Can We Be Frank About Frank?


Judge not the New Republic by its irritable owner; today, the mag is offering this fine Isaac Chotiner profile of pollster and message guru Frank Luntz, who is leaving Washington for Los Angeles. Luntz, unsurprisingly, is just as fed up with the GOP as the rest of us.

"They are adrift and they are leaderless," he exclaims, his voice rising. "When they came into the House they held a press conference and I was just sickened. It was all complaints about process." His tone shifts to a higher pitch as he mimics a generic Republican lawmaker: "'We're not being allowed to offer amendments; we're not being allowed our time on the floor.' It was the worst sort of partisan whining."

Chotiner thinks this is the sound of a man who's tired of losing.

Talking to him, it's hard not to get the sense that what he really doesn't like about Washington is that Republicans simply are not winning as much. In short, message discipline can't mask what most Americans see as a failed administration and a corrupt party. And, for this message shaper, nothing could be more frustrating.

Without pretending Luntz is any great shakes (remember his recommendations for the GOP back in 1996), you can still consider this unfair. Luntz is clearly annoyed at the GOP's lack of ideas, any ideas at all, as demonstrated by his schoolboy crush on Newt Gingrich. He sounds irritated, as a lot of conservatives (*cough cough*) are irritated at the way the Bush administration's bungling has devolved the GOP, especially how it tolerated the mutation of the GOP Congress into a sort of less-classy House of Lords. It's not that they can't win anymore. Hell, the Democrats are itching to nominate Hillary Clinton, who I don't think is legally allowed to campaign in red states. It's that Luntz can't find an intellectual pulse in the party anymore.