OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – October 31, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – October 31, 2007

    Editor’s note: James Taranto off celebrating the holiday. He’ll be back on Monday, after he’s finished his candy. Please enjoy Political Diary, The Wall Street Journal editorial page’s premier newsletter, in place of Best of the Web..

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Bret Stephens comments on Daryl Hannah’s recent visit to the Ecuadorian Amazon and who’s rightly to blame for years of oil spills.

    October 31, 2007

    In today’s Political Diary:

Correction

Larry Craig is a Republican senator from Idaho, not Wyoming. Apologies to Wyoming (and condolences to Idaho).

— The Mgmt.

Pedestrian Down

Democrats who are nervous about having Hillary Clinton as their nominee had their fears confirmed last night. Mrs. Clinton finally stumbled in her seventh Democratic debate once the other candidates decided to chew on her.

Mrs. Clinton responded to the criticism by retreating to her briefing books, giving rehearsed answers to questions in a too loud, slightly shrill voice. She was pummeled for not releasing White House records kept by the National Archives that would shine light on her claim to be the most experienced candidate based on her service as First Lady.

But her worst moment came when she gave a bizarre answer to a question about a proposal by her fellow New York Democrat, Governor Eliot Spitzer, to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Pressed by Tim Russert about whether she still favors his plan, as she told a New Hampshire paper, she launched into a long defense of it. Then, after Senator Chris Dodd attacked her stance, she interrupted and said: “I did not say that it should be done.”

NBC’s Tim Russert, one of the debate moderators, jumped in and said to her: “You told [a] New Hampshire paper that it made a lot of sense. Do you support his plan?”

“You know, Tim,” Mrs. Clinton replied, “this is where everybody plays ‘gotcha.'”

John Edwards quickly pounced: “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes. America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them.”

Chris Matthews of MSNBC concluded that Mrs. Clinton had put herself in a box: “She will have to come out against giving . . . people in the country illegally a driver’s license. It doesn’t sell.”

I’m not so sure. Mrs. Clinton has always had a soft spot for measures that many election officials say compromise the integrity of the ballot box. She sponsored a major bill to strip states of their right to bar felons from voting, a right many legal scholars say is enshrined in the Constitution.

Governor Spitzer’s plan to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens is equally controversial, in part because anyone with such a license could probably vote in elections with impunity. In order to register to vote, a person must sign an affidavit stating that he or she is an American citizen. “You assume that people don’t lie, and that’s what the form says,” state Board of Elections spokesman Lee Daghlian told the New York Post. “It would be [tough to catch] if someone wanted to . . . get a number of people registered [to vote] who aren’t citizens and went ahead and got them driver’s licenses.” Mr. Daghlian conceded that “nobody checks it” to determine if someone registering to vote is truly eligible.

Because of the federal Motor Voter Law, everyone getting a driver’s license in New York is automatically handed a voter registration form. With New York being home to upwards of 500,000 illegal aliens, the potential for mischief is great, especially since the Spitzer administration has reversed a policy that would have barred the Department of Motor Vehicles from handing out motor-voter registration forms to anyone without a Social Security number.

Politically speaking, supporting driver’s licenses for illegal aliens is an untenable position in a general election. But in the Democratic primaries, the issue is a litmus test for many liberal and immigrant groups backing Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. That helps explain her bizarre obfuscations in last night’s debate, when she showed the first chink in her armor, her first failure to square her appeals to the liberal base with attempts to portray herself as a moderate.

“If she loses the nomination, [last night’s debate] will go down in history as the first step to her defeat — no fatal ‘Dean Scream’ catastrophe, but far from her finest moment, to say the least,” concluded Time magazine political handicapper Mark Halperin.

— John Fund

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Elect and Elect…

He’s lucky the subject didn’t come up in last night’s debate. Presidential candidate Barack Obama is experiencing firsthand the difficulties of rapprochement between Democrats and so-called “values voters.” At his “Gospel tour” in South Carolina over the weekend, he couldn’t have been pleased at how the controversy over famed singer Rev. Donnie McClurkin’s alleged homophobia took center stage, thanks largely to Mr. McClurkin’s own willingness to confront the question openly during his appearance at the event.

The National Black Justice Coalition, a group that describes itself as dedicated to “empowering Black same-gender-loving people,” joined the fray, calling Mr. McClurkin one of gospel music’s “most openly homophobic artists.”

“Openly” being the key word here. No less a liberal icon than the Reverend Jesse Jackson has come up against similar tension, though (with help from the media) he has been more adept at managing it. In 2004, Rev. Jackson told churchgoers in Massachusetts: “Gays deserve the right of choice to choose their own partners” and “if you don’t agree, don’t participate and don’t perform the service,” he said. But he still stood by traditional teaching: “In my culture, marriage is a man-woman relationship.”

— Collin Levy

Quote of the Day

“Forget ‘liberal’: Given a few more weeks like the ones congressional Democrats just endured, and the dreaded L-word they’ll be struggling to shake is ‘losers.’ Children’s health care, government spying, the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire, the toxic ramblings of Representative Pete Stark — you name the issue, Dems managed to get their clocks cleaned in the p.r. battle with a fractured Republican minority led by a lame-duck president only marginally more popular with the American public than Chinese toy manufacturers…. [W]hat in God’s name is wrong with congressional Dems? It’s one thing to lose all your battles when you’re the beleaguered minority crushed beneath the boot heel of a well-liked commander-in-chief and a power-mad congressional majority. But, when you can’t manage to win even one lousy spin cycle under the current politically felicitous circumstances, voters are going to start wondering if you simply don’t have what it takes to govern — if perhaps you really do deserve that 25 percent approval rating” — from an editorial in the latest New Republic magazine.

Scotland’s Coming Boom

The next country to adopt Reaganite tax reduction policies likely will be Scotland. Alex Salmond, who serves as “First Minister” and heads his government’s ruling coalition, was in New York recently to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and deliver a message to the global investor community that his nation is hungry for investment. The occasion was the Royal Bank of Scotland’s new listing on the Big Board.

Mr. Salmond tells me a key part of his agenda is “lowering the corporate income tax from 28% to 10%.” He also sounds a lot like the Gipper when he says he aims to break the country’s “dependency mentality that is restraining growth.”

“I’m a long-time advocate of supply side economics,” he tells me. “We need to rekindle our spirit of enterprise and turn Scotland into a Celtic Lion.” He says Scotland aims to join the “Arc of Prosperity,” a group of fast-growing nations in the region including Ireland, Iceland and Norway. Over the past 25 years Scotland’s growth rate has averaged 1.8%, compared to 2.3% for Europe and more than 10% for the economic gazelle of Europe, Ireland.

In 1900, Scotland was one of the world’s three richest nations in per capita income, but it turned socialist, as so many European nations did, after World War II. It got rich again the easy way in the 1980s with the discovery of North Sea oil. But high taxes have inhibited capitalizing on the petro-dollars to create a sustained economic expansion.

Scotland’s problem now is that it only controls 15% of its tax system. The U.K. has veto power over the rest, including reductions in corporate taxes. But if British P.M. Gordon Brown signs off on the tax cut, Scotland may be able to duplicate the Irish Miracle in the years ahead. “We want to imitate the Irish success story,” Mr. Salmond says. Ireland’s tax-cutting policies aren’t just a model for Scotland but for the U.S., which lately finds itself lagging in global competition because of relatively high tax rates on job creators.

— Stephen Moore

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