Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 31, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HILLARY AND THE DRIVER'S LICENSES....I was in and out of the room during Tuesday night's debate, and one of the times I left the room was just as Tim Russert started asking a question about Elliot Spitzer. Turned out he was asking Hillary Clinton about Spitzer's plan to provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and if blogo-buzz is anything to go by it was the question of the night. Here's the nickel summary: Hillary gave a rambling response explaining what Spitzer was trying to do but without really taking a position. Dodd disagreed with the Spitzer plan ("I think it's troublesome") and Hillary then stepped in to muddy the waters some more: "I did not say that it should be done," she said, "but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it." That was followed by some crosstalk between Dodd and Clinton, and then by Russert pressing her to give a firm answer ("Do you support his plan?"). Hillary hedged, and never really answered. Video here. Kit Seelye of the New York Times provides the play-by-play:

Both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama called her on what seemed to be a shift in her statement. Mr Edwards said, "Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago." And Mr. Obama uttered a devastating phrase for anyone who remembers the 2004 campaign: he said he couldn't tell if she is "for it or against it."

On the license issue, Mr. Obama said that he thinks Governor Spitzer's plan is "the right idea."

There's no question that Hillary's answer was unusually spineless, especially since she had had plenty of time to think about this. Maybe two solid hours of being a punching bag had gotten to her by that point.

Still, is this really a killer moment? If it is, the bar has really gotten pretty low. I doubt very much that Hillary is going to win or lose the election based on straddling the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. In a Republican primary maybe, but not a Democratic one.

But I could be wrong! Consider this an open thread to chat about the debate.

Kevin Drum 1:38 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (83)

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Comments

I generally like Obama, and I respect that he's trying to elevate political discourse, but he still hasn't found a way to pitch himself and criticize his opponents in a way that's comfortable to him (and, I might add, he undermined his own persona by going after Romney in such a pat way). He came off looking weak and afraid of Hillary, sort of like Bill Bradley back in 2000. How is Obama going to handle Rudy with this passive demeanor? And for someone who's so eloquent giving a prepared speech, he's only average off-the-cuff in these debates, and is pretty poor at getting in zingers. That said, he had a few good lines, and even figured out that he had an opportunity to go after Hillary on her immigration answer towards the end.

Posted by: KobayashiMaru on October 31, 2007 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

According to Chris Matthews, supporting DLs for immigrants will kill the Dems in November.

Posted by: Fel on October 31, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Supported by a mysteriously high level of support, while dodging and weaving around softball interchanges for years, Hillary Clinton's teflon finally wore off last night during the MSNBC debate when she met her match. Finally, what many of us have been waiting to see: Her insubstantial character, her grossly inflated "35-year record of accomplishment" and her legislative initiatives and non-binding resolutions were sufficiently deconstructed until none of the best image makers in the world can put Humptess Dumptess back together again. It was, undeniably, a miserable performance, which couldn't be patched up with that giddy, well rehearsed grin, polished statements, amorphous comebacks, and Drill Instructor comportment.

If she looked presidential, which dolts like Chris Matthews have been claiming from the beginning, then it could only mean the president of a preowned car lot specializing in Yugos. At long last the great divide between Appearance and Reality, or as Plato called it, Being, was narrowed, first and foremost by her vote to condemn the Iranian guard as terrorists. Supporters - if there are any left - may tell you she was assaulted by her desperate opponents in an effort to chip away at her astounding, undeserved lead. But the truth is, on this night - the next fateful appearance after her remarkably asinine vote against Iran - the room could've been filled with deaf mutes and her inadequacies would've been apparent.

That she remained the virtually uncontested candidate, despite a huge negative rating at the national level, in retrospect was more miraculous than the 15-laterals-in-one-play that Trinity used to win last weekend. At least give her credit for being a tremendous magician. Chris Angel's trickery has nothing on Hillary's Wizard-of-Oz show - an ongoing play in which she has made promises and pledges without providing specifics or target dates for programs that will "change" America for the better. And the poor Redskins could've used her playbook for going right, then going left, mixing it up, and making her way down the field without a bruise when they faced the Patriots last Sunday when they were defeated 52-0.

The difference in Hilary's case, thankfully, will be that she won't score. It won't be long now before she's just a bad memory.

Posted by: arty kraft on October 31, 2007 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

It was a typical Clintonian moment. It might have been good politically but I still don't know what her core set of beliefs are.

This is another reason if she gets elected it will be a sad day for true progressives like myself. Yes, better than any other Republican, but still.

I agree the issue is deadly for Democrats.

Posted by: Luigi D on October 31, 2007 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Matthews acted like Hillary offered fealty to Osama. It was embarrassing, but indicative of how poisonous the kneejerkery has become.

Immigration is a federal matter, driving licenses are a state matter, and that should be that. Spitzer wants to deal with the things that are his responsibility, and unlicensed/uninsured drivers are part of that.

What Hillary was saying, in essence, was that she was glad she wasn't in Spitzer's shoes. Which is triangulation, but she ain't running for a job in Albany. She's a federal legislator aiming to become the federal chief executive.

(That the state-issued certificate of competence in operating a motor vehicle has become the de facto identity card across the United States is its own problem.)

But when Lou Dobbs and his giant bloviating potato head define the debate, and 'immigrant' has been elided into 'terrorist', it's considered a faux pas of the highest order. Next up, Romney offers a plan to limit oxygen use to those with a tamper-proof citizenship chip.

Posted by: ahem on October 31, 2007 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody's watching yet.

Posted by: Boronx on October 31, 2007 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton was asked a direct yes or no question--twice!--and didn't answer it. Why? Because answering those kinds of questions will give at least one group of people a reason not to vote for you, and HRC, true to form, did everything she could not to give anyone a reason not to vote for her. This may win elections, but it accomplishes little else. The most telling thing about Clinton is that a lot of the criticism of her is true: She will do anything she needs to to win; she has no true principles.

And I just love Kevin's rambling post below: I prefer Edwards's policies, but I'm going to support Clinton. Apparently campaigns are primarily meta now, and the best way to impress people and get their votes is to seem polished and electable (and offend the fewest people) rather than to campaign on the best set of policies. Maybe I'm just naive, but if so I prefer to stay that way.

This is my favorite Clinton moment, displaying her complete lack of principles. It's from an interview with Elizabeth Warren on NOW about Clinton and the backruptcy bills.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/credit/interviews/warren.html

And Sen. Clinton?
Sen. Clinton, when she was first lady, [was] responsible for stopping the proposed bankruptcy legislation. The White House had been quietly supporting it, and it was First Lady Clinton who talked with her husband and persuaded him that the bankruptcy bill was hard on women, hard on families, hard on older Americans, and was a bad idea in general. And the last act that President Clinton took with Congress was to veto the bankruptcy bill. Mrs. Clinton took credit for that in her autobiography, and by golly, she deserves it. She stood up --

And today?
Sen. Clinton, when she was elected, the financial services industry brought this bill back. And so one of the very first bills that came up after Sen. Clinton had taken office was the bankruptcy bill. Oh, [there were] a couple of cosmetic changes to it, ... but it was the same bill that had been there at that point already for four years. And Sen. Clinton voted in favor of the bill.

