The Profitable Deceptions of Dr. Luntz

Originally Posted Fri, 05/08/2009 - 15:31, bumped to keep attention to Luntz - standingup

Right now, the biggest money in the country is arrayed to prevent any sort of public or single-payer health option from even being considered, much less appearing on the slate of choices that will be worked over by the leaders we elect every ballot cycle for final passage into the law that governs every American.

Instead, the biggest money in the country is striving to assure that private gain wins over public good and they've poured massive amounts of money into lobbying our leadership.  

So, every single day, the lobbyists are telling the people we trust with our vote each cycle, exactly how we should be governed.  According to the big money.

Just a couple days ago, one of us wrote about the group of SINGLE PAYER HEROES who, in civil disobedience, dared to call into question the fact that a Democratic-majority was hosting a 'roundtable' to discuss 'health care reform' options without including ONE advocate of single-payer options.  

As they were hauled off, the lobbyists laughed when Senator Baucus joked with friends, "we need more police."

And now, apparently, the big money has bought the services of the big guns message-monger, Dr. Frank Luntz, to scientifically achieve the deception his ilk has grown rich in providing to corporate non-citizens of these United States so as to best achieve private gain's victory over the public interest.

Well-known for the effectiveness of his profitable deceptions and much sought-after by the biggest money, I only became aware of Luntz's involvement on behalf of health-care industry interests in a diary posted by Senator Jeff Merkley, "Words Designed to Kill Health Care Reform"

But I was shocked when I read a memo from Republican strategist Dr. Frank Luntz laying out plans to dismantle any effort to give all Americans access to quality health care. Dr. Luntz, the man who developed language designed to promote pre-emptive war in Iraq and distract from the severity of global warming, is at it again – this time with a messaging strategy designed to sink our historic opportunity for health care reform.

I thought it'd be instructive that the public knows just how Dr. Luntz has made so much money message-mongering for the dirtiest of the biggest money, helping George W. Bush's then-largest contributor, Enron, sustain its terror attack against the people of the State of California some eight-odd years ago.

It was no accident that among the first official acts of the Bush Administration was George W. Bush's appointment of Dick Cheney to chair the National Energy Policy Task Force.  Because, after the Florida fiasco, it was the California Energy Crisis that gave the First White House of the New American Century its crisis mandate.  

The New Economy could fail if energy policy was not deregulated.

It was against the background of the Nasdaq stock market's surging peaks that Dr. Frank Luntz helped design and propagate another major farce of the times, that the Calfiornia Energy Crisis was the result of surging new demand for power and power generation created by a surging New Economy, largely resident in Silicon Valley.

And so, the crisis created by Enron's deception became Dr. Luntz's moneymaker.

The final proposal to Enron, shown in full below, is likely the sort of campaign proposal that he made to whichever for-profit health-care interests are paying his current tab.  

But, by now, it's a much more scientifically honed message that he's mongering compared to the bill of goods that Enron paid him for selling to the public on the way to giving the Bush Administration its Inaugural crisis mandate.


To: The Enron Public Affairs Team

From: Frank Luntz

Re: Message Development

Date: August 10, 2000

I appreciate the call yesterday and I will keep this very brief. Whenever I am brought into a project like yours, my primary objective is to find the words and language that resonates with the target audience – not just the client. I will start with what you provide, but my end-product will be a message that is understandable and convincing to those you wish to influence. Equally important, you will be able to apply it virtually anywhere and at any time.

Therefore, if you retain us, we will create the entire message packet, including the following:

(1) A set of roughly five “Common Sense Fundamental Principles” that can be used in every situation nationally and locally. You need a single document on no more than a single page that describes the Enron positioning (without ever mentioning Enron) in a favorable way to politicos, reporters, consumer activists, and it needs to work everywhere, from Maine to Florida.

(2) A prioritization of key facts. Having had some experience with your industry, the tendency is to try to explain too much, backing up your argument with an endless litany of facts and figures. The problem is, the more facts and figures you use, the less each one matters and the more confusing you get. Having received a Doctorate from Oxford and a fellowship from Harvard, my general rule of thumb is that if I don’t understand it, not many people will. Therefore, the research we conduct will prioritize the substance of the debate – determining which facts and figures to include, in what order, and how best to explain them.

