Has Luntz gone Ronin?

Pat Ryan

So I saw the name of our own true nemesis Frank Luntz on my Google Sidebar this AM and followed a link from Seeing the Forest to Mr. Luntz's latest recipe for success. Little twist from the usual Luntz output in that he's trying to tell Dems how to win.Ronin79


If you haven't already clicked away, Frank has been the one real rhetorical threat from the Right since 1994 when he wrote the script for Newt Gingrich to take the House away from the Dems. He is the guy that designed some of the most effective Repub soundbites that we've had to fight over the past 12 years.

Remember The Death Tax, Partial-birth Abortion, Tax Relief, Marriage Penalty, and Personal Accounts? The amiable and sunny Mr. Luntz invented them all.

So why is talking to us now? I mean he has thrown us some bones in the past and his dead on take on Kerry in October of '04 is still banging arond in my head, but now he's got a 25 page PDF out that he's touting as a recipe for Dem success. Apparently, in the waning years of the Bush regime, he is faced with poor prospects in the Repub house as he and the new whip, John Boehner, got sideways in an earlier powerplay where Luntz correctly backed DeLay for Whip. Since the worm has turned in the House, he may be looking around for a new client base, and I say that we should grab him as an asset.

Now a bunch of caveats.

First, you have to bear in mind that he's using Dems likely to vote in the Iowa and New Hamshire primaries as his demographic sample, so you get little sense of where Joe Sixpack might come down in the general election.

Second, his distillation of strategy which he calls his Ten Commandments includes plenty of dumb ideas like Leave Bush out of it and excludes some ideas that cannot be left out Like the Iraq war and US foreign policy in general, but to my mind, this is where he's weakest.

Third, he's only addressing the presidential candidates for '08, and we're trying to win in Oregon in '06.

Fourth, I think that Frank's conclusions are more often than not a product of Thin Slicing as defined by Malcolm Gladwell in his recent book Blink. This means to me, that I don't need to spend a lot of time puzzling over how he claims to arrive at his conclusions, but can focus on the conclusions themselves.

Where I find value is in the PDF where he has the cutest little boxes divided into categories called Words That Work, and Words That Don't Work. Since he is primarily a framer and manipulator of rhetoric, as opposed to Rove et.al. who are masters of strategy and tactics, you can safely ignore some of his goofier Big Picture ideas, but the little details and his delivery advice is spot on even for local Oregon races.

This guy is to Lakoff what a Gambino Family assassin is to the Tonya Harding Clown Posse. We should use this stuff. Not blindly, but we should still use it.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    taking Luntz on board would be equivalent to asking Rove to help with a presidential campaign. i'm all for winning, but not at the cost of my soul. and Luntz' legacy is nothing but shameful.

    besides, we have no need of him. yes, he's clever, but we've finally figured out his game. George Lakoff deconstructed the hell out of him several years ago; get a copy of "Don't Think of an Elephant" and you'll know all you need about Luntz and his tricks. we've gotten ahold of framing, and we're figuring out the need to create our own institutions. just because Kerry ran a horrible campaign does not mean we turn to slimewads like Luntz. we can create slogans and frames that are honest and effective. Luntz cannot.

    he's lost his base? good. screw him. let him get a real job.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    His suggestion to leave Bush out of it is on the money. Bush is finished. Attacking his policies makes sense - the Republicans will feel compelled to defend them and attach themselves to him in the process. But people don't care whether George Bush lied or not, they want to know what to do about the mess we have created in Iraq. They want to know something will be done. They don't care whether he knows Jack Abrahamoff or not. They want to know what is going to be done to end the corruption in Washington. They don't care whether he knew the levies were likely to be breached, they want to know what will be done to restore federal disaster preparedness.

    But they don't care about George Bush any more and they certainly don't want to be told over and over again that they made a stupid mistake by reelecting him.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Seems to me that this is a gift Remember The Death Tax, Partial-birth Abortion, Tax Relief, Marriage Penalty, and Personal Accounts? The amiable and sunny Mr. Luntz invented them all. Partial Birth Abortion is not what the medical textbooks say. Estate Tax only hits people above what income level? Tax Relief is only tax cuts for the wealthy. Marriage Penalty only hits married couples with a certain income level. Personal Accounts really means privatizing Social Security.