Better bill?
No.

Why?
The financial services industry is a big industry in New York, and it's powerful on Capitol Hill. It's a story of how much influence this industry group wields in Washington that ... they can bring to heel a senator who obviously cares, who obviously gets it, but who also obviously really feels the pressure in having to stand up to an industry like that.

Posted by: pissedoffinnyc on October 31, 2007 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary looks very pretty in that photo.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on October 31, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

The correct answer is "Bush and The Republicans should fix immigration so that Spitzer doesn't have to choose between giving ID to undocumented immigrants, or facing a growing population of people who can't drive."

Posted by: Boronx on October 31, 2007 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

We knew going in that the field would attack Clinton because of her large lead in the polls. That is exactly what happened. An example of how being the frontrunner is a mixed blessing.

I think they were successful in making her look bad in several instances, the driver's licensing bit being her worst error. However, I don't think that is enough. What's really needed to bring her down is a mistake on the level of Gerald Ford claiming that there is no Soviet Domination of Eastern Europe or for Hillary to totally lose her temper. That did not happen. It was ugly, but Clinton survived this gauntlet.

Posted by: Ogre Mage on October 31, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary and Dodd are two of the most corrupt politicians on illegal infiltration. Is Russert trying to trivialize the issue by limiting the debate to drivers' licenses.

http://grades.betterimmigration.com/testgrades.php3?District=NY&VIPID=896
http://grades.betterimmigration.com/testgrades.php3?District=CT&VIPID=148

Logically if you want illegal aliens to drive safely you would deport them when they are stopped for traffic violations and can produce no license or speak any English and admit to being here illegally or are found to be here illegally. If reckless driving gets you a driver's license, that is hardly a deterrent.

Posted by: Luther on October 31, 2007 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary looks very pretty in that photo.

Weird that you mention it, Tilli, I never would have thought to pay attention to that -- but you're right, it's a pretty good angle for her, or something.

Posted by: mk on October 31, 2007 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Well, her (non-)answer on the Archives was pretty bad as well. She consistently refused to address the question she was being asked (whether she'd approve release of the Clinton Archives) and instead talked about how archives are released in the normal course of things.

Total cop out.

Posted by: leo on October 31, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

Inane side issues like this stupid license flap come up because the operate as proxies for more intangible concerns. The Republican nomination race is just a contest to see who is the meanest and toughest hombre, so sticking it to the wetbacks is a no-brainer. The Dems, by contrast, aren't looking for John Wayne, so licenses for illegals only resonates to the extent it casts light on the overriding Democratic concern, which is to find someone, anyone, who can win in November 2008.

One other big fact about this election is that Hillary is the default Democratic candidate, in part because she's a Clinton and thus (it is assumed) knows how to beat the wingnuts. None of the other candidates can make any headway at all until they undermine the notion of Clintonian Republican-beating prowess.

So the obvious storyline here is to cast doubt on Hillary's ability to win the general on account of her failure to seem adequately xenophobic on stupid crap like this license thing.

Personally I don't think licenses will matter much in the coming election, despite their noisiness at the moment. The only real issue this year (just like other election years) is whether they want the GOP to continue in the oval office. If and only if, the electorate has decided to fire the Republicans, then Hillary will effortlessly slide into office. If the electorate wants to keep the same bunch in power, then nothing Hillary says or does will get her a victory.

So quit sweating small crap like this. It's not going matter.

Posted by: jimBOB on October 31, 2007 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

Luigi D: "It was a typical Clintonian moment. ... I agree the issue is deadly for Democrats."

So what do you propose we do, Luigi D? Run away from the issue? Move oh-so-gently to the right so we fool ourselves into believing that we're somehow tougher-sounding on illegal immigrants than the GOP -- all the while giving a sly wink and a nod to Hispanic voters in hope that they'll realize that we don't really mean it?

I'm sorry, but this is a non-issue in the Democratic primaries, and the current national discussion about immigration is bordering on the nonsensical.

Supposedly, Americans want something done to address the intractable issues surrounding undocumented aliens. However, when Gov. Spitzer actually proposes something concrete such as allowing them to obtain driver's licenses and become thus conclusively documented and traceable, the rabid right spews its venom and sneers that it's coddling, and then almost on cue, we cower for our political lives like a bunch of scared widdle bunnywabbits.

Well, I say, "Fuck this bullshit."

The only so-called "solutions" those on the right ever offer about illegal immigration -- i.e., remove children of undocumented aliens from school, and deny them access to health care -- are at once mean-spirited, petty, punitive and counterproductive. They don't work, they're immoral and it's far past time that we call the Republicans out for what they are. It's ethnocentric race-baiting at its worst, and they're totally fucked up in both the head and heart.

The Republicans don't want to solve the problem by addressing its root causes, and instituting pro-active measures to find and document these immigrants to determine its true breadth and scope. They don't really want to solve the problem, period, because demonizing brown people scores them points with their ignorant and inherently racist redneck cracker base.

You want to call yourself a progressive, fine. But don't just call yourself one, and then go all wobbly whenever the tough issues raise their heads. Get a fucking backbone and stand defiantly by the courage of your convictions, instead of lamenting Hillary's "Clintonian" response in order to indulge your own false sense of moral superiority, or worse yet, whining about how "the issue is deadly for Democrats."

If such an issue does indeed prove deadly for Democrats, it's only because such statements as yours clearly reveal to our adversaries our own inherent weakness in the face of a tyrant and bully.

There. I hope I've made you good and mad, so that you'll go out there and prove me wrong by kickng some serious GOP ass, instead of volunteering to join the left's all-too-predictable circular political firing squad.

Aloha.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, Proud and Unapologetic Liberal on October 31, 2007 at 3:21 AM | PERMALINK

I think they missed the whole point anyway, how does giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants make them get car insurance?

BECAUSE it doesn't, so the driver's licenses is a pointless pursuit that will simply cost taxpayer's money. Illegal immigrants are NOT going to care if they are driving around with someone else's social security number or not, and even law enforcement knows that the SS number is not theirs and therefore can't use it identity the driver, but it pointless because they NEVER WILL have insurance either, so cares who they are and don't care if they run into you or not?

According to the focus group that Kevin linked to earlier, Americans do very much do care about the problem of illegal immigration, and Democrats very much DO care about it too.

So what Kevin says isn't true.

In a Republican primary maybe, but not a Democratic one.

Elliot Spitzer has since back off his driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, and in NYC no less, so I guess it does matter more to most Americans that Kevin would have anyone believe - and Dems are completely stupid pretending illegal immigration doesn't matter, it matters alot that there is this huge influx of immigration and no control over it at all.

Posted by: Me_again on October 31, 2007 at 4:19 AM | PERMALINK

I'm so sick and damn tired of progressives, who should know better, bemoaning answers that demonstrate any complexity and nuance. I'm sorry that political debates in this country have become so impoverished that we can't even recognize complex truth when we hear it. I'm also sorry that base-friendly one liners are more acceptable than consensus-seeking answers that just might admit inconvenient facts. But do NOT blame Hillary Clinton for the problems of our wretched, modern infotainment age and its politics.

