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Spitzer folds in face of fury

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has raised the white flag on his efforts to issue drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants.

 Reuters has this report, AP this one, and the NY Post chimes in here. As much as this was a New York proposal and collapse, the underlying issue is here to stay in the 2008 Presidential race.

From the AP story:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called Spitzer's reversal on the license issue "a good development" and said immigration is a federal issue for which his department has to "ramp up enforcement."

"What I want to make sure is that states aren't working at cross- purposes with us and enabling the kind of conduct we're enforcing against," Chertoff told The Associated Press by phone from London.

And:

The license issue has reverberated in the presidential campaign, particularly for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was asked about Spitzer's plan during a debate.

Clinton has been criticized by her Democratic and Republican rivals for her noncommittal answers on the subject. She has said she sympathizes with governors like Spitzer who are forced to confront the issue of immigration because the federal government has not enacted immigration reform. She has not taken a position on the actual plan offered by Spitzer.

About 70 percent of New Yorkers opposed the plan, according to a Siena College poll of 625 registered voters released Tuesday. The poll, conducted Nov. 5-8, had a sampling error margin of 3.9 percentage points.

Democrats were quick to blame hatred of immigrants for the defeat, showing just how out of touch they really are:

"This governor was not defeated by anything other than the hate in this country toward immigrants right now," said Rep. Jose Serrano, a Bronx Democrat.

Meanwhile, the Post editorializes that Spitzer is in a free-fall. Their news story on the Spitzer retreat notes that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is introducing a measure in Congress to prohibit all states from giving drivers' licenses to illegals. A good thought, but one must ask where the line is, when is a license no longer just a license, but a form of universal ID. Although United States Passports do exist, to date they have only been required for overseas travel, that within Canada and Mexico, and even some of the Carribean islands, it was not required. It seems the string of state-issued licenses is the best we can do for universal ID at this time, and it seems the only way of ensuring state compliance is to tie it to the receipt of federal funds, such as was done with the legal drinking age being raised to 21 - it was a contingent requirement for receipt of federal highway funds.

I am skeptical of Chertoff - as it does not seem they are moving very fast on closing existing loopholes and enforcing the current law. Spitzer, whether he intended to or not, may have done the country a favor by bringing the issue to the front of the line in the race for the White House. Spitzer's position is not the winning one, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton's distance from him, and her waffling endorsement/disavowal of Spitzer's plan. The other warning sign for the left is the 70% against in New York state - that number has to be troubling for the Dems.

The Post also has a news story on the free-fall, where they compare Spitzer's numbers with Mario Cuomo and George Pataki over similar parts of their first terms. The direct beneficiary appears to be New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D), whose approval rating remains above 50%, while Spitzer's re-elect number is a scant 28%.

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