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Political 'base appeal'

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POSTED: December 11, 2007 7:19 a.m.
EDITORS: The word “and” in “believe and support” in graf 10 and the second “flip” in “flip-flop-flip” in graf 13 are italicized.

John McCain says he opposes comprehensive immigration reform, even though he thinks it makes sense.
Hillary Clinton says giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants makes sense, but she opposes it.
Ay.
Two politicians, tying themselves up in knots thinking it’s the way to make themselves attractive to their party’s constituencies.
McCain, of course, was, along with Ted Kennedy, the architect of the original comprehensive immigration-reform bill that would have beefed up immigration enforcement while allowing otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants a path to legality. A version of that legislation went down to defeat in June, and McCain now says the loss taught him a lesson.
In South Carolina for a speech, the Arizona senator told the editorial board of The Sun News that his campaign felt so much anger back in June that he has decided the border must be secure before he votes for any attempt at immigration reform, even if he thinks the reform is good policy.
“I haven’t changed my position,” McCain told the Sun News, “but I certainly understand the priority of the people, and that’s secure the borders.”
But it’s not all that clear it really is a priority. Back in June, when anti-immigration zealots were screaming “AMNESTY!” the loudest, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found 63 percent of respondents supported a proposal that “would allow undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for a number of years, and who do not have a criminal record, to start on a path to citizenship by registering that they are in the country, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted, and learning English, among other requirements.”
Which was pretty much what the defeated bill did. A CNN poll in late September still showed 58 percent support.
Memo to John McCain: You can stand up for what you believe and support “the priority of the people,” all at the same time!
Hillary’s waffle during the most recent Democratic debate was less surprising. For the senator from New York, waffling is simply matter of style, That Thing She Does.
First, she reaffirmed that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants “makes a lot of sense.” Then, pressed by Tim Russert, she clarified that “I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize what Governor Spitzer is trying to do.” Finally, after Sen. Chris Dodd said driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants “goes too far,” she finished with “Well, you may say that. But what is the identification if someone runs into you today who is an undocumented worker?”
It wasn’t just a flip-flop. It was a flip-flop-flip. Americans still have no idea where Hillary stands on the matter of licenses for illegal immigrants.
McCain wants to tiptoe around the anti-immigrant zealots he thinks he needs to win. Hillary wants not to offend Hispanic Democrats she needs to win, but she doesn’t want to seem soft on illegals, either.
Both are trying to appeal to their base. Base politicians, is what they are.

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

 

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