President Obama presented Mary Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. Obama stated:
For Mary Robinson, the fight to end discrimination and suffering is an urgent moral imperative. She has been a trail-blazing crusader for women’s rights in Ireland and a forceful advocate for equality and human rights around the world. Whether courageously visiting conflict-stricken regions, or working to inject concern for human rights into business and economic development, Mary Robinson continues this important work today, urging citizens and nations to make common cause for justice.
Charles Lane of the Washington Post presents a far more accurate assessment of Robinson here, and I urge those interested in this story to read the whole thing.
Lane “agree[s] with those who say Robinson showed a prosecutorial attitude toward Israel when she was United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights between 1997 and 2002 — and since then.” But his primary objection is that Robinson hasn’t accomplished enough to merit the award:
By law, the medal is supposed to go to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” I just don’t think Robinson, though an accomplished civil rights lawyer in her youth, a skilled self-promoter and a fixture at global confabs, has done anything especially meritorious in those areas, much less meritorious enough to outweigh the troubling part of her record.
Lane goes on to demonstrate that when Robinson isn’t “prosecuting” Israel, “she’s sort of an empty suit.”
I would add only that Obama didn’t award Robinson her medal for being an empty suit.