(3) A five-minute speech. Even though you may have been told that we are pollsters, my firm has probably written more than a hundred speeches for corporate and public affairs clients in the past year alone. This is a critical tool in your arsenal because it will insure a disciplined and consistent message by your allies in language that will resonate in the state capitals, in Washington and in newsprint.

(4) A list of words and language NOT to use. Just as “estate tax” is a bad way to describe the “death tax,” we may find that the language you currently use is undermining your communication efforts. I can tell you from past research that your New Hampshire ad was among the best corporate ad efforts we have ever tested so my hunch is that you already do a fairly good job. Nevertheless, you should expect us to come back with at least a few recommendations for vocabulary elimination.

(5) An Instant Response tape of “greatest hits.” Our research is conducted using dial technology because it is the best way to pinpoint exact words and phrases to use or discard. It also makes for a great presentation tool – showing politicos or reporters five minutes of how Americans react on a second-by-second basis to someone making your case. The higher the lines go on the screen, the more people like what they see. The lower the lines, the worse the reaction. I have never yet seen a politician who is not affected by an Instant Response presentation. (You can see this technology demonstrated by me on Friday on The News with Brian Williams on both CNBC and MSNBC as well as all next week on MSNBC during the convention.)

If you are satisfied with our work, the next step would be the creation of what I call a “Language Dictionary” which will simplify and personalize all the terminology you use. The reason why professions and industries like yours often don’t play well in the court of public opinion is because the average individual has trouble just understanding their electric bill. Talking about power grids, megawatts and the other language of the industry will confuse people unless it is explained properly. The language dictionary would go into everything that Enron does and how best to explain it – but that is for later.

To complete the message packet we would need to conduct four Instant Response sessions in four places across the country. California and Texas are necessities, but we would work together to target the other two locations. The cost for each session (with 30 people) is $22,900 plus travel. Since this is our first time working together, I will not ask for any additional retainer, creative or production fee. We will complete the research and create the message packet for the cost of these four sessions -- $91,600. I hope this fits into your budget.

Please let me know if you need additional information. I will also have my office send you a packet of materials about what we do. We move quickly. If you approve this by tomorrow, we can begin the research within seven days and have the packet ready before Labor Day.

Thank you for your consideration.



With a Doctorate from Oxford behind the Harvard fellow, you'd better believe his health-care reform product.  

Big dollars count on it and, after all, we swallowed Enron completely, didn't we?



UPDATEMargaret Flowers, M.D. is one of the heroes arrested in the Senate Finance Committee 'roundtable' hearing chaired by Senator Baucus (our leader who thought more police were needed) this week.  

A current diary, "Doctors explains "Why we risked arrest for single-payer" talks about the experience, the issues, and calls for action.


No votes yet


The people arrested under Senator Max Baucus's Senate Finance Committee jurisdiction (that needed more police) only want to participate in the democratic process as our leaders formulate the law that will govern us.

Call and demand that representatives of  real, flesh and blood people be included in the roundtable discussion where, right now, apparently only advocates and lobbyists for corporate non-persons are permitted to have a voice in shaping the discussion.

For some background on the craziness in the Senate Finance Committee hearing last week, see Doctors explains "Why we risked arrest for single-payer" (updatex2).  

Be sure to watch the embedded video of Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician who gave up her practice for two years in order to advocate for single-payer health-care options only to be denied a seat, at the time it truly counts in a democracy, when leadership is supposed to be listening to what the (natural) people want.


Action Update:

Please do your part in follow-up to this.  The "get" we are trying to get is Single Payer representation at the Roundtables.  The next one is May 14.  Please call both the committee office and the senators' offices and ask for this.

Senate Finance Commitee: 202-224-4515

MAX BAUCUS, MT: 202-224-2651 

JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, WV: 202-224-6472 

KENT CONRAD, ND: 202-224-2043 

JEFF BINGAMAN, NM: 202-224-5521 

JOHN F. KERRY, MA: 202-224-2742 

BLANCHE L. LINCOLN, AR: 202-224-4843 

RON WYDEN, OR : 202-224-5244 

CHARLES E. SCHUMER, NY:  202-224-6542 

DEBBIE STABENOW, MI: 202-224-4822 

MARIA CANTWELL, WA: 202-224-3441 

BILL NELSON, FL: 202-224-5274 

ROBERT MENENDEZ, NJ: 202-224-4744 

THOMAS CARPER, DE:  202-224-2441



"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

Download the 28 page PDF of Dr. Luntz's policy-speak prescription by which to engineer your consent to what industry intends to do to health reform in 2009. Posted further below is copy of the first two summary pages of the Luntz analysis.


