Rove Breaks From Luntz: American Health Care System Not "Broken"

June 25, 2009 10:02 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

During the health care debate so far, the Republican leadership has dutifully followed Frank Luntz's obstructionist talking points. Karl Rove has other ideas.

In his Wall Street Journal column today, former Bush adviser Karl Rove writes, "President Barack Obama's political health is deteriorating, threatened by what he thought would be balm -- his ambitious plan for a government takeover of health care." The phrase "government takeover," of course, is straight out of insurance industry-funded pollster Frank Luntz's playbook for obstructing health care reform. But later in the column, Rove strays from the Luntz-mandated course.

After highlighting some extremely unreliable polling by Resurgent Republic -- "a group of GOP consultants" -- Rove explains that the American health care system isn't really in crisis:

Mr. Obama's trashing of American health care as "a broken system" that must be brought "into the 21st century" doesn't resonate with most Americans. They are happy about their health care, doctor and hospital.

Rove's statement, in addition to being wrong, violates one of Luntz's top rules:

Acknowledge the "crisis" or suffer the consequences. If you say there is no healthcare crisis, you give your listener permission to ignore everything else you say. It is a credibility killer for most Americans.

Indeed, when 47 million Americans are uninsured, it is a crisis. When children are kicked off their plans for getting sick or mothers can't get coverage after having a c-section, it is a crisis. When millions more Americans postpone or cancel medical care because they can't afford it, it is a crisis.

At any rate, Luntz is right: Rove should be ignored.