Obama Undercuts Himself

16 11 2007

In his distinctive high-toned and self assured voice, Sen. Obama made an early thinly veiled swipe at Sen. Hillary Clinton during the CNN debate last night when he said:

Senator Clinton, I think, is a capable politician and I think that she has run a terrific campaign.

But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we’ve seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues — on the issue of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants.

We saw in the last debate that it took not just that debate, but two more weeks before we could a clear answer, in terms of where her position was.

But then a few moments later he offered this tortured response to the drivers’ license issue himself.

OBAMA: 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. And — but I have to make sure that people understand. The problem we have here is not driver’s licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive.

They don’t go — they’re not coming here to go to the In-N-Out Burger. That’s not the reason they’re here. They’re here to work. And so instead of being distracting by what has now become a wedge issue, let’s focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it.

BLITZER: ….Do you support or oppose driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants?

OBAMA: I am not proposing that that’s what we do.

What I’m saying is that we can’t…

No, no, no, no. Look, I have already said, I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver’s licenses at the same level can make that happen.

But what I also know…

BLITZER: All right…

OBAMA: But what I also know, Wolf, is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it.

BLITZER: But — because this is the kind of question that is sort of available for a yes or no answer.

(LAUGHTER)

Either you support it or you oppose it.

Of course, there is an argument to be made that this is not exactly a yes or no question. Many people object to the framing of the issue because it does imply that you are for open borders, which few people support. Plus, its framed in such a way that presumes any position on the issue can be taken as indication on where people stand on the greater issue of comprehensive immigration reform.

But Obama should have known this question was coming and paid attention to how Clinton repositioned herself on the eve of the debate. She is not going to support a plan as controversial as this when her own governor, who introduced such a plan in New York, ditched it after seeing how radioactive it was.

Obviously, since Obama voted for a similar measure as a state Senator in Illinois he cannot disavow support for it now, but he should have seen this coming and had a prepared response. Besides when you vote for a bill as a lawmaker you cannot say later on “I am not proposing that that’s what we do.”

Obama’s reply is not even close to being the straight forward answer he criticized Hillary for not providing during the last debate. And what makes it so odd is that it was on the same issue. In fact, it was him that sounded as if he was trying to have it both ways.

That said however, I have to admit that it was right of him to point out that the drivers’ license issue is a political distraction ginned up to divert attention from the more pressing problem: fixing the broken system that is immigration. Few people will appreciate that distinction, however, and this issue will come back to hurt him in Iowa and other early primary states.

Obama definitely undercut himself on this issue.

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One response

16 11 2007
Nowhere

Congratulations on publishing the entire snippet. Lots of other people aren’t.

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