License to dissemble
Fully 77 percent of respondents to last week’s Fox 5/Washington Times/Rasmussen poll object to the idea of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. That subject, which tripped up Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, in the Oct. 30 Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia, and which New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer seems intent to make a reality in the Empire State, hopefully now will be taken seriously by all the presidential aspirants. Along with college scholarships for illegals and other tax-funded public benefits, voters would seem to agree with Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who told listeners at a debate two weeks ago that a “driver’s license goes too far.”
For the open-borders right, illegal immigration and related issues like driver’s licenses are the “fool’s gold” of American politics, a subject that riles the base but yields little at the polls. There have been plenty of instances where this notion proved simply to be untrue: most famously California Gov. Gray Davis’ 2003 recall; several races in last year’s midterms; and, most important lately, in Massachusetts’ special House election to succeed outgoing Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan. Democrat Niki Tsongas’ unexpectedly slim victory there over Republican Jim Ogonowski is attributable in part to Mr. Ogonowski’s aggressive campaigning on immigration and Mrs. Tsongas’ fecklessness.
Indeed, for the open-borders crowd to be right, 77 percent of last week’s respondents would constitute an awful lot of pyrite. The numbers break down to 88 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of independents and even 68 percent of Democrats in opposition. Consider that last part: More than twothirds of Democrats oppose driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, even though at the recent debate, only Mr. Dodd raised his hand when NBC’s Tim Russert asked which Democratic hopefuls oppose licenses for illegals. Expect to hear more from Republi- cans on this subject.
Hearing Mrs. Clinton grapple with it is to watch a veteran triangulator at work on a question which she, too, believes matters. We doubt that the trip-up was evidence of Mrs. Clinton’s unpreparedness. It would be highly un-Clintonian — it has all the mark- ings of careful evasion. Asked by Mr. Russert whether she supports Mr. Spitzer’s push to give illegal aliens driver’s licenses — she had previously spoken favorably of the idea to the Nashua Telegraph’s editorial board, he noted — Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Spitzer was “trying to fill the vacuum” left by federal inaction. She seemed to voice support when arguing that illegals will be on the roads in any event: better to recognize and license them. She then changed course: “I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Gov. Spitzer is trying to do it.” Later, after the debate, she changed course again, voicing support: “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 announced.
Forty-three states maintain a “no licenses” policy for illegals, at least officially. The public supports that state of affairs by a huge margin. It is tribute to the notion that “illegal” in fact means illegal.