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Spitzer Drops License Plan, But Damage to Democrats is Done

The Democratic front-runners at last months debate were pressed on the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. (AP).

Updated: 5:21 p.m.

After all the hoopla, N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer is dropping his plan to provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. But the damage to the Democratic presidential candidates - and, overwhelmingly, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton - is done.

Clinton waffled on the question of whether she supported the Spitzer proposal during an Oct. 30 debate that has haunted her in the weeks since. In her answer that night, Clinton both defended and objected to the idea of giving permits to undocumented residents.

And in an attempt to "clarify" her position the next day, Clinton sympathized with governors in Spitzer's position, and her advisers said it amounted to her backing his plan.

But now that Spitzer has abandoned his unpopular effort - one he said would bring illegal immigrants "out of the shadows" and help improve road safety - Clinton has a new, firm position: she is against driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

"I support Governor Spitzer's decision today to withdraw his proposal. His difficult job is made that much harder by the failure of the Congress and the White House to pass comprehensive immigration reform," Clinton said in a statement.

"As President, I will not support drivers' licenses for undocumented people and will press for comprehensive immigration reform that deals with all of the issues around illegal immigration including border security and fixing our broken system."

Clinton's original statements had left her plenty of wiggle room. But her campaign officials had insisted - that day, anyway -- that she supported Spitzer, however tepidly. Now it seems that was not really the case.

Clinton and Spitzer are savvy, ambitious allies but not exactly bosom buddies to begin with. Will the incident lead to a longer-term rift? More importantly for Clinton, will she be able to move past driver's-license-gate and onto other subjects? Her rivals hope not. Sen. Chris Dodd, who has said he unequivocally opposes giving illegal immigrants licenses, issued this statement shortly after the Spitzer news.

"Not only was Governor Spitzer's program to provide licenses for illegal immigrants unwise, but, as the Governor now acknowledges, unworkable, both practically and politically," Dodd said.

Later in the day, Dodd spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan offered a further critique of Clinton's position on the licenses. "It's flip-flopping cubed. She was for it before she was against it, before she was for it, before she was against it. It's been weeks now, and she still hasn't offered up a serious, principled answer to the question," she said.

Sen. Barack Obama took a swipe at the new Clinton stand as well. "When it takes two weeks and six different positions to answer one question on immigration, it's easier to understand why the Clinton campaign would rather plant their questions than answer them," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

Obama had said he backed the plan. Sen. John Edwards, who was the first to catch Clinton in what he described as doubletalk, took a more complicated approach, saying he supported driver's licenses for illegal immigrants only as part of a broad immigration reform package. Edwards said he opposed the Spitzer plan unequivocally.

For Democrats altogether, though, the incident proved how thorny an issue immigration may become in the general election. Republicans pounced on their nuanced answers. And they pulled no punches against their favorite target, Clinton. On Wednesday, Gov. Mitt Romney issued a statement that read: "It took long enough to convince him and other open border Democrats like Senator Clinton that driver's licenses for illegal immigrants was exactly the wrong approach to enforcement, but at least Governor Spitzer finally listened to the American people and common sense.

"States that provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants act as a magnet for more illegal immigration and frustrate our country's efforts to control the borders. Unlike Senator Clinton, I oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. As president, I will adopt policies that discourage states from turning into sanctuaries."

The Republican National Committee issued no fewer than three statements on Clinton and the driver's license issue. In one it said the new Spitzer move had left Sen. Clinton "holding the bag."

--Anne E. Kornblut

By Washington Post editors  |  November 14, 2007; 2:25 PM ET
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This may be off post... Senator Clinton and her campaign team are manipulative.

Try posting a critical comment on her blog on her website and see what happens.... Please just try it !

I am not suprised shes planting people at the town hall meetings

Posted by: truth2008e | November 15, 2007 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I should realize by now, that Libbies and Collusionists are simply incapable of NOT taking things out of context.

First, anyone trying to take anything from me, whether it is Food, money, opportunity, whatever-Sure better not be expecting any LOVE!

BUT, to add insult to injury, and have elected officials then tell the people who have wronged me, that THEY get a PASS, is enough to tick off a Saint!

THOSE are the People I am FURIOUS AT! THEY have created the mess that NEVER should have been allowed!

AND for all the Bleeding hearts about the INVADING CRIMINALS WHO BREAK THE LAW JUST BEING HERE, trying to get ahead-


The entire situation STINKS!

