Hillary Clinton came under fire after the Oct. 30 Democratic presidential debate for not giving a straight yes or no answer when asked if she supported New York Gov. Eliot’s Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
At Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Hillary did give a “no” answer — and not a word more.
Even before the debate, Clinton had come under attack from immigration supporters for flip-flopping on the driver’s license issue.
Hillary had said during the earlier debate that Spitzer’s plan “makes a lot of sense,” although she would not definitively say she supported it.
But after Spitzer abandoned his driver’s license plan on Wednesday in the face of widespread criticism, Clinton announced: “I support Governor Spitzer's decision today to withdraw his proposal … As President, I will not support drivers' licenses for undocumented people.”
New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat, was “very disappointed” by Hillary’s change of heart, saying: “She’s trying not to bring heat onto herself.”
He also told the New York Post: “She has to explain why it took two weeks to find an answer to a simple yes or no question.”
At the Thursday debate, moderator Wolf Blizter of CNN put the driver’s license question to each of the Democratic candidates.
Blitzer said: “Assuming there isn’t going to be comprehensive immigration reform, do you support or oppose driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants?”
Barack Obama answered: “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 state level can make that happen.”
Blitzer chided to laughter and applause: “This is the kind of question that is sort of available for a yes or no answer. Either you support it or you oppose it. Let’s go down and get a yes or no from everyone starting with Senator [John] Edwards.”
Edwards answered: “No, but I don’t accept the proposition that we’re not going to have comprehensive immigration reform.”
Chris Dodd responded to Blitzer’s question by saying “…No, my belief is that giving a driver’s — as I’ve said from the very beginning here, I think driver’s licenses are the wrong thing to be doing in terms of attracting people to come here as undocumented.”
Blitzer: “Senator Obama, yes or no?”
Blitzer: “Senator Clinton?”
Blitzer then moved on to Dennis Kucinich.
Mark Finkelstein of NewsBusters.org criticized what he called “Blitzer's bail-out at arguably the key moment in last night's debate. The CNN anchor's failure to follow up on Hillary's monosyllabic answer on driver's licenses for illegals, letting her slide with her terse ‘no,’ was in my opinion the greatest single act of journalistic malpractice thus far in this campaign season.”
Kucinich told Blitzer he took “exception to the way you frame that question.”
Joe Biden gave a simple “no” response. And New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said: “My answer is yes, and I did it … My legislature sent me a bill. I signed it.”
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