Nov 14, 2007 1:27 pm US/Eastern
Gov. Spitzer Abandons Driver's License Plan
Mounting Pressure From Democratic Party Forces Change
WASHINGTON (CBS) ―
After enduring weeks of withering political attacks and an outraged public, Governor Spitzer dropped his controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants to get drivers licenses Wednesday.
The pressure on Gov. Spitzer to drop his license plan was intense. Republicans clobbered him with it and the spillover effect hurt Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. It even angered members of Spitzer's own party, still the governor didn't go quietly.
"In New York political forces quickly mobilized to prey on the public's worst fears," said Gov. Spitzer. "Political opponents equated minimum wage, undocumented dishwashers with Osama Bin Laden.
Tenacious has always been Gov. Spitzer's middle name, but the beating he's taken over his plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants turned him into a timid tiger. He dropped the controversial plan with angry rhetoric saying political partisanship did him in.
"It does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic," noted Gov. Spitzer.
From day one, NYS Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno's Republicans, who were angry over Spitzer's troopergate scandal, used the issue to bludgeon him. But a presidential debate question on Spitzer's plan also caused democratic front runner Sen. Hillary Clinton to stumble - which didn't please her one bit.
"I'm against it because people can come in to the state of New York from other states, and give a phony name to get the driver's license after losing their license in another state," said New Yorker Jim Markovic.
Many New Yorkers joined with Sen. Clinton today in breathing a sigh of relief - two out of three told polled said they were against the plan.
"In today's world we need to be as security oriented as possible so everything should be documented," feels Long Island resident Judd Mohel.
Still, the debate raged over whether political partisanship killed the plan.
I think the vast majority - in some cases 70-80 percent of the people opposed this idea," said Staten Island Representative Vito Fossella. "I think that transcended party lines. I think that the core of it is that people are genuinely concerned about security."
Chung-Wha Hong, of the NY Immigration Coalition said he was "very very devastated." He felt the decision was a "direct attack on our political system and the viability of the democratic process."
The governor's about-face came as his popularity went into a freefall. He was elected just a year ago by an overwhelming mandate, but a new poll by Siena college found that 64% of the New Yorkers disapprove of the job he's doing and only 25% think he should be re-elected.
WCBSTV.com's Most Popular Pages
Slideshow: World's Most Bizarre Deaths
Slideshow: 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time
Slideshow: The Coolest Fighter Jets
Slideshow: Lindsay Lohan Grows Up, Or Does She?
Slideshow: Celebrity Sex Tapes Revealed
(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)