalist amendment would depend upon the single vote of an (allegedly) drunken US Senator during February 1954. This episode concludes with a discussion of the lasting legacy of the Bricker Amendment, which involves a pervasive American suspicion of UN human rights treaties & other international agreements.

Show Notes Transcript

Throughout US history, many Americans have been reluctant to get involved in international affairs, hoping to avoid the wars & problems of the Old World. After the Pearl Harbor attacks brought the USA into World War II, the isolationist mentality quickly changed, & the Americans co-founded & joined the United Nations to preserve world peace after the war. But isolationist sentiments soon re-emerged in the form of suspicion of the UN, particularly among Midwestern politicians like Ohio Republican John Bricker. Senator Bricker proposed a constitutional amendment designed to limit the power of international treaties & reduce the president's power to make executive agreements. It looked like the proposed Bricker bill would easily pass until President Dwight Eisenhower came out against it. Instead, the fate of this anti-internationalist amendment would depend upon the single vote of an (allegedly) drunken US Senator during February 1954. This episode concludes with a discussion of the lasting legacy of the Bricker Amendment, which involves a pervasive American suspicion of UN human rights treaties & other international agreements.

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from boomers to millennials is a modern U. S history podcast, providing a fresh look at the historic events that shaped current generations from the mid 19 forties to the present Welcome to 1954 a k Episode nine A. The Defeat and Legacy of the Bricker Amendment. Today's story is a deeper dive into a political controversy that we touched on during Episode eight, namely internationalist President Dwight Eisenhower's battle against neo isolationist Senator John Bricker and other members of his own party for control over the levers of U. S foreign policy. But before we begin our story, it's time for yet another podcast update. Our latest data shows that we have now been downloaded in 47 U. S. States and a grand total of 36 countries around the world. However, something far worse has also been spreading around the globe as of late, the Corona virus pandemic. If we ever get there, the From Boomers to Millennials episode about 2020 is going to be wild, hopefully not too wild. We've had more than enough drama this year already, given the logistical and financial constraints imposed by the current medical and economic crisis getting library books and purchasing sources is going to be a little more difficult on our end for a while. Luckily, I found a college research paper of mine that's right on point for where we are now in our chronology. Don't worry. This podcast is only loosely based on that paper. I have jazzed it up quite a bit and tried to take out anything too dry or academic. But this solved the problem of acquiring sources for a new supplemental episode because the research was already done for me by me over a decade ago. One last tangent. Before we dig into the epic of the Bricker bill, I want to encourage you all to keep on downloading and supporting independent podcasts. At this time, our own downloads have remained steady, but according to our podcast hosting platform, buzz sprout many other shows air seeing their numbers decline. This is because people in quarantine are no longer commuting to work and have had their regular routines disrupted. Hopefully, some other people are discovering podcasts for the first time during this crisis. Still, when you take a break from the TV or from working on your computer in order to disinfect your room for the billionth time. Why not enjoy some historical escapism by listening to a history podcast? I know I'm preaching to the already converted here, but all of us podcasters would appreciate you spreading the word about us to others as well, from a safe distance of six feet away. Of course, we hope you're all remaining safe and want to express our appreciation to everyone working in the medical field and in other essential industries at this time. With that said, our latest podcast recommendation goes to the year that was podcast. Author Elizabeth Lunde has started a great show that, like our own digs into history. One year at a time, however, she goes into far more depth, completing a full podcast season on each year, looking at it from several angles and from all around the world, she is a compelling, knowledgeable and witty storyteller. She started with 1919 a frightfully interesting year that may even top 2020 in terms of global chaos and intrigue. There were wars, strikes, riots and revolutions. As of the recording of this podcast, Miss Lunde has recorded 18 episodes, about 1919 including one about the so called Spanish flu pandemic of that era, which is kind of relevant to what's going on in the world today. So check it out at www dot the year that was podcast dot com. As you may recall, from our last episode during the early 19 fifties, Senator John Bricker attempted to amend the Constitution in order to restrict the application of international treaties on the United States. He failed to achieve the same, but his campaign had a permanent impact on U. S foreign policy that is still relevant today. It encouraged the United States government to shift away from the international ism that had dominated in the years immediately after World War Two, when the United States had helped found and champion the United Nations to the countries of the world. It was the Bricker controversy that pressured the Eisenhower administration into abandoning the cause of U. N human rights treaties and permanently changed congressional attitudes about them. This political climate shift during the early 19 fifties would prove to be a long lasting one. The Bricker controversy is part of a long tradition of contentious disputes over America's role in world affairs. Ever since George Washington warned against the potential dangers of so called foreign entanglements. Many Americans have concluded that so long as the USA stayed out of the troubles of the Old World, it's relative geographic isolation would keep it safe from external threats. In the 20th century, when the tradition of isolationism came into direct conflict with America's new role as a global power epic, political battles occurred. Most Americans were understandably reluctant to get involved with the first World War. But after the Germans repeatedly sank ships carrying Americans and we're caught secretly offering to support an attack on the US through Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson and his congressional supporters decided that the USA must enter the conflict in order to quote, Make the world safe for democracy. After American troops helped turn the tide in, the Allies won World War President Wilson traveled to France and successfully engineered the creation of a peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations as part of the verse I P settlements. But when Wilson returned to the U. S. A. He discovered that the resistance to his league was even fiercer in America than it had been in Europe. He could not get the necessary 2/3 of senators to agree to join the league. Many fill that posed a possible threat to the national sovereignty of the United States, in part due to Wilson's own stubborn refusal to compromise. The treaty never received Senate approval, and the United States did not join the League of Nations. When the forces of aggressive militarism experienced a resurgence during the 19 thirties. The weekend league then proved unable to prevent another world war. American isolationism also strengthened during the thirties, and Congress repeatedly passed neutrality acts designed to prevent President Franklin D. Roosevelt from even offering assistance to the allies. In that conflict, it took a direct surprise attack by the Axis powers to convince the U. S to enter World War Two. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Roosevelt and other top allied leaders agreed that an organization called the United Nations should be created in order to maintain the peace. FDR was determined to avoid the mistakes of his predecessor, Wilson, in order to make sure that the USA was a full participant in the U. N. In part because the U. N. Charter contained a provision pledging nonintervention in matters of domestic jurisdiction. The U S Senate was comfortable that American independence and sovereignty were protected amidst a wartime spirit of national unity. 89 senators voted to join the United Nations in 1945 with just two senators opposed after wartime atrocities such as the Holocaust. Many activists from around the globe felt that the U. N should try to protect human rights. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt played a key role in negotiating wth EU ence. Universal Declaration on Human Rights as discussed in Episode two, Most of the American public seemed to have turned away from isolationism, embracing a national role, promoting freedoms around the world. But this internationalists Pierre, it began to erode with the arrival of the Cold War. With the world engaged in a great ideological struggle, the United Nations, instead of uniting countries and common purpose, became a forum for the political conflict. During the early 19 fifties, the Republican Party, which tended to be more wary of the U. N and other international organisations, gained control of the U. S. Federal government. The leadership of the American Bar Association were a B A, which was then a more politically conservative organization than it is today hope to exploit this national attitude change. In 1948 attorney Frank Holman of Utah, a staunch anti internationalist, became president of the right leaning A B A. That year, the organization passed a resolution condemning the U. N Declaration of Human Rights, objecting especially strongly to its inclusion of social and economic rights, such as the right to have a job, join a union and get an education. The A B A also opposed the U. N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Frank Holman suggested that under this human rights treaty, Americans could be brought before an international court on frivolous charges. For example, he claimed, a white motorists could be charged with genocide for accidentally hitting a black child with his car. The presence of a domestic jurisdiction clause in the U. N. Charter did not persuade a be a leadership that American sovereignty was safe. It cited the Supreme Court case of Missouri VI. Holland from 1920 which found a treaty enacted to protect migratory birds took legal precedence over state laws. To the contrary, the A B A was also disturbed by a recent concurring opinion of the court in the case of Oyama v. California in 1948 which argued that a racially discriminatory California law could be invalidated because it violated the U. N. Charter. Furthermore, the framers of the U. S Constitution had given treaties at least a CZ much legal standing as they gave congressional legislation. They had required laws made by