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.

NEXT: After the Damascus Spring

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. To be fair, I don’t think the Democrats are itching to nominate Hillary. Hillary is itching to nominate Hillary, and the old Clinton organs — like the DLC — are itching to nominate Hillary, because she owns them.

    But the Democratic party? All I see are polls reflecting name recognition, and the avid politics junkies seem to think she’s about as good an idea as a bad dose of the clap.

  2. Luntz can’t find an intellectual pulse in the party anymore.

    I’ve never understood this sort of conservative two-facing. How can a fiercely anti-intellectual party have an ‘intellectual’ pulse?

    Libertarians, Economists and Alan Bloom don’t really count as they always run into tangles with (the aptly misnamed and neanderthalish) Conservative social policy.

    And big thinking guys like Gingrich don’t really count as intellectuals…’cause…they’re not.

    This pretty much leaves neocons as the only intellectual facet of conservatism…and since they believe that Plato was sending secret messages to them claiming the opposite of what they wrote, they’re pretty much just crazy.

    To which I repeat…What the hell is a Conservative Intellectual?

  3. madpad,

    That sort of thing doesn’t help. Conservatives are conservatives not because they are anti intellectual than you but because they have different value priorities than you.

    Conservative intellectuals are those people who reach the conclusion, among others, that social institutions and common culture are the best way to keep us out of a Hobbesian state of nature.

    I’m not one of these people, but to act as though you can disregard the whole movement as anti intellectual is a bit too easy.

  4. To which I repeat…What the hell is a Conservative Intellectual?

    George Will, Walter Williams, Tony Blankley, Thonas Sowell, Pat Buchanan, etc. Just because you don’t agree with someone, doesn’t mean they’re not an intellectual.

  5. Madpad,

    I guess, by your logic, there are no Democrat intellectuals as they always run into tangles with liberal fiscal policy.

    If so, I agree.

  6. “George Will, Walter Williams, Tony Blankley, Thonas Sowell, Pat Buchanan, etc. Just because you don’t agree with someone, doesn’t mean they’re not an intellectual.”

    Since when?

    Current political orthodoxy on all sides insists that someone who disagrees with you is either:

    a) Crazy
    b) Stupid
    c) Evil

    There’s simply no other possibility, since only that outlook can justify what you are about to do to him in the upcoming campaign.

  7. Again,

    “Evil” is the one in vogue at the moment. “Stupid” is so nineties. My guess is by the end of the decade, we will be using either “non compos mentis” or “cockeyed.”

    whatever polls better.

  8. Saying a party had no ideas is what you do to to run it down when it’s out of power.

    Of course the Republican Party has ideas. They have exactly the same ideas they had three years ago, when Reason was claiming the Democrats were the party with no ideas. Rather than having none, the GOP is following the same pattern of most parties when they fall out of power – having a civil war over ideas. Neocons vs Cold Warriors vs the Buchanan/Lindburgh alliance. Fiscal conservatives vs. Laffer Curve fanatics. People just trying to get rich vs. culture warriors.

    It’s very difficult for the party out of power to get its message out. It doesn’t help that Iraq is sucking all the air out of the room and George Bush is a vacuous chump. Of course the political culture isn’t inundated with talk about Republican ideas.

    Luntz is either kidding himself or fronting. He’s not having fun any more, because the Republicans got their ass kicked, so now he’s going to L.A.

    Home of ideas.

  9. Tony Blankley?

  10. I don’t know about the Republican party having the exact same ideas as three years ago. I remember some lip service about an “ownership society” that I fell for hook, line, and sinker.

    It’s as if the Republicans have dropped all of their decent ideas and just kept the shitty ones (sorry for the non-intellectual use of the word “shitty”).

    I will admit, at least the Dems have kept their good ideas along with their shitty ones.

    There – how’s that for an endorsement?

  11. Tony Blankley?

    Is that to indicate that you’ve never heard of him, or that you do know him and think he’s a nitwit?