I do believe I did mention my RISING hatred of Criminal Elements AIDING AND ABBETTING THE PROCESS THOUGH! TRAITORS should be DEALT WITH! HARSHLY!

There is NOTHING worse than a TRAITOR!

Posted by: rat-the | November 15, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

This article is distressing on many levels.

First of all, it's not your job as a reporter to complain about "nuance." Your job as a reporter, Ann, is to explore the nuance and determine the facts.

The FACT is, the reason some states "allow" illegals to get drivers' licenses is because the federal government has failed in one of its primary purposes, and that is to identify everyone who has come here from somewhere else.

States have not been charged with enforcing immigration law; the federal government has. Spitzer simply decided (at first) that he wasn't going to do the federal government's job for it, and was not going to stop illegal immigrants from getting licenses. Do you know what that means? it means that illegal immigrants will simply drive without licenses, which means no determination of minimal competency, not determination of how good their eye sight is, etc. And how many of them come from countries that drive on the left side of the road? I guess we'll never know, will we.

Immigration is a very nuanced issue. It's certainly far more complex than Mexicans streaming over the southern border and taking jobs. The issue is actually, why are these people here, and why doesn't the federal government know who they are and why they're here?

At least half are not Mexican, most of them work for a living and contribute to the economy, and we have to figure out who they are BEFORE they apply for a drivers license.

Perhaps the Democrats are nuanced in their approach because this is not a simple issue? We can't collect 20 million people, give them all hearings and send them all back, even if we knew who they were. I know everyone hates amnesty, but how else are you going to get almost all of them to come forward and identify themselves?


Posted by: mshook | November 15, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Hillary makes her decisions by polls and not by principals

Should Candidates adjust their decisions and policies around consensus or maintain principal ahead?


Posted by: PollM | November 15, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Why is John Edwards response to the same question on ABC's This Week not getting any play in the media. It is in fact carbon copy of Clinton's reponse in debate. But Tim russert/media is obsessed only in drilling/reporting clinton. BTW, what is Obama's stand. Did anyone grilled him on it deeply?

Posted by: PVRK | November 15, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

It was only earlier this year that immigration reform was the pet project of the Republican president. Apparently Rudy, Romney, McCain, have all flip-flop on this issue and the only thing people will remember is Hillary was the one that came around last. The media has managed to keep this alive for two weeks with a little bit of help for the Clintons...curious? You think that this was a mistake, and not what the campaign had in mind more or less from the beginning? I think that Hillary is smart to have taken this issue this far. Everyone will be tainted and painted a flip-flopper but Hillary will be remembered at the polls by the massive Hispanic surge that will surprise everyone on Election Day. Not any of the top tier Republicans can challenge her with a straight face since they all changed their minds on this issue at some point.

Posted by: lounderbel | November 15, 2007 1:41 AM | Report abuse

99% of politicians are scum, never do what is good for the USA. Only self serving, power seeking vermin.
Have a nice day....

Posted by: noeffort | November 15, 2007 12:02 AM | Report abuse

The hatred I am reading here towards people who just want a better life for their families is really disgusting.

Illegally entering the country may be cutting in line but it is not equivalent to rape or murder.

I wonder how many of the people criticizing illegals have led a life without violating any American laws? Moreover, do they realize that they are here by LUCK. Being born here is purely a matter of LUCK.

Maybe the real problem here is not that some people are cutting in line but that we need to let more people in because we have jobs that need to be filled. Remember, we let hi-tech workers jump the line because we have jobs for them. Could it be our policies are prejudiced in favor of white collar workers?

As for overwhelming our communities. One way to think about this is that the United States spends billions to help people around the world. Instead of spending the money abroad and not having anyone be thankful for it, this way we spend the money here and people are not just thankful for it but do jobs most of us don't want and put the money they get back into our economy.

There are, of course, criminals amongst illegals and they should be deported after serving their time but there are 2 million Americans in jail. They are not all illegals.

How should we deal with all this? Well, if we strengthen our borders we should strengthen them all. North and South. We should also create a new approach to people who overstay their visas. Half of our illegals come in that way. Otherwise, it is clear that we just don't like people who come from South of the border.

Next, we need to stop holding the children of illegals responsible for the actions of their parents and let them stay here in the only nation they have ever known.

Then, we need to legalize the folks who are here with jobs and no criminal records.

It is time for us to be compassionate and resolute.