legislators to be quote unquote made in pursuance of the Constitution, but did not clearly indicate that treaties also had to meet this requirement. This greatly concerned a be a leaders who believed that the United Nations Treaty could potentially authorize unconstitutional legal actions. They were convinced that something must be done to stop you entreaties from becoming legally binding upon the U. S. Government in 1949 they concluded that the answer was to pass a constitutional amendment ensuring that international treaties would not nullify state and federal laws. The process of amending the Constitution began in the United States Senate and the A B A found an ideological soul mate there To champion the measure. Senator John Bricker of Ohio personified the conservative, anti internationalist Midwestern wing of the Republican Party. He had a track record of success Throughout his life at Ohio State University, he was junior class president and starting catcher for the baseball team. He was a successful attorney during the booming 19 twenties. During this period, he developed his unshakable faith in free enterprise and his strongly pro business political views. In 1932 he was elected attorney general of Ohio in spite of that year's heavy nationwide Democratic tide. Four years later, he became Ohio governor and was reelected twice. He left Columbus in 1944 to run for president, campaigning as an opponent of the new Deal. At the Republican convention, he lost to Northeastern moderate Thomas Dewey but was selected as the GOP vice presidential candidate largely to placate the party's conservative Midwestern faction. The DUI Bricker campaign came closer to defeating Franklin D. Roosevelt than any previous Republican ticket had, but still fell far short in the Electoral College. Bricker then ran for the U. S Senate in Ohio during 1946 winning easily during that Republican leaning year, a senator, Bricker often criticized international organizations, especially the United Nations. However, he was not a total isolationist. Unlike fellow Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, he voted for the Marshall Plan. Still, Bricker was among the most conservative members of the Senate. He never ceased supporting Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy's Communist hunting crusade. He was among the minority of senators who opposed censoring the infamous Red Baiter In 1954. Upon McCarthy's death, Bricker eulogized him from the Senate floor, proclaiming that quote, No man seemed less capable of bearing personal malice. Close quote one assumes that some of the targets of McCarthy's investigations might disagree with Bricker's opinion here. In 1951 Bricker spoke out on the Senate floor against the U. N. Covenant on Human Rights. In order to get the support of his many countries as possible. The covenant had included a provision stating that a nation could be released from its obligations to uphold certain human rights in a time of national emergency. The presence of this Klaus lead Bricker and his fellow conservatives to charge that approval of the covenant could important a legal loophole into American law that could justify a suspension of basic American rights and freedoms. As a result of its outspoken opposition to the U. N. Covenant, Bricker came into communication with a B A leaders who gave him the idea of proposing a constitutional amendment to regulate international treaties. While crafting this amendment, Bricker realized he could also use his bill to restrict the use of executive diplomatic agreements. Like many Republicans, he viewed the Yalta and Potsdam executive agreements made among FDR, Stalin and Churchill, apportioning post World War two borders as having been too generous to the Soviets. He included a provision in his amendment stripping the executive branch of the ability to make thes international arrangements without congressional approval. In September 1951 Bricker introduced his amendment to the Senate, but that year's session ended before any action was taken on the proposed legislation. You re introduced it in February 1952 and this time 58 of his fellow senators, including nearly all Republicans plus numerous conservative Democrats, signed on his co sponsors. In May of that year, a Senate subcommittee held hearings on the Bricker amendment. Frank Coleman and his A B A colleagues were prominent among those speaking out in favor of the amendment. Representatives of liberal organizations testified against it, But the most prominent opposing voices at these hearings belong to representatives of the Truman administration. They argued that the Bricker amendment could cripple the chief executive's ability to conduct foreign policy. Strangely, the Bricker amendment, despite being co sponsored by the majority of senators, was never brought out of the Judiciary Committee for a vote by the entire chamber. In 1952 however, Bricker had reason for optimism about his amendments chances. In 1953. The November 1952 election results meant a Republican president and a Republican Congress would dominate Washington D. C. Bricker was confident that in this political environment, his amendment would encounter little opposition. By summer 1953 Bricker had 64 senators co sponsoring his amendment, more than the 2/3 needed simply to pass the measure. It appeared that even if newly elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower had his doubts about the amendment, stopping its approval by the Senate would be very difficult. In fact, Eisenhower did have serious reservations about Bricker's proposal and had been voicing them privately since