Monday, March 04, 2013

Today's Moment Of Trivia

In late January a local CBS station reported the Governor

... has signed a new law that allows undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a drivers license.

Hands were raised holding cell phone cameras as the governor signed into law the right for undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license in Illinois... now the fourth state where undocumented immigrants can get a driver's license. the first driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants are expected to be issued starting October 1.

The governor stated "And this is a day we have long waited for lots and lots of people over many years banded together in the best traditions of democracy to make this day possible."

The governor is (Democrat) Pat Quinn. And the state is Illinois.

That would be unremarkable but for it being either ironic or, to the contrary, entirely appropriate.  The issue of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants derailed the presidential candidacy of a Senator from New York- and paved the way for the nomination (and election) of a Senator from Illinois.  Hillary Clinton was first in the polls, riding high and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee when in a debate televised on October 30, 2007 by MSNBC

Clinton gave a contradictory answer on the issue to host Tim Russert. 

When Russert pointed out that Clinton had told a New Hampshire newspaper that New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens made a lot of sense, Clinton at first seemed to defend Spitzer's plan. Then, she appeared to distance herself from it. 

"Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver's license?" Russert asked Clinton in that debate.

"We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally," said Clinton. "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."

After Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, also participating in the debate, sharply criticized the proposal to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, Clinton hedged her support for Spitzer's plan. "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," she said.

Dodd, however, would not let her get away with it. "Wait a minute. No, no, no," he said, interrupting Clinton. "You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do it."

"No, I didn't, Chris," said Clinton.

Eventually, in that same debate, however, Clinton seemed to once again defend giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens, while criticizing Russert for trying to make her give a clear statement of her position.

"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," she said.

To which Dodd rejoined: "That's a bureaucratic nightmare."

Russert finally said, "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. ... Do you support his plan?"

"You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha," said Clinton. "It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. "

A moment later, Clinton added: "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."

This major misstep did not end Mrs. Clinton's campaign but ended its inevitability.  Support for the New York Senator was fairly wide but not very deep, and her vulnerability was exposed when she grossly mishandled the question about a major policy announced by the governor of the state she represented in the U.S. Senate.

And then- in a curious twist- in a later debate, on CNN

...moderator Wolf Blitzer similarly sought to pin down Obama's position on driver's licenses for illegal aliens.

"On the issue that apparently tripped up Senator Clinton earlier, the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, I take it, Senator Obama, you support giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Is that right?" asked Blitzer.

"When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention," said Obama. 

After Obama started to hedge, Blitzer responded "Do you support or oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?"    When the Senator stated "I am not proposing that that's what we do. What I'm saying is that we can't .. ," the audience laughed.  Graciously, the Wolfman then quizzed the other candidates but thereafter returned to Obama and asked him "Senator Obama, yes or no?"  The reply was "yes" while Clinton's answer this time was "no."

In an additional twist, the day before this debate, Governor Spitzer had announced a reversal of his position because of strong public opposition.  The issue in New York which thwarted Hillary Clinton's smooth path to the nomination had become moot.  But in Illinois, the issue has been decided to the advantage of illegal immigrants, which could not have been envisioned by Hillary Clinton when it mattered most to her and to her and Senator Obama.

(hat tip to Disaffected And It Feels So Good)

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