Posted by: PAFriedman | November 14, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: most reporters don't bother to question the statements politicians make, but regarding Romney's claim, it's common sense that illegal aliens are more likely to go where the local infrastructure supports their presence, even if that support might not be the main draw.

As a data point, the BP conducted a poll of detained illegal aliens shortly after Bush promoted "reform", and 45% said they were coming to be part of it:

(That poll was quickly scrapped by DC and the results were only obtained with an FOIA request.)

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | November 14, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse


Sure we can "solve" the illegal alien problem with Amnesty and Open Borders.

Great idea!

Then we can "solve" the rape problem by legalizing sexual assault.

Then we can "solve" the theft problem by legalizing robbery.

Then we can "solve" the home invasion problem by legalizing breaking and entering.

Why didn't I think of that?

Posted by: peter_schaeffer | November 14, 2007 05:37 PM "

Except there is no such thing as legal rape, theft or home invasion. There IS legal immigration. Nice try. Just do like rat-the, quit making excuses and admit you don't like people who are different. Be a man.

Posted by: zukermand | November 14, 2007 10:15 PM | Report abuse

rat-the: "I learned to HATE!"

Yes, yes. That is what is powering the anti-immigration fanatics, hate. It was what powered the Nazis as well.

"And I am smart enough..."

Now, this claim I doubt. Smart people aren't usually driven by hate...

Posted by: RealChoices | November 14, 2007 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Allow me to say: My life has me Stressed Out! Sometimes it shows!

NO1YUNO-Trying to rip a Business Operators Head off is not the solution. A $10,000 Fine is NEVER going to be enforced.

If anything, the current $1,000 Fine is prohibitive. It easily over-does the crime.

If we could just get Federal Officers to begin questioning every Employee everywhere-Construction sites, Factories, Domestic Services, Cafes, Landscappers Etc., Etc., on a regular basis, we could easily stop the practicwe of employing the MILLIONS of Un-Documented/Un-Payrolled Workers with $500 Fines!

Not so much as to break an employer, who then won't pay anything, but possibly cost $80,000 / Year to Jail, but, enough to make them see the light of it being much cheaper to properly Employ, or get Employed!

See, that is the benefit I Rant about the Reps destroying and making me hate the people I should not have been driven to hate, all for taking advantage of an opportunity that SHOULD NEVER HAVE EXISTED!

Whe ALL Employers are Competing FAIRLY in a legal Employment market-WAGES will go UP!

When it all comes down to it, the amounts added onto the final cost of something like a House for the cost of the Labor, is MARGINAL! The effects on the Blue Collar Workforce, the City Coffers(Taxes), and the surrounding communities from the Illegal employment of illegal invaders-ASTRONOMICAL!!!!!

Again, MY REAL Hatred, is for the TRAITORS that took Jobs to prevent this, that are now allowing it!

All because they seem to have their Heads Sooo far up there, they have Rings around their Collars!

Reality Check Dims! These Hispanics are decendants of the Revolutionaries! They are NOT like the Productive Educated Refugees from the Mexican Revolution we learned to love!

THEY are Hating Revolutionaries with La Raza on the Brain, Protesting, and yelling La Invasora! and RECONQUISTA!

And I am smart enough to know an Enemy when I see one!

Posted by: rat-the | November 14, 2007 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Annie, my girl,

Who are "undocumented reidents?" This sort of PC silliness, an inability to call a spade a spade, of Leftist journalists does as much harm to Liberal ambitions as does Hillary's waffling.

Whether or no two-faced politicians & Leftist journalists like it or not, the vast majority of the American people clearly believe illegal immigration should be a felony & prosecuted as such. This was demonstrated in the popular revolt against the Kennedy/Bush/Chamber of Commerce open borders immigration plan recently floated & defeated in the Senate.

As much as I like the swelling numbers of my fellow Catholics pouring across our southern border & gradually transforming this Protestant nation, the rule of law & the need for preserving national sovereignty demand we gain control of our borders.

Plainly, the federal gov't isn't going to make a serious attempt to gain control of our borders until after Bush leaves office.

Although I twice voted for the guy, really against Gore & Kerry, I wouldn't vote for him today. As George Will wrote a year or three ago, "Bush isn't a conservative; he's a politician."

Posted by: wdivingston44 | November 14, 2007 8:41 PM | Report abuse

None of these candidates, except maybe Tancredo and Hunter , have a consistent immigration past or current position. This is the right position for Hillary to take, she'll have to be steadfast as the other candidates attack her "evolution" but she did what people in New York state wanted, which was to get Spitzer to back down. It was killing all the NY Democratic congressional delegation and her camp told him to end their misery.