the amendment was first suggested in 1951. I believed that the Founding Fathers had intended the power to conduct foreign policy to be in the hands of the president and that if Congress had to approve every executive agreement. As the Bricker Amendment mandated, it would be difficult to get things done internationally. In a February 1953 meeting of Eisenhower's Cabinet, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson and Attorney General Herbert Brownell expressed their opposition to the Bricker amendment on the grounds that it would be an unnecessary and troublesome restriction upon executive power. One particular concern was that requiring congressional approval for every international executive agreement could prevent the president from making a desperately needed immediate agreement with an ally in a time of international crisis. In a March 1953 press conference, President Eisenhower came out publicly against the Bricker amendment. However, he qualified his remarks by stating the amendment was unacceptable. Quote as analyzed for me by the secretary of state. This was a classic example of Eisenhower's so called hidden hand leadership, the president's method of protecting himself from political backlash by making it appear that his advisers were responsible for controversial decisions. Historian Dwayne Tannenbaum believes the method backfired in this instance, allowing Bricker supporters to believe that Eisenhower was confused by Secretary of State Dulles and would support the amendment, if only he properly understood it. By the time Dulles appeared at Senate hearings on the Bricker amendment in April, he had become a scapegoat for proponents of the measure. Undaunted, Dulles insisted to the Senate that no amendment was needed, for it was extremely unlikely that 2/3 of senators would ever approve a treaty that was dangerous to American constitutional rights. Instead of defending United Nations human rights treaties, Dulles announced that the administration had no intention of promoting or signing them. Through this concession, the administration hoped to take some of the political wind out of the amendment sales implacably opposed to the current form of the Bricker amendment. But troubled by its political popularity in the Senate, the Eisenhower administration decided to support a watered down version of the amendment, let it pass and hope it would satiate the demand for such a measure. The president convinced Senate Majority Leader William Noland, Republican of California, to introduce this Bricker light legislation, which simply established that treaties and international agreements could not impose anything contrary to the U. S. Constitution. Bricker denounced what he saw as a dilution of his amendment, but the administration had bought itself sometime. Faced with two conflicting treaty regulating amendments that would force many Republicans to choose between their ideological convictions and their loyalty, Toa Eisenhower Senate leadership took no action on either measure during the 1953 session. Opponents and proponents of the amendment knew there would be a final vote. In early 1954 both sides attempted to win over public opinion. Prominent among advocates of the Bricker amendment was newspaper publisher Frank Gannet, who used his media empire to promote the bill. The amendment had the support of many in the business community. The United States Chamber of Commerce endorsed it. Some physicians organizations, including the American Medical Association, favored the amendment in hopes it would protect their profession from quote unquote socialized medicine. Quietly but strongly supporting the amendment were American segregationists. Most of the Democrats who co sponsored the amendment were Southerners concerned about human rights treaties being used to invalidate racially discriminatory laws in their home states. More typical conservative leaning organizations, such as the American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution, also endorsed the amendment. Phyllis Schlafly, the socially conservative activist, would later gain fame for leading opposition to the pro Feminist Equal Rights Amendment during the 19 seventies began her political involvement as a grassroots supporter of the Bricker Amendment. Professor Florence Casserole Ski studied the unique, all female conservative movement that Schlafly joined, known as the Vigilant Women for the Bricker Amendment or V W B A. According to Kaczorowski quote, the group was officially open toe all women, but the so called brick aretz were characteristically white, Christian, middle and upper class women. Close quote. According to a Milwaukee newspaper that covered a rally of the VW be a supporters expressed concern that unless the Bricker amendment was adopted, quote under the U. N. Charter Congress might take over parochial and private schools, order compulsory medical insurance or legislate on all labor, including the domestic help in your house. Close quote. In January 1954 with the final congressional debate over the amendment imminent casserole ski reports that approximately quote 500 women came to Washington, D. C. From 36 states to demonstrate their support for Bricker's proposal. Close quote. She notes that VW be a members stormed Capitol Hill and demanded an audience with members of Congress. The even pressured President Eisenhower into meeting with them. But the brick aretz were disappointed to find that they were unable to persuade him to change his mind about the amendment. Although the VW be a did not succeed in their crusade, their movement remains historically significant