On this drivers license issue: Hillary was asked a very difficult question in a "lightening round," and she did a phenomenal job answering it. That one question touched on issues ranging from federalism to immigration reform, from insurance costs to radical and growing nationalism. That she was able to answer in a way that demonstrates her progressive values all while preserving her ability to reach out to the Lou-Dobbs-wackos is quite an accomplishment. It wasn't double talk.
Now look, if you people will just rub two brain cells together long enough to realize Clinton is the only person with the brilliance and political savvy to take on the Republican machine, then you will have helped nominate one of the most capable candidates in American history. If and when you allow her to do what only she can do, you will be able to watch proudly as your candidate explains to general election voters why it actually makes sense to think about practical solutions to complex and ever worsening problems. This message is not rocket science: Bush has screwed up royally, leaving states to struggle with millions of illegal immigrants. Whether we like it or not, those states have got to find solutions to the various social ills caused by having millions of people undocumented and uninsured within their borders. What New York or any other state does to address certain social ills has NOTHING to do with the very real need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. As a candidate, Hillary -- having spoken about this issue with some semblance of nuance and decency -- is uniquely suited to lead that effort. This is a message Democrats and even Republicans can understand.

Now, if you people think Edward or Obama (who both thrown pounds of red meat at the uninformed base!) are going to be suited to run a credible, winning general election campaign... well then, you must be smoking something a lot stronger than Dodd's legalized marijuana. Edwards is flailing about like a radical leftist who would be laughed off the stage by general election voters. And Obama? Well, when it comes to foreign policy, "irresponsible and frankly naive" was too charitable an estimation of his candidacy. I'd have chosen ignorant and juvenile. Our party would do well to send him back to Chicago to fix potholes -- because this is prime time and the Republicans won't be running Alan Keyes this time around!
Come on people...

Posted by: natedoggy on October 31, 2007 at 4:48 AM | PERMALINK

Me_again: "Americans do very much do care about the problem of illegal immigration, and Democrats very much DO care about it too."

Kevin never said that they didn't, and neither did I. Stop reframing the argument on the GOP's behalf.

The issue is not whether or not Americans in general, or Democrats in particular, care about the problem. The issue is what can we do about it that will actually be effective. Democrats like Spitzer deserve kudos, not scorn, for addressing it forthrightly.

Republicans cynically play off people's fears in the early 21st century by railing about the brown peril. 75 years ago it was the yellow peril. In the late 19th century, it was the "Indian problem." Etc., etc., etc.

I'm not going to play the game any more. You really want to solve the illegal immigrant problem, then I might suggest that you first take the time to visit a few migrant laborer camps in California's San Joaquin Valley or in the backcountry of northeastern San Diego County, and look at how these families actually live -- even if only online.

Then after that, a good way to start resolving the issue would be by holding personally responsible and legally liable those (usually Republican-friendly) CEOs and board chairs, whose companies callously exploit immigrant labor by imposing criminally cheap wages amid immoral Third World working and living conditions.

But you're never going to solve the problem of illegal immigration by punitively denying sick people necessary health care, by punishing schoolchildren for the sins of their parents through the deliberate denial of an education, or by mindlessly chasing undocumented immigrants cross-country like you're that crazy old lady down the street who's always trying to herd her 50+ cats into her overgrown backyard, just because it makes you feel oh-so-tough. That's simply childish and asinine, and if it's not considered a criminal waste of valuable resources and time, then it damn well should be.

As long as such substandard jobs continue to be made pointedly available to the desperately poor from south of the border, they will continue to come, regardless of however many 700-mile-long fences you construct or Nat'l Guard troops you deploy along the Mexican border.

It's the basic economic law of supply and demand, something that should really not be all that difficult a concept for laissez-faire capitalists and their free-market Republican advocates to understand, unless they deliberately choose not to heed it for reasons long well-known to them, and now quite painfully obvious to the majority of the rest of us.

Aloha.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 31, 2007 at 5:46 AM | PERMALINK

I live in NY and the last I saw 72% of the state is against. The Sptizer is actually being sued by a county DMV and 11 county DMV offices have publicly stated that they will NOT issue the licenses regardless of what Spitzer says.

As we all know Dems outnumber Repubs (I think by 5-1) in this state. This is huge.

Posted by: AMW on October 31, 2007 at 6:00 AM | PERMALINK

Geez Kevin, do you really have to channel Lou Dobbs in this blog? Maybe we should all start a discussion pondering whether Hillary has stopped beating her husband.

Posted by: steve duncan on October 31, 2007 at 6:17 AM | PERMALINK

Why should a Presidential candidate who is facing having to deal with a collapsing economy, a collapsing healthcare system, and failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even be expected to have an opinion on drivers' licenses? It is a chickenshit issue.

Posted by: bob h on October 31, 2007 at 6:22 AM | PERMALINK

Even though Hillary is the wrong choice for the Democratic Party, by beating her up incessantly, the other candidates are diminishing her chances of ever winning. They need to be attacking George W. Bush relentlessly - questioning his sanity, calling for multiple criminal investigations, pointing out his illegitimacy - make the 2008 election a referendum on whether a political party that puts a piece of shit like this man at the head of the ticket, ever deserves a chance to govern again.

My guess is that the majority of Americans would answer with a resounding NO!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on October 31, 2007 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK

The drivers' license issue may be chickenshit as an issue. The problem was that the answer tried to have it both ways. She was asked whether she supported it. She never answered the basic question. All she had to say was 'yes' or 'no' and then give the reasons why. She discussed the reasons, which she 'understood' or sympathized with, but couldn't be straight. The problem is that this is her broader M.O. The recent Rasmussen poll finds that Hillary has the highest negative rating (as in 'will never vote for candidate X') of any presidential contender. Edwards was the most effective in challenging her directly on point after point, and her drivers' license moment reinforced his earlier question about whether Hillary was capable of moving into a 'truth-telling mode' instead of a 'general election mode.' His discipline and focus demonstrated he would be capable of mixing it up with a Republican general election candidate.

Posted by: progressivedem on October 31, 2007 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK

The media will play the license issue to death. We will then see what effect it has had. In itself, its nothing. Though she did in fact waffle, BFD. Mostly, she was solid. And if any of those other candidates had been subjected to such a barrage, they would have been on the floor. (Thanks, boys, for being the jerks you are.) Will somebody kill Timmy? And Andrea? And Chris? Why is MSNBC called a news station?
PS
How long before anybody notices that Obama is full of it?

Posted by: Lee on October 31, 2007 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

Immigration looms as a potentially explosive general election issue. The populist impulse against illegal immigration remains untapped and dangerous to Clinton- as she is undoubtedly aware. Thus her reticence in responding. There's been little conflict on this issue in prior debates because there's general unanimity on the issue. Dodds' principled stance ("a driver's license is a privilege, not a right) exposed some discordance on the issue. Clearly it was enough to befuddle the front runner. It'll be very interesting to see if this is an effective wedge issue in the general.

