Politicians Who Make Me Hear “Also Sprach Zarathustra”

At times politics remind me of the scene in 2001: A Space Oddysey where the hominid discovers that a thigh bone can break things. Ta da! The club is invented. Strains of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” swell. And of course the hominids go on to use their new tool to whack other hominids.

“Troopergate,” the searing summer saga concerning whether Governor Spitzer’s office improperly used State Troopers to investigate Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s use of state helicopters, had been drawing yawns across the state.  But then Governor Spitzer rescinded a Pataki-era regulation demanding social security numbers in order to obtain a driver’s license. The regulation, which had been put in place to safeguard New Yorkers stick it to sojourners, had apparently been doing more harm than good.

And Spitzer’s opponents had found their new thighbone! Taa — daa — daaaa — TA DAAAA (BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM boom).

At issue:  a passport and other identity documents can be used instead of a social security card. This, as Governor Spitzer says, would let illegal immigrants buy auto insurance and help authorities keep better track of them, since the license applications will be more thoroughly checked under the new plan.  Well, folks, that’ll do it.

As Stephen Stills once sang, “There’s battle lines being drawn…”

ALBANY — The debate over Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s move to allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses heated up Monday, with a number of organizations emerging to support the plan and Republicans who oppose it announcing a public forum.
Ethnic and immigrant organizations came out for and against it. Groups with links to those killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks also lined up on opposite sides of the issue.

“Rather than making an argument based on substance, the Republicans are using the language of desperation,” Spitzer said during a news conference in New York City.

Last week, Assembly Republicans said they would sue to overturn the measure. Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, at the time suggested it would abet terrorists such as 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Tedisco’s bin Laden comment also drew rebukes from ARISE, or A Regional Initiative Supporting Empowerment. Alethia Jones, who heads the Albany group’s immigration initiative, said such allusions amounted to an “unfair and outrageous insinuation equating immigrants with killers and criminals.”

Tedisco replied that such criticism was “typical of Gov. Spitzer and his few supporters. They are attempting to deflect the discussion from the safety and security of all New Yorkers.”

Sa-weet. Can we fit a few more into this stateroom?

While Jones said opponents are unfairly targeting immigrants, another group, You Don’t Speak for Me, which represents people of Hispanic backgrounds who oppose illegal immigration, has registered its opposition to the Spitzer move.

“We are standing together to say to the those who come here illegally and those who would give amnesty to those who have broken our laws, you are wrong,” said Al Rodriguez, the national group’s chairman.

An organization dubbed September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows came out in support of the measure, saying “The broadening of government-issued driver’s licenses protects our safety by ensuring that people are competent to drive and held responsible for infractions of the law.”

Assembly Republicans are planning a forum on the issue at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the state Senate hearing room at 250 Broadway, New York City.

Should be fun.


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