during the 21st century female lead political movements such as the women's marches from 2017 have often been more on the progressive side of the political spectrum. But the brig aretz remind us that some women's groups have also been a major force promoting more conservative political agendas within U. S. History. In order to counter act the efforts of the VW, be a and other conservative organizations. More liberal groups, which tended to be internationalist in outlook and generally favorable toward the United Nations, spoke out against the Bricker amendment. These included the League of Women Voters, the F L C I O D. A, C L U and Americans for Democratic Action, or THEEIGHTY. A. Not to be confused with the A B A, which favored the amendment. Although the majority of the business community supported the Bricker amendment, companies that were heavily invested in foreign trade tended to oppose it, fearing that it would make it difficult to pass treaties facilitating international commerce. Prominent individuals also spoke out against the amendment, including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, former President Harry Truman and past presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. Despite all these institutional efforts to engage and mobilize the public, a late 1953 poll indicated that most Americans had not heard of the Bricker amendment or the controversy surrounding it. In early 1954 Senate Democratic leadership realized that they had an opportunity to exploit the skirmish between the Eisenhower Republicans, who supported the Noland amendment and Bricker's right wing faction of the GOP. Since these two groups could not come up with a compromise on their own, Democrat Walter George of Georgia appropriately introduced his own amendment milder than Bricker's amendment but stronger than Nolan's bill. If successful, this legislation would allow the Democrats to take credit for saving a popular president from extremists within his own party. Biographer Robert A. Caro identifies Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson as determining the fate of the George amendment. Interestingly, Johnson privately opposed the passage of any treaty regulating amendment, as Caro observes one of the few beliefs that the Texas senator held consistently throughout his political career was quote the necessity for broad latitude in the exercise of executive power, in large part because he hoped to get that power himself. Someday, however, he had to publicly support the amendment or risk losing the financial backing of wealthy conservative oilmen for his 1954 reelection campaign in Texas. This predicament placed him in the contradictory position of voting for the George amendment while fighting for its defeat. Behind the scenes, Bricker insisted that the George amendment did not go far enough to regulate the treaty power while the Eisenhower administration founded unacceptable because it required Senate approval of executive agreements. However, it found a solid constituency among senators who, due to politics or principal, wanted something substantive done to regulate the presidential treaty power. But we're concerned that the Bricker amendment went too far. Bricker's opponents had successfully muddied the water. In February 1954 there were three versions of a treaty regulating constitutional amendment before the Senate, the Compromise George amendment, even more water down Noland amendment and Bricker's original, fully restrictive amendment. Senator Bricker found himself politically outmaneuvered as many senators from both parties who had originally co sponsored the Bricker amendment now rejected his version and instead gave their support to the George amendment. On February 25th the Bricker Amendment came up for a vote in the Senate. It received just 42 Yays and 15 A's. A bill that once garnered 64 co sponsors had failed to win even a simple Senate majority. The once popular amendment did not come close to receiving the 2/3 margin necessary descended onto the state legislatures for ratification. As part of the U. S Constitution, many senators concerned about regulating the treaty process viewed the administration sponsored Noland amendment as toothless. It was slated to come up for consideration, but the Senate voted to replace it with the more substantial George Amendment and vote on it. Instead, the scene was set for the final showdown in the Bricker amendment controversy. On February 26th the Senate held the final debate on the matter. Bricker, who had previously criticized the George amendment as too weak, now endorsed it as the best remaining option for restricting presidential diplomatic power. Senator Noland, sponsor of the administration backed amendment that the Senate had declined to vote on, made a dramatic and surprising move he announced quote, I have left the desk of majority leader because I wish to make it very clear that what I say is not said as majority leader, but is said in my capacity of an individual senator. Close quote. He declared that although the Eisenhower administration was opposed to the George amendment, he personally would vote in favor of it because he felt it was important to restrict executive treaty power. This caused concern among amendment opponents who feared that other pro Eisenhower Republicans would follow no one's lead, abandoning their support of the administration's position against the George amendment. Lyndon Johnson, who secretly was trying to prevent the George amendment from passing, realized that he now faced a perilously close vote. He was alarmed toe learn that one of the votes he needed