Frank Luntz sees things differently than the rest of us. As the Talking Points King for the Right, truth is always inconvenient for Frank, which is why he simply ignores it and manufactures his own version. Luntz is the strategist who puts words into the mouths of conservatives on Capitol Hill. (Although, in his defense, there might be other things in the mouth of perennially unsmiling Sen. Mitch McConnell [R-Grumpyland], who appears to be sucking on lemons. No problem. Luntz will turn them into lemonade.)
In Luntz’s world it’s always Opposite Day, because truth needs an antidote. When President George W. Bush wanted to pass a bill to gut environmental laws, raise pollution levels, and make mercury a major food group, Luntz suggested it be named the “Clear Skies Initiative.” It would have been more accurate to call it “Emphysema For All,” but that wouldn’t fit into the Luntz game plan, where the best offense is a good pretense.
When Republican leaders feared passage of the so-called estate tax, which would fairly levy the heirs of the nation’s richest families—leaving them with only a few billion dollars to make ends meet—Frank Luntz said no problem. Just call it the “death tax.” Taxing death sounds bad, right? The dead have probably suffered enough. So now, average Americans oppose collecting revenues that would educate their own children and help provide their own health-care, just so the grandchildren of Wal-Mart’s founder can live like Cleopatra, only with more private jets and fewer asps.
During the buildup to the Iraq invasion, Luntz counseled politicians to never to talk about the war without first saying “9/11,” even though Iraq had nothing to do with it. (Rudy Giuliani apparently misunderstood and chose never to talk about anything without first saying “9/11.”)
Luntz can convince people that black is white, that hot is, in fact, cold, and that night is—really, it’s so obvious to anyone with a brain—day. He can spin voters’ heads around so quickly with his reverse logic that all they can do is stagger bleary-eyed into the voting booth and pull the lever for the GOP, because it has the fewest letters and is easier to read when befuddled.
Luntz is currently passing out talking points to Republicans to counter the Wall Street reform bill. It’s a bill that will prevent the necessity of bailing out Wall Street again. So naturally Luntz says the bill should be defeated because it “bails out Wall Street.”
Following this? Me neither. But the guy is a master of diversion and confusion, because he knows Americans are too busy watching The Biggest Loser to care. Luntz is ubiquitous, and his twisted strategies appear everywhere, even when they’re not. “Clean coal”? Sounds like a Luntzism to me. It’s not, but I’m sufficiently Luntz-twitchy to think it is. “Enhanced interrogation”? That REEKS of Frank Luntz, even if it isn’t. It just shows his influence is everywhere. With Goldman Sachs in hot water for allegedly defrauding investors, one expects to soon see Luntz driving away from its New York headquarters and, minutes later, executives confessing they were just “pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
Making stuff up would be fine if Luntz just kept it to himself. We’d all be better off if every night he put on his Batman pajamas and fought bravely against imaginary henchpersons in his own apartment. (“Mom, Mr. Luntz is fighting his imaginary henchpersons again, and I can hear him through the wall!”) Problem is, Frank Luntz gets out of his apartment way too much. And, sadly, it’s not to go bowling. (“According to my enhanced scoring, that wasn’t a gutter ball. It was a future strike.”)
Luntz is an extremely bright man, and we hope one day he’ll use his genius for good, although, when presenting him with that suggestion, don’t forget to say the opposite, so he’ll understand. In other words, do the wrong thing, Frank Luntz.
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of
Sojourners. His book,
A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., is available at store.sojo.net.