Posted by: kreiz on October 31, 2007 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

Just a second here. Politicians almost always do exactly the opposite of what they say they're going to do. It helps them to get elected. Lots of people are really tired of it, and you should be too.

Posted by: slanted tom on October 31, 2007 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

I am not a big fan of Clinton, but I liked her attempt to defend an unpopular policy by explaining why drivers licenses for illegal immigrants might be a good idea. On a national level, there is no real political advantage in supporting it (and a lot of disadvantages -- See Tweety's reaction), yet she actually spent some time explaining why it might be a good idea. It would have been far easier (and more politically expedient) just to say she opposed it since it is not a central issue.

It may have been a gaffe, but it is one that made me like her more, not less.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on October 31, 2007 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

"...There's no question that Hillary's answer was unusually spineless..." No, it was TYPICALLY spineless.
"...Maybe two solid hours of being a punching bag had gotten to her by that point..." Oh yes, poor Hillary was too dizzy to remember if she was for it or against it. Those meany Democratic male brutes forced her to go with the "Plausible Deniability" response.

Posted by: jerseymissouri on October 31, 2007 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

If Hillary really wants to neutralize this question, she could release a statement that says,

"Unfortunately GOv. Spitzer has to deal with this situation because of the large number of illegal immigrants that were attraced to NY State when Rudy declared NYC to be a sanctuary city."

That ought to make the R's tear their hair out.

Posted by: Teresa on October 31, 2007 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

LOLers
Oh noes! Teh brown people may be able to drive legally!!!! Well, maybe that would reduce the number of accidents those that do drive are involved in. But really, what a thing to get all hot and bothered about.

Illegal immigration can be a huge problem!
Just ask the Sioux, the Cherokee, the Apache - it sucks!
Do you really want to reduce it? You're going to have to seriously address root causes; I've got a serious suggestion for dealing with the largest of the economic causes.
We could make a serious dent in illegal immigration by providing low cost labor for businesses that demand it(which are many).
I suggest we re-institutionalize slavery. It is, after all, how the USA originally dealt with getting work done that no one wanted to do.
Of course, to avoid the thorny issue of racism, we'll have to make sure that only white-collar criminals are tapped as forced labor providers(the lack of violent elements in their crimes would also be a reason to limit it to WCC) . Mind you, at that point minorities would be under-represented, but I think we as a nation could live with that kind of disparity - I know I could.
To achieve sufficient numbers of such laborers we will need to vastly increase the numbers of law enforcement personnel dedicated to white-collar crime - this would have an ancillary benefit of protecting businesses from fraud, embezzlement and (double bonus!) saving billions of taxpayer dollars currently lost to white-collar crime.
Really, there's no down-side.

Posted by: kenga on October 31, 2007 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

She may not lose the Democratic nomination because of the license issue, but she'll lose the General Election because of it. They'll make her look like John Kerry! Giuliani (or whoever the GOP nominate) is ready to pounce and he will be more than happy to play that clip over and over and over and over...

Posted by: Wayne on October 31, 2007 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

WELL, perhaps Hillary should have consulted Lou Dobbs (he of the crazy eyes) about this...then, surely, she'd be able to be PERFECTLY CLEAR in her answer...I doubt if anyone on that stage last night understands completely the position Spitzer is taking (and for sure you'll never find it out from listening to Dobbs)...but my favorite thing continues to be having paid for fluffy folks sit around to tell the dumbed down American public what they heard people saying AND what it should mean to them. In the same way all the headlines follow the MSM's insistence that Obama finally "GET TOUGH" on Hillary (so they have something to report I presume - nothing else going on in the country or the world, fellas?)...wonderful the way this campaign is being maneuvered and managed by our media...and the money guys...WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!

Posted by: Dancer on October 31, 2007 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Although Republicans are elitists whose policies only benefit the very wealthy and corporations, they are expert at finding the issues that resonate with average middle class voters and exploiting them. While the Republican policy of cheap labor to benefit corporations and the wealthy is largely responsible for illegal immigration, they will position themselves as the party that is opposed to illegal immigration. The Dems will be painted as the party of rampant unrestrained illegal immigration and higher taxes to pay for it. The Dems are just not smart enough to get it. Republicans get that immigration is a huge issue. Very huge. It's an emotional hot button that will drive vast numbers to the polls. Dems should have seen it coming and run like hell from the Immigration Reform Act. But they stepped right in it.

Dems are supposedly the party of the average middle class voter but the policy makers are totally out-of-touch with lower and middle class voters and choose to snobbily dismiss the concerns about immigration.

Ironic. Republicans are the true elitists and are able to come across as caring about the average guy, Democrats want to be seen as caring about the average guy but they always choose policies that can be seen as elitists and snobby.

Immigration has got to approached in a populist way by framing the Republicans as cheap labor elitists who are responsible for illegal immigration and unwilling to enforce the laws against corporations.

Once again Democrats are playing checkers while the Republicans have been playing 3D 8 level chess.

Posted by: Chrissy on October 31, 2007 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Dems are vulnerable on immigration. Nativism has deep historical roots in America and the Republicans have already begun to tap it.

Posted by: Bruce on October 31, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

You know, sometimes you do just encounter issues where you're legitimately pulled in both ways. I would expect politicians would be likewise.

If the issue is NOT particularly crucial or prominent, why must a politician have a clearly identified stand on such an issue?

Posted by: frankly0 on October 31, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Is this a killer moment for Clinton? Here's my answer: no. Sorry to be crude, but almost no one gives a flying f*** about Clinton's position on a plan by the governor of NY to provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. What a ridiculous issue.

Posted by: 66-70-83 on October 31, 2007 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

As a progressive, I do not support the Clinton campaign,

But I think the attacks on Clinton are a waste of time. As a Democrat, I have absolutely no desire to evaluate the candidates based on how they stand versus Clinton. I want to know how they stand versus the Republicans.

As a result, a huge opportunity is being missed here: a chance to outline a positive program for change, a chance to sell the American public on a Democratic agenda.

Maybe the problem here is that I am not sold on the candidates at all -- that is, none are offering an alternative to the status quo.

Yes, yes, each has outlined positions on health care, the war, etc. But do I believe that they mean to implement any of this? No. They are simply positions taken during a campaign.

The Democrats are acting very much like the Republicans. Each Republican candidate is trying to appear more right-wing than the other -- yet I don't believe any of them (well, most of them) are really as right-wing as Bush. The Democrats, on the other hand, are simply reacting to each other, the base, the media, and coming up with the usual responses.

I'm sure many here will disagree with me, but I don't fear Giuliani or the other Repugs as much as Bush and Cheney. Why? Because I believe Giuliani wants to win in order to line his pockets and reward his cronies. Bush and Cheney had a real, very frightening agenda. Giuliani is simply another corrupt Republican.

Which is why I think that if any of these Democrats are elected in November, the chance for real change are nil. What we will get is what we are getting out of Pelosi and Reid now -- same ol', same ol.

