Friday, November 16, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- no. 2

The hot issue at the last (Philadelphia) Democratic debate and, not coincidentally, at this debate on November 15, was whether an illegal immigrant should be eligible for a driver's license. It should have occurred to me when John Edwards said that the license ought to be available, but only as part of "comprehensive immigration reform." Finally it occurred to me when Dennis Kucinich ultimately responded "you give people a path to legalization, and then they can be legal and have their driver's license. That's the way to work it. That's the way to work it."

Now why wouldn't a supporter of illegal immigration ("I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings;that's number one. Number two, they're undocumented") unequivocally support giving a driver's license to an illegal immigrant? Because it's a state, not federal, prerogative. That is the only context in which Senator Clinton's response (supporting Governor Spitzer, who until he reversed his decision had proposed the policy) at the Philadelphia debate made any sense. (Of course, that wasn't her thinking or reasoning.) Perhaps Barack Obama or Bill Richardson could have figured that out instead of supporting a misguided, unpopular idea. Or if any of the candidates had told Wolf Blitzer that he instead could have asked about illegal immigration in a more relevant matter- say in terms of a border fence, employer sanctions, or the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

There would have been another benefit to asking a new, rather than recylced, question about illegal immigration: Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been prepared with her insincere, yet effective, response: "no."

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