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In Washington these days, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., is making a name for himself as the architect of his party's spirited campaign to retake control of the House. In "The Plan," a new book he has co-written with Bruce Reed, Emanuel sets out to prove he is not the dog about to catch the car he has chased his whole life.
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He knows what to do with it once it is his.
That may be surprising enough. Democrats have received their share of grief from those who say they are bereft of ideas and unable to present an alternative vision of governance after more than a decade as the House's minority party.
What is surprising is the "The Plan" ($20, PublicAffairs Books) itself. Modest in scope, perhaps even timid, "The Plan" is subtitled "Big Ideas for America," but it is not the product of Newt Gingrich-type visionaries from the political left. It is the creation of Emanuel and Reed, two top aides from Bill Clinton's White House who learned the power of small ball and the perils of swinging for the fences. Both were key figures in Clinton's effort - which achieved mixed success - to play down traditional liberalism and reorient his party around centrist "New Democrat" themes.
One of "The Plan's" loftiest ideas - universal college access, financed by a $3,000-a-year refundable tax credit and tuition grants - leaves readers wondering what taxes will be raised or programs will be cut to pay for it. Another idea, a simplified tax system more favorable to the wage-earning middle class, is a wonk's dream, but it may leave a hack cold, and hacks are useful for getting the wonks elected.
"The Plan" reads more like a blueprint for a narrow Democratic majority looking for legislative beachheads before the 2008 election than what the book says it is: "A map to the challenges of a new era."