At this point, I see no difference between the parties. Each side is selling themselves as alternatives to the other to placate their supporters -- but they are just two faces on the same head.

Posted by: Dicksknee on October 31, 2007 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

There's no question that Hillary's answer was unusually spineless ... Still, is this really a killer moment?

—Kevin Drum

Possibly. It was perhaps the most dramatic of the moments that showed the Obama/Edwards/Dodd attack on her forthrightness is sticking. She lost the debate -- big time. Edwards did Obama's dirty work for him and Obama benefited from being perceived as a little easier on her.

The theme that she will say whatever it takes to win is a nasty, important one and, if it sticks, could mean a loss in Iowa.

Her biggest worry is that the MSM (and repugs) will pile on for the next two months -- weaving every storyline into the theme that she is calculating and insincere.

There's blood in the water.

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 31, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

The immigration issue is BS - it's only the 24% who are upset about it. There's not a liberal I know in the world who gives a cr*p. Now, the right-wingers and nativists who do care, are indeed very passionate about it - but none of them are going to vote for a Democrat anyway.

The only reason the issue has any power is because the MSM has been suckered and are absolutely going to fall for the fake gravitas of the issue.

Read an actual poll, and you find that most Americans don't support the Republicans' scorched-earth approach, and solid majorities support paths to citizenship for most people here.

So nativists can f*ck off. There was a great piece in Slate recently demonstrating exactly how many laws ordinary Americans break all the time. We're all illegals, bi*ches.

Having said all of that - it was a good moment to demonstrate Hilary's terrible penchant for hedging. She's not a good candidate.

Posted by: glasnost on October 31, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm so depressed. We're going to wind up having to choose between the Manhattan Mussolini and the Arkansas Mafia. Oh well, I'll vote third party again, like I usually do.

Posted by: Speed on October 31, 2007 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

The immigration issue is BS - it's only the 24% who are upset about it.

Posted by: glasnost

I hope you're right. But just because an issue is relatively unimportant on average doesn't mean that it can't nevertheless be very important at the margin.

I think this may be one of those issues -- precisely because if fits neatly into the overall theme of fear that the repugs will be running on.

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 31, 2007 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Every time Obama or another Dem in their desperacy tries to pass Ms. Clinton on the right, it does little to improve their own position but does strengthen the GOP position for whoever contests the general. Am I missing something?

Posted by: cracked on October 31, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

So Obama had all this time to formulate an attack on Hillary, and what he came up with was recycling of the 2004 GOP attacks against Kerry: flip-flopping.

I think he's getting too caught up in responding to her. How did he answer the question? Isn't the best way to attack Hillary to respond to each policy question clearly and succinctly? That's the opposite of what she's doing, right?

Posted by: Austin on October 31, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii, Proud and Unapologetic Liberal: You are the man! (I'm assuming.)

This is a bullshit issue. I didn't watch the debate but I heard some talk radio fuckbrain talking about it this morning, and he was presenting it as "she's a woman, she changes her mind" and that sort of bullshit. But what I heard in the part of her answer that he played was:

1. Something needs to be done
2. Spitzer is trying to do something
3. It might not be the best possible thing, but
4. It's better than nothing.
5. Really the Feds should have done something about this issue.

And what's so terrible about that? It's called nuance. It's called seeing the world in shades of gray. I don't love Sen. Clinton but (as others have said) I'd take her over any of the RepubliKlan dickheads.


Posted by: thersites on October 31, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The debate last night was like some nightmare parody of Madonna's Material Girl video: a savvy, sharp blonde walking around stage receiving the attentions of various well-dressed men. Only in this case, the attentions were all negative, as each man (save Richardson) tried his best to put her down rhetorically.

If only Biden and Dodd weren't so transparently vain, they would both make excellent candidates.

Kucinich is a dangerous lunatic, and should be barred from appearing in public with other members of the Democratic party.

Posted by: lampwick on October 31, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding Giuliani - Bush wanted unchecked executive power because Rove and Cheney told him is was a good idea. Giuliani believes in unchecked executive power down to the core of his being. He is dangerous.

Hillary is already tacking to the right and taking great care not to say anything that can be fodder to the right-wing echo chamber. She feels the nomination is already sewn up. And none of the other candidates are calling her on it.

Posted by: Barringer on October 31, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I hope you're right Arty. This whole campaign has felt like a dream. Since when is Hillary a "leader" and "the change candidate"? She is a transparent phony who will bring little change in the White House out of political caution. It is maddening to watch her triangulate. At least Bill was easy to listen to when he did it. SHe is virtually an incumbent and in a change election will hurt down-ticket Democratic candidates, something we cannot afford. And that's not even mentioning the 45% of the electorate who definitely will not vote for her.

I saw Obama speak this week. Truly amazing. Two women fainted. Obama is the candidate who can steamroll whichever Neanderthal the GOP fields. I like Edwards OK, but he's got too many vulnerabilities and comes across as a lightweight.

Who are all these Democrats who like Hillary anyway? I only know one.

Posted by: waka waka on October 31, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Can I suggest that this is not worthy of our time? Her point, as poorly as she made it, was that Spitzer was trying to make the best of a bad situation. As between knowing where immigrants are and not knowing, knowing is better. As between having illegal immigration and not having illegal immigration, not having illegal immigration is better. I think everyone would agree with those two optimal outcomes. Assuming there is no way to stop illegal immigration as NY Gov, Spitzer is doing what he can to achieve optimal outcome #1 without having control over optimal outcome #2. Let's move on. I'm no HRC fan, but she's right that this is nothing more than "Gotcha" politics.

Posted by: do on October 31, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I also have been very disappointed in Obama's performance. I don't feel he had any points that stuck to Clinton other than about the Presidential Records not being released (and then Edwards had an even better follow-up).

Edwards also had the best response of the bunch to the sole Education question (even fitting into the 30 seconds Lightning Round).

Personally I think Colbert and Stewart should moderate the next debate.

Posted by: Mick on October 31, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

theirsites,
Exactly so.
Just because Matthews starts to scream about something doesn't make it so. Although I am not a committed to the Hillary camp, I thought it was a decent answer to a complicated issue.
"Yes, but" is often a very good answer. We don't live in a "yes or no' world. Too bad w. never understood this.

Posted by: old gold on October 31, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

That's Hillary's problem. She thinks she can go another year and win the election straddling almost every issue and giving no clear answers on anything. She's for torture in some tightly defined circumstances but she's against torture with a big bright line. She's for CAFTA, she's against CAFTA. She's for a two state solution but whispers to American Lukidniks Jerusalem should be the capitol of Israel forever and we should move our embassy there. That's a hard right position even George Bush doesn't endorse that'd guarantee strife in the middle east for decades to come. She voted for Kyl-Lieberman just like she voted for the AUMF knowing full well the underlying debate and it's ramifications. She talks as if Iran is as serious a threat as Norman Podheretz thinks it is.

None of that is going to cut it. She's trying to appeal to that 10% in the middle as if their views haven't changed in the last 4 years. That 10% in the middle doesn't want mindless tough guys (or gals) who think we can fight our way out of our problems anymore.

