Back during the heated days of the Democratic primary, Sen. Barack Obama made a crucial decision to appeal to his party’s most liberal base: He embraced the idea of giving driver’s licenses to any illegal immigrant who wanted one.
Hillary Clinton decided to oppose such a concept. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, warned her she could not win the general election taking such a position.
Now, if a Republican group has its way, Obama will suffer defeat at the polls for supporting such a program.
The National Republican Trust Political Action Committee (NRTrust PAC) has launched a new TV ad hitting Obama on the issue of licenses for illegals, linking his position to the devastating terror attacks of Sept. 11.
VIDEO: NRTP: Obama Wants Driver’s Licenses for Illegals
“Nineteen terrorists infiltrate the U.S.,” the 30-second NRTrust ad begins.
“Thirteen get driver’s licenses. The 9/11 plot depended on easy-to-get licenses,” a women narrator reveals as images of a burning World Trade Center are juxtaposed with a mock up of Mohammed Atta’s Florida driver’s license. Atta was fingered as the ringleader of the 9/11 terror attacks.
“Obama is the most radical liberal ever to be nominated by the Democratic Party,” Scott Wheeler, executive director of the NRTrust, told Newsmax. “The driver’s license is just one of many issues that proves it.”
His Web site [www.nationalrepublicantrust.com] cites a 2007 Rasmussen poll showing that 77 percent of voters oppose granting illegal immigrants driver’s licenses.
A recent Newsmax/Zogby poll on the question found that 46 percent of voters said they would be less likely to vote for Obama if he backed the idea of driver’s licenses for illegals. (Thirty-eight percent of voters said they were “much less” likely to vote for him under those circumstances.)
The Zogby data suggests the issue could hurt Obama across party lines. Almost 20 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents said they would be less likely to vote for him if he backed such a license plan.
Though white voters strongly opposed Obama’s plan (50 percent), core Democratic groups also were negative on the issue, with 29 percent of Hispanics and 42 percent of blacks saying they would be less likely to vote for him with such a plan.
Wheeler’s group quotes political strategist Dick Morris as praising NRTrust as “a very effective organization” and saying the driver’s license issue could “make a huge difference on Election Day."
Wheeler says his group has raised $500,000 and has close to 10,000 donors. He has raised his organizations profile by advertising on conservative Web sites, including ads on Newsmax, Human Events, GOPusa, and other sites. His organization said it is rolling its first ad in key swing states this weekend.
Hillary vs. Obama on Driver’s Licenses
The controversy over driver’s licenses for illegals was touched off in September 2007 when then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer ordered state officials to grant them licenses.
The issue drew more attention during the October 2007 Democratic primary debate at Drexel University, when Sen. Hillary Clinton fumbled a question from the late Tim Russert over whether she supported Spitzer’s plan.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Clinton said. “What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed. And George Bush has failed . . . We should have passed immigration reform.”
Obama jumped on Clinton’s answer as unclear, saying he still couldn’t tell whether she supported granting driver’s licenses to illegals. But Obama left little doubt where he stood on the issue.
“I think that it is the right idea,” Obama declared, adding that licensing and insuring illegals is “a public safety concern.”
“We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer,” he said. “That doesn’t negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.”
In the days that followed the Drexel debate, critics blasted Spitzer’s proposal. Polls showed that the issue was sinking Spitzer’s approval ratings even in heavily Democratic New York.
Critics warned that giving illegal immigrants licenses would be a security nightmare, allowing terrorists to travel on planes, rent trucks and vans, and move about the country with ease, and without detection or scrutiny.
In October 2007, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called Spitzer to voice concerns that New York’s initiative could undermine federal plans to enhance security and improve documentation.
In the aftermath of 9/11, authorities reported that the 19 terrorists involved in the attacks had obtained 13 driver’s licenses, plus 21 federal or state-issued ID cards.
The Wall Street Journal reported that eight of the 9/11 terrorists were registered to vote.
About two weeks after the call from Chertoff, Spitzer announced he would drop his proposal.
The political fireworks in the Democratic primary were just beginning, however. The day Spitzer withdrew his driver’s license plan, Clinton released a statement saying, “I support Governor Spitzer’s decision today to withdraw his proposal.
“As president,” she continued, “I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people, and will press for comprehensive immigration reform that deals with all of the issues around illegal immigration including border security and fixing our broken system.”
During the November Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, moderator Wolf Blitzer raised the issue again, asking Obama whether he supported driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.
Obama began by recounting that he had vigorously promoted the concept in the Illinois State Senate, where he said he voted to train, license, and insure illegals to operate motor vehicles, to “protect public safety.”
Not satisfied with that response, Blitzer asked again whether Obama supported granting licenses to illegals. This time, it was Obama who appeared to waffle.
“This is the kind of question that is sort of available for a yes-or-no answer,” Blitzer responded, drawing laughter from the audience.
Asked a third time whether he supported licenses for illegals, Obama eventually answered: “Yes,” but quickly added that he would fight for comprehensive immigration reform to address larger issues.
Wheeler argues that Obama’s position in support of licenses to help public safety is ludicrous.
“Imagine if a potential terrorist enters the U.S. but has no history of previous terror activity or has changed their identity,” Wheeler says, adding, “How does Obama weed such dangerous people out before giving them a driver’s license? You can’t.”
Sen. John McCain has stated he opposes driver’s licenses for illegals. He also has stated his opposition to any benefits for those who “have come here illegally and broke our law.”
In a February 2007 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, McCain said, “It would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first, and only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration.”
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