GOP Tries Out Luntz's Talking Points...On President Obama

May 14, 2009 9:36 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Do House Republicans really think President Obama will fall for Frank Luntz's dirty tricks?

Yesterday, a group of House Republicans including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mike Pence sent a letter to President Obama to "express our sincere desire to...find common ground on the issue of health care reform." According to one GOP aide, the letter "clearly stands in stark contrast to some of the news accounts about a briefing that consultant Frank Luntz gave to some Republican Members."

The aide, of course, was referring to GOP wordsmith Frank Luntz's memo, "The Language of Healthcare 2009." But while good-faith Republican efforts to cooperate with the administration would be a welcome development, the letter from Boehner & Co. was nothing of the sort.  In fact, contrary to the aide's claim, it directly incorporated several of Luntz's obstructionist talking points:

Common Sense

GOP Letter: "We believe it is possible, and necessary, to achieve these objectives through common sense reforms..."

Luntz: "Here is the perfect sentence for addressing cost and the limited role for government that wins you friends rather than enemies: The time has come for a balanced, common sense approach..."


GOP Letter: "...without rationing care..."

Luntz: "The word 'rationing' does induce the negative response you want, but what you really want audiences to focus on is the 'consequences of rationing.' As you can see, 'rationing' tests very well against other healthcare buzzwords that frighten Americans."


GOP Letter: "...or empowering government bureaucrats at the expense of patients and doctors."

Luntz: "The arguments against the Democrats' health care plan must center around 'politicians,' 'bureaucrats,' and 'Washington.'"

The House Republicans obviously knew their letter to the President would receive media coverage. In reality, this was nothing more than a not-so-sneaky effort to spread their anti-reform message to the public while also scoring points for bipartisanship. Or do they really think Obama will fall for Frank Luntz's dirty tricks?