was nowhere to be found. He dispatched deputies to retrieve Senator Harley Kilgore of West Virginia, an amendment opponent who was missing from the Senate floor. They found him in his office in a mysterious stupor, and they physically helped him into the Senate chamber. When Kilgore's vote was called for, he was unable to respond, so Johnson used a procedural tactic to stall while the man came to his senses, Kilgore composed himself and, upon being asked to Second Time, simply said no. That single vote caused the George amendment to fall one person short of the 2/3 approval required for passage. The days senator had unwittingly insured the defeat of the amendment and of the Bricker crusade. Disputes remain over the details of this final drama. History professor Dwayne Tannin bomb claims that Kilgore was groggy from consuming too much alcohol. This was the version that the bitter Bricker believed, while biographer Richard Oh Davies argues that the senator from West Virginia had simply been physically ill. Historians also disagree over what broader factors caused the bill to fail. Robert Caro emphasizes the importance of Lyndon Johnson's ability to pressure Democratic senators into voting against the George amendment. While Tannenbaum have used the Eisenhower administration successful lobbying of Republican senators as the key factor leading to the amendments defeat in subsequent years, Bricker continued to push for his amendment. But it never regained its prior level of support. Two factors were significant in doling the enthusiasm of potential amendment supporters, the Eisenhower administration's lack of interest in pursuing human rights treaties and the president's policy of consistently consulting Congress on foreign policy matters. In 1957 the U. S Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Reed v. Covert put to rest one of the main concerns that had motivated advocates of the Bricker amendment. In that court opinion, Justice Hugo Black wrote Quote no agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on any branch of government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution. Close quote. According to Tannenbaum, Bricker still didn't consider the matter settled, and he continued promoting his constitutional proposal until his bid for reelection failed in 1958. Bricker's biographer, Richard Oh Davies, claims that for the rest of his life, the former Ohio senator blamed Eisenhower for his amendments. Failure It would take 20 years for Congress to make another major effort to restrict executive powers to conduct foreign policy was liberal Democrats, who then led the charge in reaction to scandals surrounding Vietnam and Watergate. Although ostensibly a failure, the Bricker amendment created a powerful precedent of senatorial opposition to human rights treaties throughout the rest of the fifties. In the late 19 sixties, the brick Irish mentality in the U S Congress looks like it had started to change when the Senate voted in favor of the US joining a U. N anti slavery convention. One of the primary justifications that senators cited for joining the anti slavery treaty was the worldwide observance of 1968 as a human rights here. In 1975 the Senate approved the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, in large part to celebrate that year's designation as international women's Here. It is significant that the Senate approved these human rights treaties, but they were passed mostly a symbolic gestures to observe international celebrations rather than as part of a serious effort to strengthen international law. During the administration of Jimmy Carter, U. S senators neglected to follow the president's recommendation that they approve a group of U. N human rights treaties. These international agreements were never brought to a congressional vote. One reason for this American reluctance is that from the 19 fifties through the 19 seventies, there was an influx of Third World countries into the United Nations, many of which were often critical of powerful developed nations like the U. S. A. American influence decreased within the U N and the American public became more skeptical of the organization. Senators found little public enthusiasm for passage of a U. N treaty simply because it had been signed on to by most other nations. Human rights conventions brought to an actual congressional vote have almost always passed. One can imagine that senators want to avoid any appearance of voting against basic human rights. Yet members of Congress made the treaty's a low priority. Human rights agreements often sat unratified in the files of a Senate committee. For years, some senators held nationalistic attitudes were generally suspicious of taking on any international legal entanglements. Even Senate members not ideologically opposed to human rights treaties often found little motivation to crusade for them. Many came to believe that promoting United Nations conventions carried political risks. In 1984 scholar Nathalie have enter, Kaufman interviewed the foreign policy staff of Senate Foreign Relations Committee members. She found that they shared an impression that human rights treaties were inherently controversial. Kaufman argues that this perception originated with the Bricker controversy and endured through the decades. The journalist and future government official Samantha Power wrote in her 2002 book about US human rights policy that one notable exception to this rule of congressional apathy with Senator William Proxmire, Democrat of Wisconsin Power, reports that in 1967 Proxmire gave a speech promoting Senate approval