The Rosett Report

Mary Robinson's Medal for Bush Bashing?

Another item for the Obama Outrage Overload file:

Among the 16 winners picked by President Obama this year for the high honor of receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a very strange choice indeed:  A former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

You can read plenty about Robinson’s record in an article written in 2002 by the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin, “Mary Robinson, War Criminal?” There’s plenty of appalling detail, but the nature of the problem is exemplified by Mary Robinson’s role as secretary-general of the UN’s infamous 2001 Durban conference. That gathering was supposed to focus on fighting racism, but instead ended up as such as jamboree of anti-semitism that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell ordered the U.S. delegation to walk out.

So why on earth would Obama tap Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom? There’s an interesting article on the American Thinker, in which Ed Lasky speculates that the suggestion might have come from one of Obama’s foreign policy gurus, Samantha Power.  I have no idea whether that’s correct, or where Obama got the idea from. But Lasky in his article mentions that Power wrote a book about Robinson’s successor as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and in researching the book, might have come across Robinson.

That made me curious enough to flip open Power’s 2008 book, “Chasing the Flame,” (a work of strange infatuations in its own right) and check the index. It’s not clear from the book whether Power knows Robinson (though they have both moved for years in circles that intersect). But Power certainly does mention her. On page 349, Robinson is described as having been “outspoken in her criticisms of the Bush administration’s human rights abuses in the wake of 9/11.” Robinson is further described as having criticized the U.S. — the UN’s biggest single donor — for not giving a bigger percentage of its GNP for foreign aid.

Writes Power, “Unsurprisingly, the United States refused to support her bid for a second four-year term as high commissioner. Still she was unrepentant.” Power quotes Robinson’s retort to the U.S.: “Holding back criticism for whatever political reasons,” said Robinson, “takes away the legitimacy of the agenda and the cause.”

Well, fast forward to 2009, and we now find Washington making amends to Mary Robinson for snubbing her Durban-style “agenda” and her America-trashing “cause.” Obama will confer the Medal of Freedom upon her in an official ceremony on August 12th  . Who’s next? Hugo Chavez?