When Russert brought up Congressman Charlie Rangel’s reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax Hillary once again attempted to straddle. She praised Rangel for his efforts but refused to take a clear position on the specifics. As part of a rambling and confusing answer she claimed that Republicans didn’t care about the middle class and that the issue was complicated because there were “a lot of moving pieces.”
But the issue that really tripped up Hillary and ended the debate on a disastrous note for her was New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s plan to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. Tim Russert again used Hillary’s own words to challenge her by pointing out that she had told an editorial board that the proposal made “a lot of sense.”
Hillary quickly blamed the problem on President Bush’s failure to achieve comprehensive immigration reform but seemed supportive of the proposal. Only Senator Dodd spoke up in opposition. But no sooner had Dodd spoken than Hillary jumped in to claim that she didn’t support the proposal but she understood why Spitzer had brought it forward.
When challenged on this confusing claim, Hillary unsuccessfully tried to backtrack and clarify her position. Instead of offering a clear yes or no she complained that people were trying to play “gotcha.” This allowed Edwards to get in one of the zingers of the night: “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.”
Edwards’s quip seemed to capture the entire debate. On the night before Halloween, Hillary’s mask fell off. When challenged she responded with scorn and evasion instead of honest and straightforward answers. She has given voters a glimpse of her less polished side and her opponents an opening to change the nature of the race.
Let’s hope that voters were watching and that her opponents don’t let up.