Posted by: rdklingus | November 14, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

"Hillary has a new firm position". Anne, surely you jest.

Posted by: Stajack | November 14, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

When I'm elected and in office, the first edict will be to deport every illegal alien, then to turn around every ship headed to the USA from China to go back to China with that junk.
Then stop all imports, and demand only Made in America for sale in our stores. I want those factories back in to production, and hiring only American citizens.
Those criminals in prison will be picking our farm crops, 16 hours a day/7 days a week. Not one minute of rest, they won't want to return to prison after that.
No more foreign aid, no more war, and regular gas at $1.29/gal. Taxes cut 50%.
There will be no super highway from Mexico to Kansas City, for imports from China
I want to start rebuilding our highways to have separate highways for our trucks, driven only by American truck drivers.
I want our bridges rebuilt, safer for our citizens. I want to restore this nation to again be the pride of the world.
Lets return to jobs for Americans, no outsourcing.

Posted by: PresidentDon | November 14, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

State governor's have no role in manipulating a state licensing program to facilitate an illegal population's mobility throughout the country. While the federal government [back to Reagan] have done a shameful job in their appointed duties; state officials should not be interjecting themselves into the situation and compounding the problem. Of course all of us know that the real agenda was to create a de facto legalization with the next step being voter registration, jury duty, in state tuition, medic-aid, social security benefits and all priviledges of citizenship. Face it, the federal government is a rogue out of control entity operating in its own perceived self interest and the people be dammed. They will continue to get away with the charade so long as a select number of people in commerce and politics are able to limit the choice of candidates for office. We basically have become a captive populous to the multi national corporate interests through a rigged political process. 7 years after Bush v. Gore does any sensible person not realize that the election was hijacked and probably purloined? With O'Connor casting the critical 5th vote, she must have really been upset when she realized that her place was not going to be filled with a female. Maybe there was no express agreement but it certainly looks like there was a tacit expectation on her part from her subsequent statements and reaction. The corporate interests, wall street, military industrial compex, all illegal aliens [present and would be] can rest easy. Clinton nor Guilianni have the
inclination or desire to betray their masters and begin seriously addressing America's problems.

Posted by: ALAN.ROBINSON | November 14, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

bsimon - Jobs are the key driver, but getting a job from a decent employer requires ID. You could see an employer saying "Well he had a drivers liscense!" But here's what I see long term. Sooner or later, someone, somewhere, somehow with bad intentions is going to get a New York State "Drivers ID", and do something real bad. Then what? For one I can imagine this sequence of events: You have ID? Yes, I have a NYS Drivers ID. (Loooong pause) Ahem - you got any OTHER ID?

Posted by: wilfredtr | November 14, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Sure we can "solve" the illegal alien problem with Amnesty and Open Borders.

Great idea!

Then we can "solve" the rape problem by legalizing sexual assault.

Then we can "solve" the theft problem by legalizing robbery.

Then we can "solve" the home invasion problem by legalizing breaking and entering.

Why didn't I think of that?

Posted by: peter_schaeffer | November 14, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

what an idiotic discussion. karl rove has brought out the nativist frenzy vote even as the GOP's corporate paymasters depend on illegals to jack their profit margins. welcome to the third-world-ization of the USA. politically and economically we're well on the way to becoming a banana republic -- so what if we start looking like it? frankly, i don't know how you stop mass migrations of people. the europeans overran the continent a couple hundred years ago. now the indians they thought they'd wiped out and repaying the favor. call it montezuma's revenge...

Posted by: wpahnelas | November 14, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

RedSoxJk, if immigration was made available without limits by law and amnesty were granted to those already in the country, would you be satisfied? I presume since no one will be breaking the law any longer, you will accept that solution.

Posted by: zukermand | November 14, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting to see how the democrats and republicans BOTH struggle with this issue, while at the same time courting the vote of the fastest growing demographic in this country, of course, this is largely due to both parties inability and unwillingness to enforce the laws already on the books. The politician's "open door" policies coupled with this inanae idea of nationalized health care will bring this company to economic ruin, similar to what happened when Germany tried to impliment nationalized health care. What needs to be done is to tighten security on the boarders, and to fine the living hell out of business that employ illegals. First offense, $10,000 fine, Second, $50,000; third, $100,000 and your business license is revoked. Make the fines PER WORKER, and begin enforcing them, then you'll see the job market evaporate. We have contractors sneaking illegals on military bases so they can charge the american taxpayer the going rate for workers, pay the illegal a fraction of that, and pocket the rest.
So the democrats are selling out their traditional voter base, blacks and other minorities, unions. The Republicans are selling out to Big Business, who hasn't figured out that if these 20 million illegals are given citizenship, then they are going to have to pay them a fair minimum wage and provide benefits. Who do we follow now? Who do we vote for, when both sides want to sell our country out so that they can have power?