I've seen enough. I'll be getting a call list from Obama today and I'll be raising money or imploring my neighbors in IA to caucus for him.

Posted by: markg8 on October 31, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

So with a costly and endless war in Iraq, a president eager to start World War III in Iran, global warming, peak oil, our currency in free fall, our crumbling infrastructure, an executive branch that breaks inconvenient laws whenever it feels like, and a legislative branch that pretends to care but is afraid of confrontation, the issue that will sink the Democrats is if illegal immigrants have driver's licenses?

Posted by: AJ on October 31, 2007 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

You're picking nits. No other candidate of either party could have handled that debate as well as she did. It was a pile on and she walked away.

Posted by: david on October 31, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

AJ on October 31, 2007 at 11:01: the issue that will sink the Democrats is if illegal immigrants have driver's licenses?

Sadly enough, it could be true. Have I mentioned "The Marching Morons" lately?

Posted by: thersites on October 31, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I've already said that I don't see Hillary winning the general election so her impending nomination makes me happier than I've been since the 06 blowout. Which, as it turns out, was a blessing in disguise. Since it once again shows the American people what happens when you put Democrats in control. Thank you Harry and Nancy!!! 11% approval and falling. Hopefully by Election Day, Congress will have 0% approval and we will regain control of at least the House and maybe the Senate as well as hold the White House.

The comment on this thread only reinforces how clueless you people are about the issues that the 08 elections will turn on. The 08 elections are going to be a national security/ foreign policy election and we all know how Democrats do on those issues. No one will give a shit about health care or education or any other domestic issue expect for illegal immigration. And since the Democrats are on the wrong side of this issue as well, look for it to gain in importance over the course of the campaign.

If Hillary was rendered incoherent by the question over giving driver licenses to illegals, I can't wait to hear her attempting to defend sanctuary cities or not allowing local police to turn over illegals who get arrested over to the Feds for immediate deportation, which cause the liberal Hispanic activists to scream bloody murder if she doesn't fully support.

As Mr. Burns would say while rubbing his hands gleefully "Excellent."

Posted by: Chicounsel on October 31, 2007 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

I agree Clinton needs to come up with a shorter, clearer, answer on this, but god, what a ridiculous issue to go after her on. Guess what - the undocumented are driving, with or without licenses. If they try to get a license is the state DMV now supposed to do the work of the Federal INS? Her answer was correct - it is a tough problem and Spitzer is trying to get a handle on it. She does not endorse a particular remedy for all states, and she should have added that that would not be her job as president.

What exactly was Obama's solution? I didn't understand his answer either. He said it was 'the right idea' without really endorsing it, much like Hillary did. In fact, I don't think any of his answers were particularly clear.

I do know one thing - Rudy's next joke will be about Hillary and Obama giving Osama bin Laden a driver's license, and the righties will love it. This WILL be an issue int he general election.

Posted by: Dawn on October 31, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

This is a wedge issue without much substance. The racists think it is a big deal, but they are the ones we should be deporting. Democrats should bring up the war and Iraqi civilian deaths every time immigration is brought up.

Most immigrants are too poor to obtain international drivers licenses before migrating across the border, so I suggest the false document preparers include them in their identity packages.

Without drivers licenses, immigrants will not be able to obtain insurance. Hopefully they will only have car accidents with racists. That way the fools who want to deny civil rights to other human beings will be the victims of their own bigotry.

Posted by: Brojo on October 31, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

It was a show-don't-tell kind of issue. It's one thing for Edwards to say "Clinton engages in doublespeak" and another for it to unfold right before your eyes. I think Bill might have been able to get away with that answer but Hillary doesn't have his political skills. It has the potential to be a major moment, which is distressing because the issue is fraught with confusion and outright nativism.

Posted by: dday on October 31, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I'm always surprised that candidates can't just say something real simple like:
"Well Republicans continue to give illegal aliens jobs and don't want any laws enforced nor other restrictions on doing so, thus until the REPUBLICANS quit giving illegal aliens jobs, we will have to deal with them driving to their Republican approved jobs and trying to obtain other benefits of living in the U.S."

Posted by: flounder on October 31, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

As Kevin Drum rightly points out, no one cares about illegalimmigration. People care about other things: stopping politicalcorruption, healthcare costs, crime, avoiding giving foreign countries political power inside the U.S., and other things. And, none of those have anything to do with illegalimmigration. Right, Kevin?

What the Democrats should do is continue to support Bush's backers by allowing them to flood the U.S. with cheap foreign labor, at the same time as several Dems continue to collaborate with the MexicanGovernment. Other Dems can continue to make ethnic solidarity claims more appropriate for the Balkans. There's even one state Senator - a Dem of course - who serves on an advisory committee to the MexicanPresident. He should continue in that role, since the Dems realize that there's no downside in having divided loyalties.

Extensive coverage of Spitzer's scheme here.

[Note: WM edits or deletes comments without notice.]

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on October 31, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Immigration is a huge issue. Not only does it split the base of both parties, but it is of disproportionate importance to swing voters in swing regions.

From 1990-2000, immigration accounted for 1/3 to half of US population growth, much more than expected. And at the same time, the distribution of immigration in the US changed dramatically.

From the 1920's to 1990, most immigration occurred almost entirely in gateway states like TX, CA, IL, FL, and NY. And within those states, foreign-born people mostly settled in certain areas--university towns, LA, NYC, Miami, etc. In the 1990s, that pattern began to change, and it only intensified as immigration became even faster in 2000-present.

Not only were there a lot more immigrants, but they were settling in places that hadn't seen any meaningful immigration for the better part of 80 years--suburban and rural areas of the gateway states, but also entirely new states and regions. Iowa, for instance, had a whole pile of towns with fewer than 10,000 people that suddenly had hundreds of foreign-born Latinos settling down. That's a massive adjustment for a city that has no history dealing with this kind of influx.

So, in places like NYC and Orange County, immigration has had a bit of an uptick in the past 10-15 years, but it's fundamentally pretty similar to what it was through the 70's, 80's, 90's, etc. So, when people suggest to us that immigration is this new issue that's having a huge impact on our daily lives, we're like "huh?"

It's not at all the same in lots of towns in swing districts.

And, in a lot of these places that were seeing foreign-born people move in for the first time since the industrial revolution, at the same time that was happening, the economic security of the middle class has markedly declined. Health insurance & college became out of reach and people had to start looking for a second job at about the same time that new people came into the neighborhood.

So, it's not surprising that a number of people have thought to themselves "foreigners move in...my standard of living declines...it's THEIR FAULT!" It hasn't been helpful that pundits looking for a scapegoat have focused on immigrants--weak, disorganized, and poor--rather than the national tax, trade, and union-busing policies that have systematically favored rich and powerful interests.

Check out this polling from Democracy Corps:
http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/10/everything_sucks_i_blame_mexic.php

Immigration is a big issue, but it has the potential to be a truly overwhelming one electorally, given American history and current migration and economic patterns.

In that context, looking like a weasel on this question is a very, very big deal to a lot of key swing voters in key swing areas.

