HILLARY AND THE DRIVER’S LICENSES….I was in and out of the room during Tuesday night’s debate, and one of the times I left the room was just as Tim Russert started asking a question about Elliot Spitzer. Turned out he was asking Hillary Clinton about Spitzer’s plan to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and if blogo-buzz is anything to go by it was the question of the night. Here’s the nickel summary: Hillary gave a rambling response explaining what Spitzer was trying to do but without really taking a position. Dodd disagreed with the Spitzer plan (“I think it’s troublesome”) and Hillary then stepped in to muddy the waters some more: “I did not say that it should be done,” she said, “but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it.” That was followed by some crosstalk between Dodd and Clinton, and then by Russert pressing her to give a firm answer (“Do you support his plan?”). Hillary hedged, and never really answered. Video here. Kit Seelye of the New York Times provides the play-by-play:

Both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama called her on what seemed to be a shift in her statement. Mr Edwards said, “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago.” And Mr. Obama uttered a devastating phrase for anyone who remembers the 2004 campaign: he said he couldn’t tell if she is “for it or against it.”

On the license issue, Mr. Obama said that he thinks Governor Spitzer’s plan is “the right idea.”

There’s no question that Hillary’s answer was unusually spineless, especially since she had had plenty of time to think about this. Maybe two solid hours of being a punching bag had gotten to her by that point.

Still, is this really a killer moment? If it is, the bar has really gotten pretty low. I doubt very much that Hillary is going to win or lose the election based on straddling the issue of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. In a Republican primary maybe, but not a Democratic one.

But I could be wrong! Consider this an open thread to chat about the debate.

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