    It is my experience that those from Republican staffers to just ordinary folks find it very interesting that some people notice when rhetoric doesn't match actual votes. To the extent we are informed and can point this out to people, I think that will work well in a year when many are fed up with the legislature.

  • (Show?)

    Luntz, with his lies and distortions has dominated the discourse for several election cycles. He has a proven track record, and his bag of tricks as deconstructed by Lakoff misses the point utterly.

    Lakoff is a Berkley professor and expert on linguistics, semantics, or whatever. He has written the Gospel on how framing works. His efforts at framing, however have seemed pretty lame to me.

    They are differing skillsets. To understand a how a theory or process works as a tool is an entirely different thing from mastering the use of the tool.

    <hr/>

    If we can learn at all, we should learn from success. We should definitely look to Lakoff for theory, but we don't have to ape the Republican Spin Machine in all of its details, to benefit from this guy's smarts.

    Ifn you have the time and can supress your gag reflex, go have a look at the little boxes in the PDF. I suspect that you'll get at least one or two good jolts from some of the recommended language and disagree with a lot more of it.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    "Framing". If I hear that one more time... Just tell the truth backed up with facts.

  • (Show?)

    Just tell the truth backed up with facts.

    We tried that.

    Twice.

    Didn't work.

    Time to quit deluding ourselves that facts unspun have anything at all to do with winning.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Quality of candidates means as much as message. As someone once said while running for office the first time "If people don't like you they won't listen to you".

    A neighbor across the street says he is a conservative Republican but he'll vote for someone he disagrees with who is consistent over someone who is inconsistent.

    I don't think the perfect "framing of issues" by an unappealing candidate who isn't consistent and doesn't run an energetic campaign will always win.

    Kerry didn't appeal to everyone, that doesn't mean he didn't get more votes than Reagan in 1984. Don't let that influence Oregon elections. Did Kerry win in Oregon by framing alone, or by active volunteers and organization? As Willie Brown once said, "use every tactic, do everything, and hope it is enough--there is no one magic tactic or strategy which always wins".

  • Billy Bob (unverified)
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    Is it just me, or does anyone else get the fact that until we not only understand the rules -but know the plays- of the other team... we can't beat them at their own game?

    Oh, right - we've figured out their game, and we're clearly winning the war of messaging.

    I have no intent of selling my soul, or anyone else's, to win - but I'm certainly not going to ignore the fact that Luntz is the master not only of messaging, but of communicating the message.

    Of course, we should take his 'gift' with several grains of salt. But if you read Lakoff's 'Elephant'and think you've got it all down - you only got the Cliff Notes version of 'Moral Politics'.

    And if you really think Cliff Notes are enough to get us the win, I've got some old term papers you might be interested in ...

  • dan (unverified)
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    Heck with Luntz, the guy you (I'm an independent) should be trying to replicate in your own lefty ways is Newt, and 1994. Newt and his freshmen congressmen had:

    1. A plan.
    2. A plan.
    3. A plan.

    A plan. A "Contract With America," that spelled out exactly what they were for -- as a bloc -- and more importantly, what they would do. Despite the spinning ("Contract On America," heheheh), they sold it and they did it. They won, and they acted.

    So, I know what I think of the president, and I know what you think of the president. So what? What do you stand for, specifically? What will you do if elected? Why are you worth hiring? What are the ideas -- not the issues only, but the ideas -- that you'll stand for, grit your teeth and work with the other side to accomplish?

    Education? Health care? The environment? Those are issues. What are your ideas about those issues that make you worth electing?

    Those are the things the rest of us want from a political party. Your party.

    Dan

  • dan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Heck with Luntz, the guy you (I'm an independent) should be trying to replicate in your own lefty ways is Newt, and 1994. Newt and his freshmen congressmen had:

    1. A plan.
    2. A plan.
    3. A plan.

    A plan. A "Contract With America," that spelled out exactly what they were for -- as a bloc -- and more importantly, what they would do. Despite the spinning ("Contract On America," heheheh), they sold it and they did it. They won, and they acted.

    So, I know what I think of the president, and I know what you think of the president. So what? What do you stand for, specifically? What will you do if elected? Why are you worth hiring? What are the ideas -- not the issues only, but the ideas -- that you'll stand for, grit your teeth and work with the other side to accomplish?

    Education? Health care? The environment? Those are issues. What are your ideas about those issues that make you worth electing?

