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Tilting at Windmills

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May 6, 2009

WHAT TO SAY, WHAT NOT TO SAY.... Over the weekend, at the first event hosted by the National Council for a New America, Eric Cantor, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney were asked about what Republicans would do to reform the health care system. Cantor answered by criticizing England and Canada.

This morning, Cantor appeared on MSNBC and was asked, "[W]ithout the pretty language, without the big words, can you tell me: what's your health plan, what's it going to cost, how are you going to get it done, how can you work with the Democrats ... in coming up with a health plan that works for everyone?" Cantor couldn't answer this either.

So, it looks like GOP leaders still need a little help coming up with a policy they support. According to the Politico's Mike Allen, however, Republicans have a very clear framework on a policy they hate.

[Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster/consultant,] says Republicans should warn against a "Washington takeover" of health care, and insist that patients would have to "stand in line" with "Washington bureaucrats in charge of healthcare." [...]

Adding a personalized patina to familiar conservative arguments, Luntz also urges Republicans to say that "One-size-does-NOT-fit-all."

And he suggests they steer constituents toward keep the "current arrangement by asking at "every healthcare town hall forum": "Would you rather ... 'Pay the costs you pay today for the quality of care you currently receive,' OR 'Pay less for your care, but potentially have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatments you need.'"

Luntz's memo apparently goes on to urge Republicans to tell the public the Democratic plan "could lead to the government setting standards of care," "puts the Washington bureaucrats in charge," and "could lead to the government rationing care, making people stand in line and denying treatment like they do in other countries with national healthcare."

There are, not surprisingly, a few problems with this. First, it's deceptive propaganda. Second, we already have rationing and people standing in line for care under the status quo. Third, Mike Allen reported all of this without so much as a hint of analysis about whether Luntz's arguments had any merit.

And finally, as Greg Sargent noted, it's also terribly familiar: "[I]f Luntz and House GOPers were hoping this new linguistic strategy would help the party recast itself as ready for today's challenges -- and not trapped in the past, as Dems have sought to portray them -- they have a bit of a problem. That's because the language echoes, to a striking degree, the same language that was used in the infamous 'Harry and Louise' ads to defeat health care reform back in 1993 -- 16 years ago."

How bad has it gotten? This morning, Joe Scarborough said, "It seems to me the Republican Party has to do one of two things: either they come up with an alternative or they stay off the stage.... Talking in generalities is not going to do it. They're going to have to come up with a plan of their own."

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Third, Mike Allen reported all of this without so much as a hint of analysis about whether Luntz's arguments had any merit.

It doesn't appear to me Luntz's is making an argument, just manufacturing slogans.

Unless by argument you mean he is saying this is the only thing the Repubs can do.

Posted by: martin on May 6, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Tax Cuts!

Posted by: motobass on May 6, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Third, Mike Allen reported all of this without so much as a hint of analysis about whether Luntz's arguments had any merit.

Imagine that.

Used to be, a journalist's job was to report the news, and report the facts. The latter has been replaced with the 'there's always both sides to an issue' mantra, and facts are reduced to mere annoyances precluding good copy.

Posted by: terraformer on May 6, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans DO have a plan: To disrupt the process as much as possible. If that means deceiving the public, lying to the public, blocking any legislation, or inserting any number of poison pills into the legislation, that's what they'll do. They're not concerned with any actual policy outcome--the object of the exercise is to make liberals made.

And that, in a nutshell, is the conservative philosophy of governance.

Posted by: Domage on May 6, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

OK, but if the GOP think that the status quo is the best of all possible systems, what are they supposed to do?

Posted by: davidp on May 6, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

"...we already have rationing and people standing in line for care under the status quo."

The Republicans have a ready answer for that: only if you define "people" to include poor people.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 6, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

"OK, but if the GOP think that the status quo is the best of all possible systems, what are they supposed to do?"

Stand up and say so. Prove it, back it up. For me, a system that has 45 million lacking coverage, $700 billion in overuse per year, and nearly 100,000 deaths due to medical error per year is pretty much indefensible, but hey, GOPers, if you want to stand up and say that everything is hunky-dory, be my guest.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on May 6, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I think fearmongering and giving the rubes willies will probably be a successful strategy. Why get bogged down in policy debates?