Posted by: no1yuno | November 14, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

RedSoxJK writes
"It is so telling that the Democrats STILL do not "get it" on this issue. I am an Independent who believes in strong enforcement of our immigration laws."

My theory is that Dem candidates aren't talking about this issue because Dem primary voters don't view this as being as important as other issues. Once the Dems pick a candidate, that person will likely come out with a plan that focuses on enforcing the law more than building a wall or trying to round people up & ship them home.

Posted by: bsimon | November 14, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

It is so telling that the Democrats STILL do not "get it" on this issue. I am an Independent who believes in strong enforcement of our immigration laws. I do not "hate" immigrants, nor am I "afraid" of them. I welcome immigrants -- LEGAL ONES. What I hate is the fact that my tax dollars are going to pay for educating, feeding, housing and providing healthcare to people who are here ILLEGALLY and who are criminals, plain and simple. That does not make me a racist or a fear-monger, it makes me a person who values our laws, believes in prosecuting people who break them and wants my tax dollars spent on helping my fellow citizens, not Mecican criminals.

Why is this so hard for our politicians to understand?

Posted by: RedSoxJK | November 14, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse


Anne, Anne, Anne. I'm usually a fan. I know we're living in a Hard Ball world. But c'com.

"Republicans pounced on their nuanced answers."

More early evidence that 'nuance' -- that is, subtlety of thought and meaning -- will, as in 2004, be the N-word of this campaign, with the help of professional word-slingers on deadline doing the dirty work for the 'Don't Think, Be Resolute' crowd.

Posted by: orcurrentresident | November 14, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Pressure all candidates to take an enforcement first approach to illegal immigration. Join NumbersUSA

Posted by: sskyvickers | November 14, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I grew up a Catholic in Texas. I had many Mexican friends.


I learned to HATE!


I now cannot consider any Hispanics "Friends". I generally view them as an Enemy force in collussion with each other, and I HATE them for it!

I hate the EMPLOYERS who have created an unlawfull and self-destructive Working Environment for them even more! They facillitate the problem and are traitors to their own communities(Non-Hispanics of course!)

I HATE the Civic Leaders who allow Day Labor Assemblies and declare Sanctuaries to help the Employers do their Damage even worse! THEY are supposed to be looking out for the Communities they are destroying!

But, MOSTLY, I have come to HATE with a Passion, Bush, Clinton(s), Kennedy, Pelosi, Cheney, and every other G'DAMNED FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVE who has BETRAYED THEIR OATHS to ENFORCE THE LAWS that for DECADES kept the Disaster they have created upon this Country's trapped populace by an INVADING ARMY OF UNDOCUMENTED LIFE DESTROYING HOSTILE INTRUDERS!

I have come to the end of my ability to live in the HELL that has been wrought upon me! Thanks to the Blind Eye to struggling Americans I have lost all, and cannot compete against the unlevel field 20,000,000 Invaders and their criminal Employers have set against me!

I only hope and pray, every single culpable Representative who has helped betray the Blue Collar Middle Class gets what they deserve for what the cursed Scum has done!

Yes, I have come to Hate!

Posted by: rat-the | November 14, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"open border Democrats like Senator Clinton "

How does that get passed along unchallenged? What is that supposed to mean?

Posted by: zukermand | November 14, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Ms Kornblut,
You quote Gov Romney as saying "States that provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants act as a magnet for more illegal immigration and frustrate our country's efforts to control the borders."

Have you, or anyone else, asked him to prove this claim? It seems to me that illegal immigrants are drawn by jobs, not driver's licenses. Perhaps someone will offer clarification, in the event I'm incorrect or confused.

Posted by: bsimon | November 14, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"watch to see if Clinton asserts that she never liked it in the first place. Her original statements left plenty of wiggle room."

What is this? Is this supposed to be journalism? Have you no shame, Anne?

Posted by: zukermand | November 14, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

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