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Federal File: Inside edition

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The Agenda, the new book by the investigative reporter Bob Woodward, details the inner workings of the Clinton White House, and particularly of the development of President Clinton's economic and "investment'' strategy.

The 336-page book describes a contentious decision-making process. In one passage, Mr. Woodward, the assistant managing editor for investigations at The Washington Post, tells of a President who "felt blindsided'' by his advisers and the Congress over changes in his economic package, a five-year deficit-reduction plan that passed last year.

The package reduced the deficit but also included domestic-spending caps, leaving little room to finance Mr. Clinton's "investment agenda,'' calling for spending in such areas as early-childhood health and education reform.

"We're losing our soul,'' Mr. Woodward quotes Mr. Clinton as saying.

As it became apparent that Congress would fulfill few of the Administration's budgetary priorities for fiscal 1994, the book reports, the President asked that three initiatives remain untouchable--AIDS treatment, an expansion of Head Start, and increased funding for police officers.

Mr. Woodward describes Mr. Clinton as a leader who often debates an issue too much before making a decision. The President has difficulty delegating authority, and is torn between helping the working class and seeking approval from elites, according to The Agenda.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley is not mentioned in the book, and education policy is not discussed directly.

But Hillary Rodham Clinton--who comes across as a forceful First Lady with particular influence on the President's message--is quoted saying in a January 1993 meeting that the Clintons' education-reform strategy in Arkansas could be a model for the Presidency.

"'Talk about a long journey,' she said,'' Mr. Woodward writes. "[The Clintons] realized the need for a story, complete with enemies and villains.''

"It took years to see results,'' Mr. Woodward quotes Mrs. Clinton as saying. She argued that by the end of Mr. Clinton's time as Governor, people understood his commitment to education was genuine.

"People have got to understand where he wants to take the country,'' Mrs. Clinton reportedly said.

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