of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. He announced that he intended to speak on the subject every day. Congress was in session until the treaty was passed. He initially believed that it would not take long to win his colleagues over on the matter. Instead, years passed without the Senate taking any action on the U. N convention Power notes that Proxmire nevertheless refused to quit. He continued to urge passage of the anti genocide treaty nearly every morning, year after year. Power argues it was a political blunder that revived the genocide convention. In 1985 President Ronald Reagan was scheduled to visit Bitburg Cemetery in West Germany to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of World War Two. Critics discovered that dozens of Nazi SS officers were memorialized in that cemetery, and some groups urged him to cancel his visit. Instead, Reagan added a trip to a former concentration camp to his itinerary, hoping that this acknowledgement of Holocaust victims would cancel out the potentially offensive nature of his other stop. Still, after Reagan's visit to Bitburg, his strategists were concerned that his reputation had been tarnished. Power reports that they encourage Reagan to champion the U. N. Convention against genocide in order to replenish his moral credibility. After the president endorsed the genocide convention, it was quickly approved by the Senate in early 1986 albeit with legal reservations attached, And Senator Proxmire Sze daily ritual finally came to an end. In subsequent years, the U. S Senate approved some other human rights treaties, including the U. N. Convention Against Torture and the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Still, passage of these has been secured through the inclusion of reservations, understandings and declarations or are You D's, which weakened the legal power of the treaties. These attachments declare which parts of the treaty the USA will abide by and which ones it will ignore most. Are you d specifically addressed Bricker right? National sovereignty concerns, ensuring that the United States will not be legally required to change its laws or practices under the human rights treaties. For example, specific argue D's allow the United States to declare its citizens to be outside the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. Essentially, these are you D's render us passage of human rights treaties as mostly symbolic rather than legally binding. Nevertheless, when the U. S has signed on to such agreements, it arguably has signaled a willingness to act as a team player and at least nominally cooperate with the international community. Our listeners air free to make up their own minds about these issues. But most evidence indicates that international human rights treaties probably were not the dire threat to American constitutional rights that Bricker and his allies claimed they were. Then again, given such United Nations conventions lack of strong enforcement power, one wonders whether they were as important as their idealistic advocates such as Power and Proxmire have made them out to be. Today, political philosophers such a Samuel Moines have argued that human rights may not even be a particulate early, useful concept for thinking about international justice, since protection of human rights has been used to justify US foreign interventions that have had negative long term consequences. But regardless of what concepts best make case, our current crises make it clear that international cooperation is still likely to be necessary in order to solve world wide public health and environmental problems. It will probably remain difficult to achieve such a global consensus, however, due to national governments focus on protecting their own self interests and due to recent rising nationalism around the world. Back in 1954 when President Eisenhower was fed up with the persistent efforts of John Bricker to pass his amendment equipped quote, If it's true that when you die, the things that bothered you most are engraved on your skull, I am sure that all have the mud and dirt of France during the war and the name of Senator Bricker. Close Quote. The Ohio senator also left an indelible mark on U. S foreign policy. His campaign to amend the Constitution caused the Eisenhower administration to abandon advocacy of human rights treaties and created an enduring suspicion of international agreements. This skepticism of international treaties and preoccupation with national sovereignty is still evident in very recent American policy, as indicated by U. S withdrawal from the Paris climate accord in 2017. Although the Bricker amendment was defeated more than 60 years later. In some ways, the Bricker wall still stands, and in our next episode we will examine the U. S foreign policy agenda. The Dwight D. Eisenhower fought so hard to keep control over with nuclear weapons increasingly making a hot war off limits the Cold War superpowers waged covert war against each other by fighting for influence within different countries all around the world. Unsurprisingly, some of the methods used by American and Soviet officials would not meet the strict standards of the U. N. Declaration of Human Rights. Until then, follower show on Twitter and Instagram. Support us on patri on with the donation or help us grow by leaving a review on apple podcasts or stitcher. Send us an email if you have thoughts about our podcast, including suggestions for supplemental episode topics at boomer to millennial at outlook dot com. Thank you for continuing to spread the word about us and, as always, thank you for listening