Frank Luntz to GOP: Tout ‘Washington’s incompetence’ to kill financial reform
WASHINGTON — Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz turned many heads this summer when he penned a report detailing how the GOP can sink health care reform. Now, a new document indicates he’s at it again, this time plotting to kill financial regulatory reform.
Like his health care paper, Luntz’ new 17-page memo dated January 2010, titled “The Language of Financial Reform,” — obtained by the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein — focuses on framing the issue in a way that generates distrust among constituents toward President Obama and Democrats’ reform proposals.
The central advice Luntz offers Republicans is to exploit voter distrust for government and create the impression that any financial reform legislation would lead to “bad decisions and harmful policies” from “Washington bureaucrats” — rather than solutions.
“This is your critical advantage,” Luntz writes. “Washington’s incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support.”
Luntz cites various polls illustrating Americans’ disillusionment with Congress, one of which shows that 81 percent believe that it regulates financial markets “somewhat ineffectively” or “very ineffectively.”
Still, Luntz declares — as he indicated in his health care memo — that “the status quo is not an option” so Republicans shouldn’t say they implicitly oppose any effort at all. “You must be on the side of change. Always… The Pain felt by the crisis is real and omnipresent.”
He also suggests Republicans “broadcast” any “lobbyist loopholes” and liken any financial regulatory overhaul effort to the Wall Street bailout. “Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout,” he writes.
Luntz zeros in on how the GOP can kill the Consumer Financial Protection Agency — a new program passed in the House reform bill that’s designed to protect customers from predatory lending — which consumer advocates and progressives strongly support and conservatives oppose.
He suggests they portray it as an example of “government excesses” rather than market excesses. “We don’t need another Federal government agency. We don’t need bigger government,” he recommends Republicans say.
“Ordinarily, calling for a new government program ‘to protect consumers’ would be extraordinarily popular,” he writes. “But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying ‘no.’ They are saying ‘hell no’ to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests.”
Luntz’ approach to undermining Obama and Democrats reflects a common theme in Republican ideology and the conservative movement: anger and distrust for government.
So effective has Luntz been at GOP messaging that President Obama publicly slammed him for using political “tactics” that aren’t helpful in “solving problems,” in last week’s nationally televised Q & A session with House Republicans.
“I see Frank Luntz up here sitting in the front,” Obama said. “He’s already polled it, and he said… I’ve done a focus group and the way we’re going to really box in Obama on this one or make Pelosi look bad on that one.”
“But that’s how we operate. It’s all tactics, and it’s not solving problems.”