Sunday, November 11, 2007

LAT Editorial On Licenses for Illegals Unrealistic

The big newspapers can be realistic. On Pakistan, this morning, both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times take much-needed hard looks at the situation there. The LAT article by Laura King finds that the Pakistani dictator, Pervez Musharraf, is a wilier character than many imagine and says he may be hard to oust from power. It is appropriately the lead story in the newspaper. Meanwhile, also on Page 1, the New York Times reporter Jane Perlez finds there is a lot of distrust for the changeable Benazir Bhutto, the former premier home from exile, but seemingly unable to make up her mind whether to oppose Musharraf or to join him in a coalition.

The L.A. Times, however, isn't doing as well, from a standpoint of realism, when it comes to cover the issue of drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, which has emerged as important in the developing 2008 Presidential campaign.

When this surfaced in a Democratic candidates' debate a couple of weeks ago, it took the L.A. Times political reporters, Mark Barabak and Peter Nicholas, two days to realize it had been the most significant moment in the debate, marking the beginning of at least a temporarily decline in the fortunes of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Then, after New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer began to shy away from his original proposal to grant the licenses in that state, the L.A. Times editorialized that it was a good idea. This is like reopening the barn door after the tiger has gotten inside and eaten one of the horses.

The reason that Spitzer has retreated, and that Clinton hemmed and hawed and finally declined to endorse his original proposal is that it is anathema to many American voters, and they have belatedly found that out.

The political ground has shifted against illegal immigrants. Immigration reforms foundered this year in the Congress. Not only in this country, but in such European countries as Switzerland, Denmark, France, Germany and Britain, the electorate has turned against immigration, and its foes have been faring well in elections. In Europe, it's because Muslims have proved resistant to assimilation. In this country, it's because there have been so many Latino immigrants, many of them illegal, that they are making themselves unpopular in many places, such as Iowa, where the political caucuses Jan. 3 will mark the formal beginning of the 2008 election.

Even as far back as the California Recall election in 2003, political expert Michael Berman cited Gov. Grey Davis' support of a bill to issue drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants as a prime cause of public antipathy to him. Davis could not possibly prevail on such a platform, Berman said, and the election returns proved him right.

By most standards, 2008 should be a Democratic year. The Iraq war, continued fighting in Afghanistan, the crisis in Pakistan, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the declining dollar, even the unsteady leadership of the Federal Reserve Board, all lead to a conclusion the Democrats may win big.

The only way they will not win is probably if they throw away their advantage, either by nominating a way out McGovernite anti-war candidate (not at all likely), or if they assume ridiculous positions out of accord with public sentiment on such issues as the illegals.

The editorial writers of the L.A. Times would push them into that position, if they could. In their editorial Saturday, "A wrong turn in N.Y.," the newspaper castigates Spitzer for "a timid, tiered approach that will serve mainly to embolden those who would rather punish illegal immigrants than improve public safety."

What the Times does not apparently understand is that a very substantial number of voters believe that refusing to accept illegals would improve public safety.

The Times editorial concludes, "The nativists who shouted down Spitzer's original policy, and who object every time this issue is raised in California, want to make driver's licenses a validation of citizenship rather than evidence of having passed a driving test. In doing so, they place their cruelty above their common sense..."

Too bad, but that's where it is these days, and the L.A. Times is spitting into the wind when it argues otherwise. The paper only partially redeemed itself with a serviceable article on the issue by Peter Wallsten on Page 1 this morning. That was welcome, but late. The Times' Washington Bureau needs to get more on the edge of what's happening on the political scene in general.

Spitzer, no fool, is quoted in a New York Times story by Danny Hakim that ran on Saturday, the same day as the LAT editorial, as accepting the political lay of the land.

"Sometimes you put out an idea and there isn't so much support, and you try to persuade people and you see where you go," Spitzer says. "This is the way the world works.

"I don't think there's ever been an executive, a president, a governor, who hasn't put out ideas, that at the end of the day there isn't support, and so things don't work out..."

There's nothing against the L.A. Times being idealistic. But when its idealism leads it to fly into the face of reality, there's no good sense in it.


The so-called political "blog" on the 2008 campaign in the L.A. Times by Don Frederick and Andrew Malcolm has improved a little. It is no longer very dull, but it's still mildly dull. These reporters ought to take a good stiff drink of something before beginning to write.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given your racist rants against Muslims, it's not surprising that you would attack any plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants even though major crime busters in America think this is a sensible plan to keep an eye on them. Your unsubstantiated claim that Hillary Clinton's support of the idea could turn the tide against her is once again an example of your premature articulation.

11/11/2007 12:12 PM  

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