Frank Luntz, the media-friendly Republican consultant and word wiz, told a group of college students this week that Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio are "problematic" for the GOP and partly responsible for the stark polarization within the nation's political discourse. He only dared to speak so candidly about Limbaugh and other conservative hosts off the record. A secretly recorded video, though, captured Luntz's remark.
On April 22, Luntz was holding a talk at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and providing his essential take on political communication: "It's not what you say that matters. It's what people hear." At this event sponsored by College Republicans, Luntz (class of '84) cracked a joke about Nancy Pelosi and face-lifts and acknowledged his party needs to interact more effectively with a wider swath of Americans:
"We can't talk to 51 percent of America. It just doesn't work." And, he emphasized, words matter. (In 2009, Luntz urged GOPers to decry President Barack Obama's health care reform proposal as a "government takeover" in order to defeat it.) Voters, Luntz told the students, respond more positively when a politician refers to "hardworking taxpayers" than to "the middle class." He warned that if his party did not resolve its internal divides, it could lose the House of Representatives next year. source
To be clear, Luntz was not bravely taking on Rush & company, he was under the impression that the conversation or Q&A was the off the record.
Believing he was speaking privately to the dozens of students present, Luntz proceeded to gripe about conservative talk radio and its impact on political polarization:
And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side…[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take—Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy. source
First, in this day in age, when 99% of the audience has recording devises (cell phones), "off the record" no longer exists. When addressing the public, just assume the conversation is being recorded.
Last, the GOP made a Faustian deal with the devil and now their demons are biting them on the arse. Rush, Glen Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and FOX care about sensationalism and ratings more than conservative issues.
Prominent conservative David Frum, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, once observed:
"Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox. And this balance here has been completely reversed. The thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party." source