Leading American politicians of both major parties appear to share an extreme reluctance to openly criticize the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally that has ramped up executions of its own citizens, led a coalition bombing effort in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians, and supported Sunni extremist groups throughout war-torn Syria.

Given the news this week that Saudi-led forces bombed a wedding party in Yemen, killing scores of civilians, as well as the decision by the Saudi government to behead and then crucify Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the son of a government critic arrested as a teenager, I attempted to talk about the Saudi Arabian human rights record to a number of politicians at the Washington Ideas Forum, an event hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute to discuss “this year’s most pressing issues and ideas of consequence.”

Most were uninterested in commenting.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney smiled and repeatedly said, “Nice to see you,” when I asked if he had any concerns about the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

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