As Liz pointed out earlier today, the MSM has offered divided perspectives on Hillary Clinton’s performance in last night’s Democratic debate. Blogs, however, offered some fairly definitive takes:
“Clinton stands tall but then stumbles,” writes The Fix’s Chris Cillizza. Similarly, “Driver licenses for undocumented: Clinton stumbles,” announces The Swamp’s Mark Silva. More succinctly, “Clinton Bombs Debate,” declares Politico. And according to Daily Kos, “Hillary Bombs. No Surprise!”
Why, exactly? Let’s stick with Politico:
When Hillary Clinton has a bad night, she really has a bad night. In a debate against six Democratic opponents at Drexel University here Tuesday, Clinton gave the worst performance of her entire campaign. It was not just that her answer about whether illegal immigrants should be issued driver’s licenses was at best incomprehensible and at worst misleading. It was that for two hours she dodged and weaved, parsed and stonewalled.
Um, okay. So how, exactly, did she do this? Here’s the transcript of the driver’s-licenses-to-illegal-immigrants section many press accounts identified as the key move of Clinton’s supposed Dodgeball Dance:
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. You told the Nashua, New Hampshire editorial board it makes a lot of sense. Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver’s license?
CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. 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.
I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well-intentioned, can fill this gap.
There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.
DODD: This is a privilege. And look, I’m as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here, but we’re dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we’re going to extend this privilege here of a driver’s license, I think, is troublesome. And I think the American people are reacting to it.
We need to deal with security on our borders, we need to deal with the attraction that draws people here, we need to deal fairly with those who are here; but this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us. But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.
WILLIAMS: Who else? Senator —
CLINTON: 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. And we have failed —
DODD: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said yes, you thought it made sense to do it.
CLINTON: No, I didn’t, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are (driving ?) — (inaudible)?
DODD: Well, that’s a legitimate issue. But driver’s license goes too far, in my view.
CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification if somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker —
DODD: There’s ways of dealing with that.
CLINTON: Well, but —
DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.
CLINTON: 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.
DODD: That’s a bureaucratic nightmare.
CLINTON: So it’s not the full privilege.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, 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.
CLINTON: It —
RUSSERT: Do you support his plan?
CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.