Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Old Grey Mare...

We've been commenting for some time on what we feel is the dangerous nature of the governor's decision to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants-from a philosophical as well as security standpoint. So we were interested in how the governor was going to frame the policy when he spoke down at NYU yesterday.

Obviously, he was going to have to try to buttress the plan from a homeland security standpoint, but we were surprised when he dragged out former national security advisor Richard Clarke to perform this difficult task. As the NY Daily News reported: "Richard Clarke, who served in the Clinton and Bush administrations, disputed Spitzer foes who say giving illegal immigrants government IDs threatens public safety."

Now Clarke, besides being a bitter partisan fellow adept at telling the same story in different ways to different audiences, has the failures of 9/11-no matter the extent to which he bears personal culpability-high up on his resume. Even worse, however, when he was last seen hawking his book on 60 Minutes, he was telling a more disparaging account of the Bush administration than the one depicted in the book itself.

Well, he's baaack! Now he's once again contradicting himself on the drivers license plan for illegals. As the NY Post uncovers, Clarke's current position flatly contradicts the one he laid out last June in an Op-ed piece in the NY Times. According to the Post: "The governor quoted a statement from Clarke saying, "States should act to register immigrants, legal and illegal, who use our roadways as New York is doing." But in June, Clarke said: "The result is that potential terrorists here illegally can easily use phony licenses or, in many states, get real ones issued to them, along with credit cards and all of the other papers needed to blend into our society," he wrote."

Typical Clarke, but what about the amnesia over at the Times? In today's story the paper covers the Spitzer press event, but fails to mention the apparent contradictions in the security adviser's public statements-one that was even published on its own pages! Exacerbating the omission is the fact that the Times covers the Spitzer remarks but fails to address any of the opposition from other security analysts who perceive the governor's plan as a danger to public safety.

Put simply, the story lacks even a rudimentary balance, and concludes with the following tendentious observation: "Even before Mr. Clarke’s statement, some security experts had spoken favorably of the plan, saying it was a way to bring a hidden population into the open and ultimately make the identification system more secure, as well as a way to ensure more drivers are licensed and insured."

Looking at the piece, a Times reader would be hard pressed to understand just why only 22% of New Yorkers support the governor's plan; and the credibility of contradictory Clarke is left unchallenged. Which leaves it up to the NY Post to state the obvious in today's editorial: "Back on June 1, The New York Times published an opinion piece written by Clarke that argued precisely the opposite: "Potential terrorists here illegally can easily use phony licenses or, in many states, get real ones issued to them, along with credit cards and all of the other papers needed to blend into our society . . . Indeed, those arrested for allegedly planning to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey included illegal immigrants who apparently had little difficulty getting along in this country."

If you're looking for a strong reason to explain the decline of the NY Times, this small piece offers as good a rationale as any. In it we find a failure to question official pronouncements because of ideological agreement; and the absence of proper balance that would enable the reader to make her own mind up. The paper needs to find more news that's fit to print, since the current evidence dramatizes a lacuna that's big enough to drive a semi through.