    Those are the things the rest of us want from a political party. Your party.

    Dan

  • Dennis (unverified)
    (Show?)

    His suggestion to leave Bush out of it is on the money. Bush is finished. Attacking his policies makes sense - the Republicans will feel compelled to defend them and attach themselves to him in the process. But people don't care whether George Bush lied or not, they want to know what to do about the mess we have created in Iraq. They want to know something will be done. They don't care whether he knows Jack Abrahamoff or not. They want to know what is going to be done to end the corruption in Washington. They don't care whether he knew the levies were likely to be breached, they want to know what will be done to restore federal disaster preparedness.

    But they don't care about George Bush any more and they certainly don't want to be told over and over again that they made a stupid mistake by reelecting him.

    We are in this mess because of an ignorant electorate that doesn't know enough about the issues to make informed decisions. And without holding those responsible to account, the electorate never will learn.

    The stage for our current miasma was set in 1974 when instead of being charged and tried in a court of law, Gerald Ford (at the urging of his Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney) pardoned Nixon. Congress then proceeded to enact a laundry list of laws that prevented future Presidents from being able to assault Americans' constitutional rights and protections as Nixon had done. Along with those, Congress changed the rules governing how legislation would be passed. For instance, being able to add amendments wholly unrelated to a piece of pending legislation at the last minute - like putting an amendment to drill in ANWR on a continuing budget resolution, something that has to get passed by midnight and signed into law if the government is to remain open for business or an ongoing war doesn't get interrupted due to unpaid bills. That happened as a result of Watergate. And instead rescinding that rule and going back to the original method, the fix that the less-than-stellar minds we elect to serve in Congress keep trying to pass the line-item veto. Like Bush hasn't assumed enough unilateral power for the Executive.

    The abuses taking place today by Bush and Cheney are happening because the People of America have let it happen. Until and unless Americans get involved and aware, they will lose all that they hold dear and have taken for granted.

    In the last 6 years, all of the checks that Congress put in place following Watergate have been removed by Bush and Cheney. We have a rogue President, a monarch, who claims that he is not bound by any laws. He believes he can ignore or change the law at his whim.

    While Ross may think that "Bush is finished," Bush is still in office, he continues to break the law and spy on Americans without judicial or legislative oversight, he has (and may still be) denying American citizens' right to due process, kidnapping, torturing and murdering on his own authority.

    The fact that it continues, the fact that Americans haven't taken to the streets, haven't marched on Washington, haven't shut down the government is a testament to the fact that Americans must become informed about the responsibility of the citizen in a democratic republic.

    That is only going to happen when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove, Lewis Libby, Douglas Feith, Stephen Hadley, Paul Wolfowitz, John Yoo, Albert Gonzalez, and many more in this administration are held to account in a court of law. And after American courts throw the book at them, the Hague should as well.

    It really IS that serious.

  • Jean (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Hey Pat,

    I finally got over here to see what you've been writing about. Interesting PDF you directed us to, but as far as, " Since the worm has turned in the House, he may be looking around for a new client base, and I say that we should grab him as an asset.", anyone with enough bucks can grab him. If you haven't seen it, check out who his company has done reasearches for: http://www.luntz.com/recentfindings.htm

    As long as we have a vulnerable voting system, I don't care what spin you put on what or how well it's spun, the only thing that got framed last election was the voter that thought they participated in a real election. While we like to think we're safe with our mail elections....the vote in Oregon is tabulated on the same systems that are oh-so hacker friendly.

    I enjoyed reading your other writings too.

  • LT (unverified)
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    While we like to think we're safe with our mail elections....the vote in Oregon is tabulated on the same systems that are oh-so hacker friendly.

    So, you have talked to your country clerk who told you that? As I recall, there are counties in this state which bought software they program themselves.

  • Jean (unverified)
    (Show?)

    LT writes: So, you have talked to your country clerk who told you that? As I recall, there are counties in this state which bought software they program themselves.

    <hr/>

    I didn't mean to imply that any hacking went on in Oregon, but hacking these systems is easy. Oregon counts our vote on ES&S and Sequoia. I don't have time to explain it all, but you can check it out for yourself at Blackboxvoting.org to see how easy they are to hack. Hacking can even occur during transmition to the central tabulator.

    <hr/>

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