If you’re like me, you didn’t bother watching last night’s Democratic debate because you probably had better things to do – like watch the leaves fall or something. Seriously, last night’s debate proved to be the one to watch, as Hillary Clinton made her first official “noticeable” mistake: her facade started to crumble, the day before Halloween no less. Of course, being the frontrunner, the other candidates were targeting her, but the Senator proved she didn’t need much prodding to to prove that on the issue of giving illegals driver’s licenses in NY – as ordered by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer – she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Here’s the relevant part of the transcript:
MR. RUSSERT: Thank you, Brian.
Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. You told the Nashua, New Hampshire editorial board it makes a lot of sense. Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver’s license?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It’s probability. So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum.
I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well-intentioned, can fill this gap.
There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.
MR. RUSSERT: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should not have a driver’s license?
REP. KUCINICH: Believe what?
MR. RUSSERT: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver’s license.
SEN. DODD: This is a privilege. And look, I’m as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here, but we’re dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we’re going to extend this privilege here of a driver’s license, I think, is troublesome. And I think the American people are reacting to it.
We need to deal with security on our borders, we need to deal with the attraction that draws people here, we need to deal fairly with those who are here; but this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us. But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.
MR. WILLIAMS: Who else? Senator —
SEN. CLINTON: I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed —
SEN. DODD: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said yes, you thought it made sense to do it.
` SEN. CLINTON: No, I didn’t, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are (driving ?) — (inaudible)?
SEN. DODD: Well, that’s a legitimate issue. But driver’s license goes too far, in my view.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification if somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker —
SEN. DODD: There’s ways of dealing with that.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, but —
SEN. DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses; one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is an ordinary driver’s license, and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road.
SEN. DODD: That’s a bureaucratic nightmare.
SEN. CLINTON: So it’s not the full privilege.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor’s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license? You told the Nashua, New Hampshire, paper it made a lot of sense.
SEN. CLINTON: It —
MR. RUSSERT: Do you support his plan?
SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.
Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.
The transcript, however, doesn’t do it justice. Here’s the video (via MKH):
Clearly, she was flustered, and sputtered along, and got a bit angry when pressed. And at the end of it all, she still wouldn’t admit whether or not she supported Spitzer’s plan. Nuance, you see, is big in the Democratic party – especially if you’re a frontrunner during campaign season.
Her campaign issued a damage control statement in which she cried foul, and accused Obama of abandoning the “politics of hope” and caving to the pundits desire for him to “go negative” on Hillary. In other words, trying to get her to clearly state her position on an issue, and criticizing her, is “going negative.”
The NYT Caucus blog reports today is a new day for the Senator, and she’s a little more clear on her opinion of Spitzer’s plan:
A day after she appeared to struggle to give her views on the subject, Hillary Rodham Clinton offered support today for Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s effort to award New York driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, as her campaign sought to contain potentially damaging fallout from a what her own supporters saw as a tense and listless debate performance.
Mrs. Clinton’s statement affirming her support of Mr. Spitzer in his office came less than a day after she offered a muddled and hesitant position on the bill, prompting a round of denunciations by her opponents. It signaled the extent to which her advisers viewed that moment as the biggest misstep she made in the debate, and one with long-term potential to undermine her candidacy.
“Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,'” her campaign said.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides said her statement was intended to signal that she broadly supported Mr. Spitzer’s goal of awarding driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Mr. Spitzer initially proposed a blanket program of awarding full-fledged driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; in the face of sharp opposition from the Legislature, he backed off and presented a two-tier program system of awarding licenses to illegal immigrants.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said that she had not studied either plan, and was not specifically endorsing either of them.
Still, the wording of the statement was murkier than what many of her opponents have said in either supporting or opposing Mr. Spitzer’s initiatives. Among those opposing it were Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois supported it.
So you can see that even in her statement, she’s still left herself some wiggle room in case she makes it to the general election.
Karol at Alarming News notes that the 9/11 Families for a Secure America group is offering $1000 to anyone who can get Hillary to definitively state what her position is on illegals having driver’s licenses.
I noticed that some female bloggers are accusing MSNBC’s Tim Russert (who moderated the debate, along with Brian Williams) and “the boys” of leading an “assault” on Hillary Clinton. Cute. I guess because Hillary’s a woman, “the boys” should have tossed softballs at her, and because they didn’t, Hillary was a “victim” of the “patriarchy” and all that (sound familiar?). And here I thought that males and females were supposed to be treated equally.
Update: Fact Check has dared to critique Hillary’s answers and non-answers from the debate. I guess this means they’ve gone the “misogyny” route, too …