    If the former, he’s a columnist for the Washington Times, and a regular panelist on “The McGlaughlin Group”. (The overweight fellow with an english accent).

    If the latter, then we’ll just have to disagree on that. I like him.

  12. Little tip, Morat20:

    Phrases like the old Clinton organs should be avoided at all costs.

  13. Agree on joe’s Blankley question. Lists should not generally include both George Will and Blankley.

  14. The worst thing is when Hillary gets elected, I’m going to be forced to root for these buttloafs to take the house or senate back because one party rule doesn’t work out too well.

  15. RC Dean: I’m glad someone caught it. 🙂

    Still, the only people who seem to be jonesing for a Hillary run are, well, old-time Clintons supporters.

    I see virtually no vast yearning from anyone else — it’s like Kerry 2.0, except no one’s even buying “I’m electable” this time around.

  16. The GOP certainly doesn’t have a lot of new, cool ideas, but I hope it has enough bitterness over the old ideas to split publicly.

    That would be interesting, to say the least.

  17. I am an intellectual lightweight compared with many posters here, but saying that the Repubs have no new ideas without saying that the Dems have no new ideas is silly.

    Seriously – the Dems are wanting to run Hillary and the Repubs are wanting to run McCain and both of them make me want to run screaming into the hills.

    Actually, I almost take that back – with Santorum saying that the pursuit of happiness is harming America, and AG Gonzalez saying that habeus corpus can only be suspended, but it’s not a right – maybe the Repubs have some new ideas, but I don’t like them very much…

  18. This title’s not an MST3K reference, is it?

  19. I wouldn’t call Blankley a nitwit, but his name does look a bit odd in a list of people singled out as being Republican intellectuals.

  20. AG Gonzalez saying that habeus corpus can only be suspended, but it’s not a right –

    Well, lowdog, actually the AG is correct.

    The suspension clause does not establish a right; it imposes stringent conditions for suspending a writ. It should be apparent that when they said the writ couldn’t be suspended, they had something different in mind than the rule that a “right” couldn’t be suspended.

    That, of course, makes sense.

    Habeas is not a right, it’s a really important procedure for a prisoner subject to confinement to enforce substantive federal rights. The constitution contemplates a specific, probably static meaning for the “writ” in the suspension clause.

    That particular conception of the writ is, probably what the writ meant then. Think about it if “the writ” was to be defined dynamically, by statute. Then each time Congress expanded the writ’s availability, that expansion would, by incorporation of a dynamic definition of “writ” in the suspension clause, become a constitutional requirement.

    Once you admit to a static definition of the suspension clause, then you’ve got to look at what the writ did in fact mean in 1789. A creature of British law, as originally codified the writ was available only to prisoners subject to federal confinement. State prisioners couldn’t even petition for the writ until the Union had to superintend Reconstruction in the post-civil war south. The Congress authorized the writ statutorily.

    If the writ was understood to extend to aliens – but i think it was not so understood – then that’s a compelling argument for a constitutional writ requirement applicable to aliens. But even then you don’t get all the way there. Even if the writ, circa 1789, was available to aliens, it is not clear that they could petition as state prisoners or, more to the point – enemy combatants. Gonzalez didn’t phrase anything artfully here, but I do think its defensible, maybe evern correct, to say that we’re not talking about a suspension clause issue here. I also don’t interpret him as saying there are no incarcerees to whom the writ is a constitutional entitlement. He’s just saying that you have to look at the statutes to determine the writ’s availability to those not under the umbrella of constitutional entitlement.

  21. The core ideas of both Team Red and Team Blue seem to involve separating me from significant amounts of my money.

    To that end, they are little more than lavishly funded carnival barkers. And as freakshow attractions, Rick Santorum and Dennis Kucinich have a long way to go to reach Chang and Eng territory. I’m not getting my money’s worth.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.