Posted by: anonymous on October 31, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

There's no question that Hillary's answer was unusually spineless, especially since she had had plenty of time to think about this.

There's nothing unusual about HRC's spinelessness. Nothing. She's a complete cave-in.

Posted by: model 62 on October 31, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

This wasn't the killer moment of the debate, at least in my opinion. The killer moment of the night was the archive question. She gave a bullshit answer and Obama nailed her on it. Not sure why NO ONE is talking about that one, other than it wasn't a situation where HRC was equivocating in her answer.

Posted by: Keith on October 31, 2007 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I live in NY and I cannot wait until I get hit by a non-licensed, non-insured driver who happens to be an illegal immigrant.....my luck, he/she will be Irish

So, when I need to go to the doctor, get my car fixed...who's going to pick up the cost?
Me?
The other driver?
How? Unless they're very wealthy and I doubt that working as a day laborer or a waiter.
Another non-issue brought up by the corporate media so Iraq can recede further into the mists of people minds as they slowly sink into the fog of TV, drifting, sinking....dont worry, consume, reproduce...join the army.....kill

Posted by: marcus on October 31, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Of course immigration is an issue, and it needs to be discussed intelligently. The problem is when it gets turned into a battle over one local official's attempt to solve one part of the problem. Maybe there shouldn't be undocumented immigrants, but there are. Maybe they shouldn't drive cars, but they do. Like marcus, I'd rather they'd be insured if they hit me. Spitzer tries to address that and the whole immmigration problem is his fault.

You can make an analogy to the periodic flaps over giving condoms to junior high school students. Should 14-year-olds be having sex? Probably not. But they are, and if they are they should use condoms. But the school nurse giving out condoms is now responsible for the moral decline of our kids.

It's sad that our political discourse works this way, but there it is. Can we put a condom over O'Reilly's microphone?

Posted by: thersites on October 31, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Nativism has deep historical roots in America" & "outright nativism".
WOW!
Boobus Americanas now see themselves as the 'new natives' and those scary brown people as the interlopers?
The United States of Amnesia!

Posted by: jay boilswater on October 31, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

It's too bad this driver's license stuff is eclipsing some of the more important issues dealt with in the debate. On political philosophy grounds, I'd prefer to see any person on that stage become Prez more than Hillary. The point I really wanted to make was that Hillary's plan to keep combat troops (did she say 30,000?) in Iraq to fight al Qaeda either shows an ignorance of the situation in Iraq vis a vis AQI (whose numbers are small and who neither the Sunni nor Shia want in the country and would kick out quickly after our withdrawal) or is simply the excuse she will use to prolong our presence there. I simply do not trust Hillary to lead progressive change in this country. I think last night's debate was quite revealing on many levels and none of them made me feel more comfortable about Hillary.

Posted by: nepeta on October 31, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

European immigrants think they have a greater legal right to be in the Western Hemisphere than the indigenous peoples of this half of the world. All European immigrants are in the Western Hemisphere illegally by their own standards. Jamestown and Plymouth were illegal immigrant settlements that created a definition of citizenship that denies it to the very natives they stole their territory from. They then drew arbitrary lines on pieces of paper and called them frontiers, increasing the alienation of indegenous peoples from their birthright. The Europeans's legal occupation of the Northern Western Hemisphere is is a mirage created from violence, and so are their laws and national borders.

Posted by: Brojo on October 31, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

"No one will give a shit about health care or education or any other domestic issue expect for illegal immigration."

Yup, there's the modern-day GOP for you: bomb, kill, hate, cut rich peoples' taxes. Repeat.

Posted by: Speed on October 31, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

to The annoying LonewackoDotCom: itscalledaspacebar.

Posted by: thersites on October 31, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, I didn't really have a problem with her answer. I remember her saying that, she thought what Spitzer was doing wasn't ideal, but was necessary because of the failure of immigration reform.

Why is that a bad answer?

It seems to me that Tweety et al. have a pre-drafted narrative about Hillary and are looking for anything to validate it, no matter how week.

What about Obama's studder-fest at the end? He looked far from the eloquent Obama we all think of. Edwards did OK, but goodgrief.

Posted by: jon on October 31, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

If they wanted a serious discussion about immigration, as opposed to playing "gotcha," when Sen. Clinton said it was a federal issue, someone should have said to her:

"Okay, Senator. You're running for President. You want to run the federal government. As Chief Executive, what would you do?"

But that would require thought. Never happen.

Posted by: thersites on October 31, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Brojo, (and everyone else) have you seen this?

http://www.northernsun.com/n/s/1977.html

Saw a guy wearing this at the mall the other day. He didn't look very European so I called the mall security guards. Unfortunately, they didn't look European either and I got my ass whooped.

Well, the first sentence is true.

Posted by: thersites on October 31, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton’s answer to the imm question was right-thinking in that it attempted to bring it back to issues that would actually concern the federal (rather than state) government–comprehensive immigration reform. She understood Gov. Spitzer’s desire to bring illegals “out from under the shadows.” The logic of the move “made sense.” But, she went on to suggest, it’s at best a temporary salve that would ultimately require the intervention of the federal government in the form of the type of reform package the GOP members of congress frittered away. Obama, when asked the same yes/no, hell or high-water type of question answered thusly:

Russert: Are you for it or against it?

Obama: I think that it is the right idea, and I disagree with Chris because there is a public safety concern. We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer.

That doesn’t negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.

Right idea? This is just as soft as “makes sense.” Whether it’s because the issue is actually complex beyond simple binary responses or because they don’t want to entrap themselves a few months down the line when the GOP runs the stereotypical attack ad to inflate the significance of their answer (and I think it’s the former), this is what Democratic politicians must do. The other confounding factor for Hillary was this: does she directly critisize the embattled Democratic Governor of her home state? Clearly, the answer here is no. She can understand his reasoning, but she thinks this is a job with which he never should’ve been tasked. In truth, she probably does not support the blanket issuance of licenses to illegals, but to say so directly would’ve politically compromised an already damaged Governor.

Regardless of the political etiquette here, on a more meta-level, can we not easily understand how, for a reasonable person, although the logic of a proposal might make sense, with the basic ideas “right, they might still object to the specifics contained within the proposal? Here, Spitzer’s ends were well intentioned–he wanted to find an attractive way to bring illegals out into the open, for all sorts of reasons; the means just required an analysis beyond, “Yeah, sure, I back it.”

But as long as we’re on the “evasive answer” rant–what about John Edwards’ logical buffonnery regarding combat operations in Iraq? Certainly if we’re going to continue to root out AQI, we’re going to have to maintain a not insignificant force presence that will, on occasion, enter into combat. His high moral tone is BLATANT pandering to the liberal wing of the party; they hear the rhetoric, but the substance of Edwards policy will require him to do exactly what he’s promised not to–launch surgical attacks against concentrated terrorist elements. That is combat. Who the fuck is he kidding? At least Clinton had the political sense to point this out.

