Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Frank Luntz manipulates words to GOP advantage on health care to earn the Media Putz

leave a comment »

Originally published on on August 27, 2009

Frank Luntz


“If you call it a public option, the American people are split. If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.”

— Frank Luntz to Sean Hannity

The MSM is littered with vacuous right-wing talking heads that spout gibberish when they aren’t going off on regimented talking points. But one of those behind-the-scenes people who works with them on the particular of words is Frank Luntz.

Though Luntz spends some time onscreen as a conservative pundit, his primary job is Republican pollster. Or more specifically, “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.”

We are told that politics is a game with winners and losers. After all, this is the way that the MSM covers the action, as if it were a pre-season NFL game.

Frank Luntz is paid and paid well to trip up the opposition, word ballet to get people to oppose something they desperately need, such as higher wages or better access to health care.

Politics used to be about ideas, an exchange to see which idea would be best. But since the GOP lacks ideas, they send in people such as Frank Luntz with no ideas, but armed with deception strategy.

On health care reform, Luntz wrote an extensive 28-page memo earlier this year for talking points not based on reality or truth, but spin.

You’ll notice we recommend the phrase “government takeover” rather than “government run” or “government controlled” It’s because too many politician (sic) say “we don’t want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain” without explaining those consequences. There is a better approach. “In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you’ll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can’t have that in America.”

This leaves out the inconvenient fact that in Canada and Great Britain, politicians don’t make healthcare decisions. They just settle the bill, an example of good government intervention. And “government takeover” isn’t true even if single-payer were on the table (which sadly it is not).

The idea that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” will establish the standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatment based on how much it costs is anathema to Americans. Your approach? Call for the “protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship.” It allows you to fight to protect and improve something good rather than only fighting to prevent something bad.

The status quo destroys any concept of a “personalized doctor-patient relationship.” If Republicans really believed that were true, they would be fighting to get health insurance companies out of the decision-making process. But they don’t because they don’t believe what they are saying. And Luntz knows deep down that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” won’t decide the standard of care. But in Luntz’s world, the truth is meaningless.

And there are intentionally vague statements designed to show empathy that doesn’t exist.

Republicans must be for the right kind of reform that protects the quality of healthcare for all Americans.

All? Quality? Reform? None of those are valid on the Republican side of this debate. The sentence sounds good, but is virtually useless.

And that is part of Luntz’s strategy: getting Republicans to sound like they care when they don’t.

Luntz has been doing this for quite a long time, coming up with words and phrases to sell the invisible platform of GOP ideas. He was involved in creating much of the language back to the days of “Contract with America.” Remember “death tax” for “inheritance tax”? That was Frank Luntz.

Republicans think of Luntz as a “genius wordsmith.” If Democrats played the Luntz game, they would think of him as an “Orwellian wordsmith.”

The use of propaganda is an admission of being on the wrong side, the bad side of the equation. Victory requires that bad becomes good, night becomes day, and cloudy becomes sunny. Truth and justice are laid by the wayside, innocent victims of the propaganda express.

The childhood line about sticks and stones breaking bones ends with “but words will never hurt me.” But in the hands of Frank Luntz, his words have done significant damage to Americans over the years.

Though we aren’t as good with words as Luntz is, there is no other way to phrase this: Frank Luntz is our Media Putz of the week.


Written by democracysoup

August 27, 2009 at 6:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: