We usually reserve this section for classics or recently-released gems that might have gone unnoticed, but this book fits neither of those categories. Nevertheless, attention must be paid to this upsetting tome.
“The Plan: Big Ideas for America” is a frightening book. But any Harvard Democrat and anyone who labels himself or herself as “liberal” on facebook.com absolutely must contend with it.
Co-author Rep. Rahm Emanuel is a liberal congressman from Ill., but more importantly, he is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—the main organization behind all Democratic campaigns in the midterm elections. The other author, Bruce Reed, is president of the Democratic Leadership Council, a think-tank that’s held sway over the Dems since Clinton took office.
In short, these are the two men who are writing the playbook for the Democratic Party as we speak. Indeed, this short tome is that playbook. And it’s deeply flawed.
The authors set out a supposedly “non-partisan” list of five changes they think should be made in order to get America back on track. Most of the changes are innocuous enough: universal children’s health care, tax reform, and other Democratic stalwarts make the list.
The only truly outlandish part of their platform is a call for “universal citizen service” in the style of a state like Israel, in which all 18-year-olds would be required to perform a few months of community service and learn some “disaster preparedness” skills. Seems like a good idea, but good luck convincing the public that it’s not a draft.
But never mind that. The crimes of the book, and of the Democratic agenda, lie in their sins of omission.
First off, the book doesn’t make a single mention of abortion, gay marriage, or stem-cell research. The authors, like many in the Democratic Party machine, don’t understand why so many millions of voters care so vehemently about such dilemmas, and would like to pretend they don’t exist.
But it’s inane to write a playbook on winning an election in 2006 and not address the so-called “moral values” issues. It’s also insulting to those who do care about such issues—not all of whom are Republicans.
Second, the book venerates the Clinton Era Democratic Party without recognizing the fact that it only existed because of a statistical miracle named William Jefferson Clinton.
Both authors were top aides in the Clinton White House, and there is absolutely no end to the praise they give themselves and President Clinton, largely focusing on the level of compromise and inclusion that the Democratic Party came to represent in the 90s. Their philosophy is simple, and you can sum it up in the title of an article Reed wrote this summer: “Go Back to What Works—Be Like Bill.”
Yet, those days are gone. The main reason the American South, fiscal conservatives, and religious nuts were able to jump on the same bandwagon was because of the charisma and Southern Baptist heritage of President Clinton. Alas and alack, he cannot run again, and the last time I checked, the 2000 Presidential Election pretty clearly demonstrated that America didn’t want a Clinton White House without a Clinton.
But these are moot points in comparison to the final flaw of the book, and the truly fatal flaw in the current Democratic leadership: vacillation and foolishness on the War in Iraq.
The book speaks of “mistakes” in the war and the goal of creating a “smarter” military without ever defining what those terms mean. Do we need more troops? Fewer troops? Targeted assassinations? A strict timetable? The phrases are empty because the authors want the reader to fill them with whatever he or she desires. It’s classic political swindling.
This book contains absolutely nothing resembling a statement of purpose in Iraq, or a coherent strategy for achieving any goals there. It’s the same hypocritical babble spewed by House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and most other Democrats who aren’t Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
There is one ironic truth that the book hits upon, though. Its opening chapters talk of how Washington is divided between “wonks” and “hacks”—the former being all brains, the latter being all strategy, both useless without the other.
This book is the work of hacks. The title may speak of “Big Ideas,” but the ideas contained within are either small, unworkable, uselessly vague, or downright missing the point.
If this is the Democratic game-plan, November should be a rocky time for liberals.
—Reviewer Abe J. Riesman can be reached at email@example.com.
The Plan: Big Ideas for America By Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed PublicAffairs Out Now