(1) Humanize your approach. Abandon and exile ALL references to the “healthcare system.” From now on, healthcare is about people. Before you speak, think of the three components of tone that matter most: Individualize. Personalize. Humanize.
(2) Acknowledge the “crisis” or suffer the consequences. If you say there is no healthcare crisis, you give your listener permission to ignore everything else you say. It is a credibility killer for most Americans. A better approach is to define the crisis in your terms. “If you’re one of the millions who can’t afford healthcare, it is a crisis.” Better yet, “If some bureaucrat puts himself between you and your doctor, denying you exactly what you need, that’s a crisis.” And the best: “If you have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatment, that’s a healthcare crisis.”
(3) “Time” is the government healthcare killer. As Mick Jagger once sang, “Time is on Your Side.” Nothing else turns people against the government takeover of healthcare than the realistic expectation that it will result in delayed and potentially even denied treatment, procedures and/or medications. “Waiting to buy a car or even a house won’t kill you. But waiting for the healthcare you need – could. Delayed care is denied care.”
(4) The arguments against the Democrats’ healthcare plan must center around “politicians,” “bureaucrats,” and “Washington” … not the free market, tax incentives, or competition. Stop talking economic theory and start personalizing the impact of a government takeover of healthcare. They don’t want to hear that you’re opposed to government healthcare because it’s too expensive (any help from the government to lower costs will be embraced) or because it’s anti-competitive (they don’t know about or care about current limits to competition). But they are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care – so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It’s not an economic issue. It’s a bureaucratic issue.
(5) The healthcare denial horror stories from Canada & Co. do resonate, but you have to humanize them. You’ll notice we recommend the phrase “government takeover” rather than “government run” or “government controlled” It’s because too many politician say “we don’t want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain” without explaining those consequences. There is a better approach. “In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions.  THEY decide if you’ll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can’t have that in America.”
(6) Healthcare quality = “getting the treatment you need, when you need it.” That is how Americans define quality, and so should you. Once again, focus on the importance of timeliness, but then add to it the specter of “denial.” Nothing will anger Americans more than the chance that they will be denied the healthcare they need for whatever reason. This is also important because it is an attribute of a government healthcare system that
the Democrats CANNOT offer. So say it. “The plan put forward by the Democrats will deny people treatments they need and make them wait to get the treatments they are allowed to receive.”
(7) “One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.” The idea that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” will establish the standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatment based on how much it costs is anathema to Americans. Your approach? Call for the “protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship.” It allows you to fight to protect and improve something good rather than only fighting to prevent something bad. 
(8) WASTE, FRAUD, and ABUSE are your best targets for how to bring down costs. Make no mistake: the high cost of healthcare is still public enemy number one on this issue – and why so many Americans (including Republicans and conservatives) think the Democrats can handle healthcare better than the GOP. You can’t blame it on the lack of a private market; in case you missed it, capitalism isn’t exactly in vogue these days. But
you can and should blame it on the waste, fraud, and abuse that is rampant in anything and everything the government controls.
(9) Americans will expect the government to look out for those who truly can’t afford healthcare. Here is the perfect sentence for addressing cost and the limited role for government that wins you allies rather than enemies: “A balanced, common sense approach that provides assistance to those who truly need it and keeps healthcare patient-centered rather than government-centered for everyone.”
(10) It’s not enough to just say what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for. It’s okay (and even necessary) for your campaign to center around why this healthcare plan is bad for America. But if you offer no vision for what’s better for America, you’ll be relegated to insignificance at best and labeled obstructionist at worst. What Americans are looking for in healthcare that your “solution” will provide is, in a word, more: “more access to more treatments and more doctors…with less interference from insurance companies and Washington politicians and special interests.”
You simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of reform. The status quo is no longer acceptable. If the dynamic becomes “President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it,” then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless. Republicans must be for the right kind of reform that protects the quality of healthcare for all Americans. And you must establish your support of reform early in your presentation.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

See, I do read your stuff. Guess who?