Ultimately, the unforgiving narrative of this debate was pre-ordained. Hillary was going to be pegged as evasive regardless of the substance of her answers or the quite plausible (see my Spitzer theory above) counter-explanations for her motives. On the biggest issue of the night–The Kyl-Lieberman Amendment–Hillary was lucid and unequivocal. She argued well and her motives in supporting it (motives with which I disagree) were clear. Does she get any credit? Of course not. This will be a horserace up until the end, regardless of the polls and the voters.

Posted by: smm55 on October 31, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Good God, we're gonna get raped in '08. Hillary will be nominated and get blown out because she won't/can't articulate what she actually stands for and that doesn't cut it for those voters in the middle and it sure as hell won't pull any Republicans our way. Hell, she says she stands up to Bush/Cheney!? Calling Cheney Darth Vader is funny, but what votes hasn't she cast that Bush/Cheney wanted?

This drivers license issue is as simple as it comes, there are truly complicated issues that require more than soundbites, but this isn't one of them. For crissakes, someone explained it up above in two freakin' paragraphs! She mucked it up not because it was "complicated" or it was an "unusual instance of spinelessness"; she screwed up because she was asked to lay down a definitive position and she couldn't/wouldn't do it. And immigration isn't a big issue for Americans!? Are you freakin' kidding me...gimme that kinder you're smoking!! What the hell is the matter with you people, do you want us to lose!? Frankly, Drum, I expect better from you.

Sorry, nothing personal, had to vent :)

Posted by: Dros on October 31, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

The stupid thing is that the 'illegal immigrant license' thing is a ruse. There is no such thing as 'handing out licenses to illegal immigrants.


    It's like this:
  • Immigrants, visitors, tourists, foreign students - they all need to drive to live and work (even temporarily) in the US.
  • Immigration status is time consuming to determine.
  • Immigration station can be revoked or misplaced at any time.
  • Driver's licenses are not issued by a federal agency.
  • A driver's license just says they are who they say they are, and they're allowed to drive. No more.

WTF, mate? It's not difficult. People need to drive, and the state doesn't have the time, money, or infrastructure to determine citizenship with every driver's test.

Posted by: Crissa on October 31, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

This [drivers licenses for undocumented workers] wasn't the killer moment of the debate, at least in my opinion. The killer moment of the night was the archive question.

Posted by: Keith

Exactly. And folks are missing the point if they think the overarching issue emerging from the debate is about drivers' licenses and immigration. It is about HRC talking out of both sides of her mouth.

This is a very serious situation for her and her staff. Two attractive but desperate candidates within striking distance in Iowa -- Obama and Edwards -- with significant numbers of followers now know exactly what they should be spending the next two months on: not substance, but character.

It is in Obama's and Edwards' interest to feed the destructive narrative that has been around since before Whitewater: HRC's alleged conniving, triangulating, and dissembling. And the MSM -- in the form of Russert and Matthews -- is ready to provide the echo chamber.

There's blood in the water.

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 31, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see how you give a driver's license to an illegal immigrant.

And that "spineless" word is starting to annoy me.

Posted by: little ole jim from red state on October 31, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I personally am dumbfounded that the Democratic Party appears to be on its way to nominating Hillary Clinton. The debate last night showed the pure spineless, political calculation that is Senator Clinton. She will do anything to get elected. And her husband was not much different. They CANNOT be trusted since their only real concern is their being in power.

Take the issue of gay rights. Bill Clinton campaigned as a supporter. Then what did he actually do. He supported the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. He supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). To add insult to injury and to show what he really is (an power hungry opportunist with no principles), he then ran advertisements on Christian radio stations touting the fact that he supported DOMA. And it was not just the 1990s for those who will make excuses for him. In a recent election, he advised Democrats to embrace the gay marriage ban amendment. And then you have the pathelic gay rights lobby behaving as lapdogs to the Clintons. GET A CLUE! These people will stab ANYBODY in the back to get elected and get political power.

And for those of you who think that Hillary Clinton will end this war in Iraq, you are drinking the Koolaid. She is paronoid about appearing weak and will NEVER end our involvment. A Clinton presidency will be LBJ all over--a Democrat destroying the party over an unpopular war.

The Republicans are in bad shape and will almost certainly loose more Senate and House seats next year. But do not assume that Democrats have the White House locked up. They don't! Americans like divided government. The fact that the leading Republican candidates are playing poorly with the right wing base should be a warning--they could prove effective in a general election with moderates and independents. Hillary Clinton is divisive figure (her fault or not, she just is). She is a risky choice. It is time to MOVE ON beyond candidates with the last name Clinton or Bush. For Pete's sake, wake up and smell the coffee Democrats!

Posted by: hgunter on October 31, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I can't support any candidate that wants to provide anything for illegal aliens other than a bus ride back to the border.

I also can't support any candidate that supports or supported the Iraq fiasco.

Obviously, there will not be any presidential candidate in the general election that satisfy these criteria.

My checkbook and I are sitting this one out.

Posted by: Ex - Republican Yankee on October 31, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I think we have it all cleared up now. She supports Spitzer's position:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/31/a-day-later-clinton-embraces-spitzers-license-effort/#comments

Posted by: Keith on October 31, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's not about the Spitzer plan, it's about Hillary standing on all sides of all issues and flip-flopping around on the stage like John Kerry.

They asked her about telling someone in private that she had one opinion while saying publicly she had a different opinion. She is all over the place.

The following post from a previous thread explains it very well.

"She was asked about the New York proposal to provide illegal immigrants drivers' licenses. "I support it," she said."

There's one opinion...

"Then Chris Dodd gave an impassioned defense for not extending the privilege of driving to illegal immigrants, and wouldn't you know it? Just as Obama and Edwards have been saying about her penchant for twisting in the wind, she flipflopped. Right there on the record for millions to see. Russert asked her, "Do you support the measure?" And she said she didn't exactly support it."

Then she flopped...

"Huh? Well, it was a whole minute later, and as we know a lot can happen in a minute - a New York minute nonetheless - that'll inspire a shift in views.

It was the Exhibit A her detractors have been pointing to ad nauseum. It was the smoking gun, proving that she lacks conviction, and despite the bellicose tone, doesn't exhibit the kind of authority it takes to run a major city much less a world-class country.

If you didn't see it; please make a point in doing so. It's tantamount to Howard Dean's whoop in the night that returned him to political oblivion - an arena Hillary now belongs in."

Posted by: arty kraft on October 31, 2007


Whoop!

Posted by: MarkH on November 1, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Will al Qaeda members in the USA get their own cards under the Clinton/Spitzer plan ?
What about Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah ?
For that matter will there be vanity cards for Sandinistas, Black Panthers, Tupamaros, Basque separatists, Viet Minh, Bosnians, Bohemians, Nihilists, Tamil Tigers, Moors, Ulster Unionists, Nazis, neo-Nazis, Dominionists, Communists, Boxers, Janjaweed, Fedayeen, Underground Railroaders, Vegans, Dead Heads, and Earth First-ers ?

Since the comprehensive dhimmifacation package hasn't been passed by the Congress, the states must step in and take up the matter on their own.

Posted by: Neo on November 2, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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