Memo to the media: Blame Bob Menendez for lack of US focus on human rights issues

Memo to the media: Blame Bob Menendez for lack of US focus on human rights issues
© Getty Images

The outcry over how Trump handled the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a good example of why the American people are increasingly disaffected with the media. 

The disaffection grows like this: An event that seemingly has little to do with President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE is given massive coverage by the mainstream media, which finds a way to blame the Trump administration for said event. All the while the media fails to give the American people the full story.

ADVERTISEMENT

The full story in the Khashoggi murder is that, for months, the Democrats have been blocking the confirmation of the key State Department official, who the president and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFive things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off US sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game MORE would otherwise be relying on to address what was clearly a violation of human rights.

The brazen attempt to blame the president for not caring about human rights is just the latest example of this ploy. The Washington Post reported recently that the president’s foreign policy is characterized by “a transactional approach that prioritizes geopolitics and economic interests over human rights and democracy.”

The Post fails to mention that the Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (D-N.J.) is blocking the president’s nominee for assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

If the mainstream media were actually interested in the facts related to the administration’s response to the Khashoggi matter, they would be focusing on why the very person who would have been the immediate point person on this case wasn't on the case. It would lead right back to Menendez’s obstructionism.

So let’s raise the question here: Is it that Trump doesn’t care about human rights, or is it that Menendez and the Democrats are denying him the key officials he needs to inform a coherent policy on this issue? 

The irony of Menendez blocking a pro-democracy post from being filled is rich given the fact that he was “severely admonished” by the Senate for receiving lavish gifts and then using his office for personal gain and undercutting the democratic process in Congress.

Democracy, it seems, has mattered less to Menendez than serving the interests of a wealthy and corrupt friend; Menendez is no altar boy. 

In June, Menendez signed a letter to the president urging him to appoint someone qualified to the post of assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department. The letter stated in part that the “nominee must also commit to upholding the basic rights of all people including those targeted for their work, such as journalists, labor activists and human rights defenders, and advise the Secretary of State and other cabinet members on these core issues in the context of U.S. foreign policy priorities. Our national security and foreign policy goals can only be realized through principled American leadership on these fundamental issues.”

That same month, Trump announced his appointment of Professor Robert Destro of the Catholic University of America Law School as his nominee. Destro has been widely praised by the left and the right. He has been a leader on human rights issues for decades, going back to his work on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Reagan administration.

Destro was a pioneer on human rights for AIDS patients and has engaged in substantive inter-religious dialogue with Christians, Jews and Muslims. He has helped spring Americans imprisoned by Iran, including Jason Rezaian. He worked with Republicans and Democrats in creating a unanimously passed resolution calling out ISIS’ genocide. In short, he’s the perfect candidate. Menendez could hardly ask for someone better.

But, sadly, there seems to be no consequence to Menendez’s bad faith in demanding that the president appoint a qualified assistant secretary, and then blocking the appointment, and those of dozens of other key nominees. Denying Trump and Pompeo a needed human rights expert as the administration navigates complicated human rights issues with Iran, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua and, now, Saudi Arabia is unconscionable.

This past June, Menendez wrote a letter to the president and called this a “critical vacancy;” since then it has become even more critical. He also wrote, “We urge you to expeditiously nominate, for the advice and consent of the Senate, a properly qualified candidate for this position.” The nomination was made expeditiously. The least Sen. Menendez can do is “expeditiously” confirm the “properly qualified candidate.” Anything less makes his letter — or his obstruction — a cynical political ploy.

So media, take note: Stop blaming Trump. He did his part. Now hold Menendez accountable.

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for President George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority, which trains conservative political candidates and activists.