Posted by: steve duncan on May 6, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Y'know, 8 times out of 10 Morning Joe is just like any other GOP media shill, but every so often he goes off message in a rather direct and unmistakable way and sticks a knife into the Republican Party's ribs. I still get a charge over his on-air hysterical laughing over looney Glenn Beck's antics. I guess that's why I can't gin up the disdain for him that I have for virtually all other cable news meatheads. Just my weakness I guess.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 6, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

"They're going to have to come up with a plan of their own."

The republicans have come up with a plan of their own!

First, you have all rethug pols and Rushbo and the other hate-talk media babble about socialism and lie about the effectiveness and cost of health care in the other industrialized countries that have single payer systems.

Second, you have the corporate media do their job as echo chamber and amplifier for the rethugs.

Third, you have the health care industry spend a fortune on advertising to confuse the amerikan public. Of course this will feature Rick Scott, the poster boy for the health care industry.

Fourth, you have the health insurance and health care and pharmaceutical industries spend a fortune buying politicians to keep a public option from being part of the 'reform'.

With dumbocrap senators on board for this plan, it will probably be successful. Having Ben Nelson already speaking out in favor of the health insurance industry and with Evan Bayh's wife on the board of directors of Wellpoint (health insurance company) is only the visible starting point.

Of course, the rethugs have a plan! It is to prevent a public option and to turn 'reform' into a steady stream of increased profits for the health insurance industry. That they will not formally admit this is their plan does not make it less of a plan.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on May 6, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

My thoughts exactly, DavidP. Essentially, Luntz is advocating that the GOP message be: our healthcare system ain't broke, so why fix it? The fatal problem with that line, obviously, is that the public overwhelmingly believes the opposite - that in fact our healthcare system a) sucks, and b) is wildly overpriced. Running around insisting that the U.S. has the best healthcare system in the world will keep the GOP on the road to irrelevance. Happy trails fellas.

Posted by: pinson on May 6, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Don't get so down on Frank Lutz. He is very good at his job, which is to focus group slogans to determine which will be most effective in convincing the amerikan publik to continue liking getting raped by rethugs.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on May 6, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

For all those politicians who doesn't want "government health care" I would ask them, who provides their health care and how much does it COST THEM??? Don't they have Government or state run healthcare? Or do they have private insurance? Do you think any private insurance company would cover John McCain or ANYONE in the Senate or Congress that are over 55???? Yet there are MANY who are.

Posted by: Elsie on May 6, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Focus group tested propaganda from a Republican pollster. Talking points in place of policy recommendations.

Posted by: grinning cat on May 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

OR 'Pay less for your care, but potentially have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatments you need.'"

This would happen under a Republican administration. In fact it would probably be worse than that.

Posted by: Danp on May 6, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

btw/ I belive it was Luntz that final drove the Palin nomination home for the right wing. He had his focus grouped talking points in the middle of the summer and they told him and the Republicans to pick someone that was a real reformer that stood up to special interests and corporate lobbyists.

Posted by: grinning cat on May 6, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Allen reported all of this without so much as a hint of analysis
Pick a topic; that does seem to be his default position.

Posted by: Strangely Enough on May 6, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that when your party's philosophy revolves around "government is the problem", as opposed to government, as the representative of the people, being able to solve problems, then you can't offer much in the way of solutions.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 6, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK


Here's a talking point I'd like to see amplified.

Any senator or congressperson that opposes health care reform should give up their government sponsored health care.

Say it everyday until reporters start calling them out on their government sponsored health care. It's insanity that Congresspersons and Senators can oppose HC for all meanwhile WE ARE PAYING THEIR HEALTH CARE COSTS!!!!

It is complete and total insanity.

Posted by: grinning cat on May 6, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's fun to bash Republicans, but the fact is that with few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats agree that the top priority of so-called "health care reform" is to protect the profits of the insurance corporations.

That's why the Democratic leadership -- including President Obama -- have declared that universal, single-payer, nonprofit medical insurance under open, accountable, efficient public administration is "off the table".

Even though every other developed country has such a system, resulting in better outcomes at lower cost.

Even though polls show that a majority of the American people and a majority of doctors favor single-payer.

Single-payer is "off the table" because the purpose of the so-called "health care system" in the USA is not to provide health care, but to provide profits for the insurance corporations, who profit by denying health care to their victims.

It's the American way.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 6, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

I find it amusing that Limbaugh apparently thinks Palin is the chosen one. Now that the UK has banned right winger Savage the talk show host for all of his hate speech, I imagine if Palin were in office at the White House she would not be able to travel to Europe for hate speech, remember when she was inciting people to hate at her rallies, getting them to say Kill Obama.

Posted by: JS on May 6, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Talking in generalities is not going to do it. They're going to have to come up with a plan of their own." -- Scarborough

We have a saying in Polish: "Even Solomon cannot pour from an empty [jug]" And that's Repubs problem... their jug of ideas is empty; all they have to offer is fumes (talking points)

Posted by: exlibra on May 6, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

What would you rather do, vote for a Democratically-led national health care option?

OR...

Allow Frank Luntz to lick your taint all night long while you try to sleep?

What? This is an invalid argument because not voting for Democrats doesn't necessarily lead to Frank Luntz licking your taint no matter how much he may want to?

Imagine that. Sometimes there are more than two options in a given scenario.

You'd think someone who conducts polls for a living would know that.

Unless of course he was an unscrupulous scumbag.

Posted by: slappy magoo on May 6, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Y'now, I kinda think the DNC should hire to same actors who played Harry & Louise to discuss healthcare.

Some choice lines:

"L: Why are we paying for that test? I thought we were covered? H: We are, but in order to afford the insurance we had to have a $10,000 deductible."

"L: Did you hear that the Smith's are moving? H: No, what happened? L: You know Thelma had breast cancer? Well, they had to sell their house to pay for the treatment. H: In this market they won't get much for it!"

"H: I wish I could get the operation for my knee, I can't play golf anymore. L: Why can't you? H: The insurance company won't pay for it and it would cost at least $45,000. L: Oh Harry! But you love playing golf!"

Everyone can play this game! What're your favorite lines?

Posted by: MichMan on May 6, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Frank Luntz' focus grouped talking points on what words and phrases to say to get people to vote against their own interests and to keep wealth distributing upwards to the top 5%.

Posted by: grinning cat on May 6, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist is 100% correct. As long as our health and our lives are subject to the profit motives of private insurers who donate heavily to members of congress, we're screwed.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 6, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's fun to bash Republicans, but the fact is that with few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats agree that the top priority of so-called "health care reform" is to protect the profits of the insurance corporations.

That's why the Democratic leadership -- including President Obama -- have declared that universal, single-payer, nonprofit medical insurance under open, accountable, efficient public administration is "off the table".

It's true. But I am hoping that progress toward the goal of single-payer comes incrementally.

Posted by: shortstop on May 6, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Here is the problem for the Republicans. Business, large and small, get the health care issue. They are painfully aware that health care is one of the biggest reasons the American auto manufacturers can't compete with the Japanese. They understand that their health insurance costs are out of control They need the government's help.

McCain pushed the Bush "plan" of doing away with corporate health insurance, leaving everybody at the tender mercies of the insurance industry, but the last election demonstrated that the people want somebody big on their side when it comes to dealing with big insurance. That plan is dead. They don't have a replacement.

Joe is right. No plan is a recipe for the end of the Republican party.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 6, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

If Republicans want to stand for something, maybe they should stand for abolishing Medicare and Medicaid. After all, it's a government run disaster that wastes time and causes enormous delays.

I mean, that's what the Republicans are saying, right? They want to be PRO something, let them be pro the abolition of one of the country's most popular government programs.

And frankly, even with the delays (which is bogus), I'd rather have guaranteed health care if (when) I lose my job or go back to school.

Posted by: inkadu on May 6, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

how can you work with the Democrats ... in coming up with a health plan that works for everyone?"

Define "works"

I mean, if you include leaving this mortal coil to be with Jesus, their plan works out pretty well for everybody.
(Well, everybody who they think is worth being concerned about, anyway.)

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 6, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Also, the reason that so many Republicans and Democrats oppose even a public option, along with keeping private insurers, is because they know people will end up flocking to the public option. It would indeed be the first and possibly last step towards single-payer, which is why the insurance industry is so mortally opposed to it.
And I'll bet anything that any member of congress who says we can't or won't have a public option is receiving money from private insurers.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 6, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"[I]f Luntz and House GOPers were hoping this new linguistic strategy would help the party recast itself as ready for today's challenges -- and not trapped in the past, as Dems have sought to portray them -- they have a bit of a problem. That's because the language echoes, to a striking degree, the same language that was used in the infamous 'Harry and Louise' ads to defeat health care reform back in 1993 -- 16 years ago."

Hate to throw cold water here, since I, too, am pro-universal health care, but there's a reason they're reaching back to Harry and Louise--*it worked.* I'm old enough to have seen this story unfold before--a national consensus seems to be developing that the health-care system is broke and needs dramatic reform, and a new Democratic administration sweeps in and stakes its success on achieving it. Then the counterattack comes, and it basically feeds on the proposition that most people are pretty satisfied with what they have, and can be scared into thinking they'll be the losers under any reform. It worked well in 1994. Maybe things have changed in the fifteen years since, but I think there are reasons to be skeptical. Once people's attention shifts from focusing on the inadequacies of the present system to the inevitable redistribution of costs and benefits under a new system, public opinion can shift dramatically. Dems need to be aware of that, and plan for it--not stand around and laugh at those stuck-in-the-past Republicans. The past may not be dead; it may not even be past.

Posted by: David in Nashville on May 6, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

MichMan, your partial script offers gives an accurate reflection of the situation for some people in these times. Great job!

Posted by: VaLiberal on May 6, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

The most specious argument against national health care is the idea that "government bureaucrats" will not allow you to get the care you need. Anyone who pulls this argument out of the hat has clearly never dealt with private health insurance carrier bureaucrats whose sole function is to limit or deny care in order to make a profit for the company.

My husband broke his neck in a swimming accident a number of years ago. He dove into a river and basically exploded 3 cervical vertebrae, which eventually were removed in bits and pieces. The bureaucrats from the very large insurance company he had coverage from decided that he did not need a ride in an ambulance to an appropriate trauma center. They also decided that he did not need an anaesthesiologist for the 12 hour surgery to remove what was left of his vertebrae and replace them with bone from his hip.

I call complete and total bulls**t on the evil-government-bureaucrat argument.

Posted by: Cathy Hodge-Bodart on May 6, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

maybe i'm being naive, but i don't think that any of lutz's talking points would work with anyone who doesn't have health care...ie: 40-some million people...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 6, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Luntz is saying that the Republicans just need a different color of lipstick to put on that pig.

Posted by: qwerty on May 6, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

There are, not surprisingly, a few problems with this. First, it's deceptive propaganda.

Aw, c'mon, Steve -- since when has deceptive propaganda been a problem for the Reptiles? It's all they have!

Posted by: Gregory on May 6, 2009 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK
... warn against a "Washington takeover" of health care, ...

Washington is not going to take over the industry.
Simple as that.

... say that "One-size-does-NOT-fit-all."

I agree and I think most Dems would agree. That's why there needs to be a way, perhaps somewhat like the Medicare Part D plan, for individuals to choose from a plethora of plans. More plans, more competition, more choices, hopefully lower prices and you get happier patients.

... "Would you rather ... 'Pay the costs you pay today for the quality of care you currently receive,' OR 'Pay less for your care, but potentially have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatments you need.'"

Sounds horrible. I'd prefer to pay less AND get quicker better care. Why do the Repubs want to limit our choices that way?

BTW, there's no proposal in there for how to do health care reform.

Posted by: MarkH on May 6, 2009 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK
For me, a system that has 45 million lacking coverage, $700 billion in overuse per year, and nearly 100,000 deaths due to medical error per year is pretty much indefensible, but hey, GOPers, if you want to stand up and say that everything is hunky-dory, be my guest. Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on May 6, 2009

Pretty well says it all for our current "system".

Posted by: MarkH on May 6, 2009 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Canadian here: I remember what my grandma used to say about the devil lying by telling the truth. There is some truth in what the republicans say:
- yes, some care is denied by the government in that some services are delisted (taken off the we'll pay for this list) and may be provided by doctors on a fee for service basis. However, those services are things like cosmetic mole removal, full body MRIs done on healthy people to diagnose possible future problems (new fad), and the like.
- yes, sometimes you do have to wait too long for tests, esp. for diagnosing cancer. We have an ongoing problem with getting enough staff to use the MRIs and CRTs more than 6 hours a day.

The worst thing that happened to Ontario's health care system was a Bush-type premier who 'rationalized' health care, shut hospitals, moved staff around, made it almost impossible for hospitals to hire full-time nurses, etc. Really mucked up the system and ended up costing more while providing less. Our system isn't perfect and nowhere near as dependent on high tech equipment, but everyone, even street people, have a reasonable opportunity to see a GP and whatever specialists they need, except if you're in a remote area where you can't get doctors to go. So, yes, they're lying while enjoying excellent care for themselves and their families.

Posted by: Heather on May 7, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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