Friday, February 01, 2008

Glovey-dovey debate

In last night's lovey-dovey debate, one exchange nicely captured the strain of stepping back from the brink of mortal combat, the balancing act of fighting a two-front war for the nomination and the general election. It was over a question on which both have shown weakness--and both hedged the conflict with multiple acknowledgements of basic unity of approach and of the difficulty of formulating an opinion:

BLITZER: Very quickly, Senator, why not, then, if you're that passionate
about it, let [illegal immigrants] get driver's licenses?
CLINTON:
Well, we disagree on this. I do not think that it is either appropriate to give
a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly,
at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally, and I
believe it is a diversion from what should be the focus at creating a political
coalition with the courage to stand up and change the immigration
system.
OBAMA: The only point I would make is Senator Clinton gave a number
of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did
appear political.
Now, at this point, she's got a clearer position, but it
took a whole and...
CLINTON: Well...
OBAMA: I'm just being -- just in
fairness. Initially, in a debate, you said you were for it. Then you said you
were against it. And the only reason I bring that up is to underscore
the fact that this is a difficult political issue
.
From my
perspective, I agree with Bill Richardson that there is a public safety concern
here and that we're better off, because I don't want a bunch of hit-and-run
drivers, because they're worried about being deported and so they don't report
an accident. That is a judgment all.
But I do think it is important to
recognize that this can be tough and the question is who is going to tackle this
problem and solve it.

Many of the solutions that Senator Clinton just talked about are
solutions that I agree with
, that I've been working on for many years,
and my suspicion is whatever our differences, we're going to have big
differences with the Republicans, but I think a practical, common sense solution
to the problem is what the American people are looking for.
CLINTON: Well, I
just have to correct the record for one second, because, obviously, we
do agree about the need to have comprehensive immigration
reform.

And if I recall, about a week after I said that I would try
to support my governor, although I didn't agree with it personally,
you
So this is a difficult issue and both of us have to
recognize...
... that it is not something that we easily come to, because we
share a lot of the same values.
OBAMA: I
agree
.
CLINTON: We want to -- we
want to be fair to people. We want to respect the dignity of
every human being, every person who is here. But we are trying
to work our way through to get to where we need to be and that is to
have a united Democratic Party, with fair-minded Republicans
who will join us to fix this broken immigration system.

In fact, most of the unity gestures here were coming from Clinton. Obama was on the attack, albeit politely. Probably the burden of voter backlash over the attacks of the last few weeks sits more heavily on Clinton. And perhaps she's come to recognize that she reinforces her remaining front-runner strength when she bids to speak as head of a unified party.

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