Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Licensing Humility

Bill Hammond has some useful advice for Governor Spitzer in his column today in the NY Daily News. Hammond urges the governor to issue modified licenses to illegal immigrants that clearly identify their immigration status: "A two-tiered licensing system would allow Spitzer to achieve his worthy goals without taking such a bloody beating in public opinion...He could still encourage many of New York's 1 million illegal immigrants to put their names, addresses and photographs into the Department of Motor Vehicles database - providing an invaluable resource for law enforcement. But he would also show a healthy respect for the 72% of New Yorkers who think licensing illegal immigrants is a lousy idea."

You think the governor's gonna do this? We hope so, because it would be a clear recognition that we don't live in a political "Father Knows Best" world-that's on steroids. Part of governing is listening to the electorate, and sometimes admitting-as Ed Koch used to do-that a mistake's been made.

The problem here is that the governor doesn't want to create a so-called second tier license that would, in the words of his aides, " brand people with scarlet letters." This kind of thinking is an insult to all of the New Yorkers-both immigrants and native born-who are here legally and are law-abiding. Folks who think like this-like State Senator Kevin Parker, who branded the governor's opponents "racists," are on the fringe of the state's political spectrum.

Finally, as Hammond highlights, the governor, by demonstrating humility and good sense, could regain some of his lost political footing-and undue damage that threatens his party all over the state: "By making this concession to the reasonable concerns of the people who elected him, Spitzer would demonstrate that he can and does respond to criticism - and live down his reputation as a steamroller who tries to flatten anyone who gets in his way. He would begin to make up for the ham-handed way he introduced the plan, announcing it as a done deal without inviting public comment or even consulting his fellow state leaders."