The Heat Is Online

Luntz Spins His Way Into Canadian Politics

Spurned by Washington Republicans, Frank Luntz turns to Canada

www.mediatransparency.com, May 27, 2006

 

From Canada to Great Britain, from Iowa to the nation's capital, Frank Luntz is racking up the frequent flyer miles these days. Luntz, the Republican pollster/consultant and message massager, appears to be at his best when he's darting from one place to another dispensing advice and offering up fanciful political frames.

 

Recently, after an apparently fruitful meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Luntz met with a group of Canadian conservatives and advised them how to win upcoming elections.

 

Cavorting in Canada

 

After meeting in Canada with Stephen Harper, Luntz pointed out that "The Canadian and U.S. leaders could not be more different. Stephen Harper is a genuine intellectual, brilliant in his understanding of issues."

 

Luntz, perhaps suspecting that he'd said too much, added: "I think I'll leave it at that."

 

Luntz then spoke to the Civitas Society, an influential Conservative group whose members include Harper's chief of staff Ian Brodie and his former campaign manager Tom Flanagan.

 

"Luntz's links with the Canadian right go back to the days of the Preston Manning-led Reform party, but he characterized himself yesterday as a 'casual observer' of Canadian politics," the Toronto Star reported.

 

"One thing he does know, Luntz said, is the previous Liberal government was corrupt and Harper should be blunt and open about repeatedly reminding Canadian voters of that. He said North American voters are sick of political scandals, and urged the Canadian government to avoid the American experience by finding out how the Liberals got to where they were and make sure it never happens again," the newspaper pointed out.

 

"'Canadians shouldn't have to go through what Americans are going through,'" Luntz said. "The U.S. system is rife with corruption, or perceived to be rife with corruption, and Canadians have an absolute right to know what previous governments did with their hard-earned money," he added.

 

According to a report posted at Canada.com, New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton expressed concern that Harper had met with Luntz: "I think if Mr. Harper was listening to Canadians instead of American right-wing pollsters, he would be taking very different positions on issues."He would be trying to do something to achieve the Kyoto (accord) objectives instead of just saying we can't do it. He would be taking immediate leadership on issues like Darfur. He would be moving on issues like child care and all the other things that Canadians have spoken about. But I guess if he's going to take his advice from an American pollster, we can't exactly expect that he's going to follow the recommendations of Canadian public opinion."

 

"Why is the prime minister taking direction from Republican pollsters?" Liberal MP Mark Holland asked during question period after the meeting. "Why are they more important to him than the elected premier of the province of Ontario?"

 

In mid-May, in what appears to be a mini "mission accomplished" moment, CTV.ca reported that Canadian environmentalists charged that "the Conservatives' communication strategy on climate change almost exactly echoe[d] advice in a three-year-old briefing book" written by Luntz. In his 2003 memo, Luntz advised against using "economic arguments against environmental regulations, because environmental arguments would always win out with average Americans concerned about their health."

 

According to CTV.ca, "Since the Conservatives took office, they have consistently stressed their commitment to clean air and water, and tried to avoid discussion of cutting back environmental programs ~V although many have been eliminated."

 

Not a Boehner buddy

 

Despite not being one of new House Majority Leader John Boehner's favorite people, Luntz showed up in Washington recently to dispense advice to Republican lawmakers and their staffs, Tom Chapman recently reported. According to Chapman, the Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation and the host of Townhall.com's Capitol Report, while Luntz's message wasn't particularly startling, it was straightforward: "It's crunch time for Republicans," Luntz said.

 

"You are going to have to be radical," Luntz told one group.

 

The frameister

 

Over the years, Luntz's contributions to framing the political debate make for a healthy Greatest Hits package: Before the 1994 Republican "Revolution," he helped Newt Gingrich craft the GOP's "Contract with America"; in 1997, he distributed a report entitled "The Language of the 21st Century," which he maintained was his "most serious effort to put together an effective, comprehensive national communications strategy"; during MonicaGate he encouraged Republicans to exploit Bill Clinton's sexual dalliances; in 2002, Luntz wrote an extensive memo advising the GOP to soften their linguistic approach to discussing environmental issues; and a June 2004 memo entitled "Communicating the Principles of Prevention & Protection in the War on Terror" offered Republicans the sound-bites for connecting the war on terror to the war on Iraq.

 

Luntz has earned the reputation of a man who not only reads the political tea leaves, but transforms that reading into a winning message. "Frank Luntz is the Republican Party's undisputed master of right-wing propaganda, conservative spin-meistering, political-deception, diversion, redirection and focusing the imagination of an unsuspecting audience in ways that bring about specific outcomes or foster public support for anti-environmental, anti-democratic or pro-business positions," Scott Silver, the executive director of the Bend, Oregon-based environmental group, Wild Wilderness, explained in a recent email.

 

Tory Kyoto strategy mirrors U.S. plan

The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario) May 15, 2006

 

Environmentalists say the Conservatives' communications strategy on climate change almost exactly echoes advice in a three-year-old briefing book written by U.S. pollster and communications adviser Frank Luntz.

 

Luntz is famous for what he calls "language guidance' -- the use of simple messages, carefully tested and frequently repeated, to overcome public suspicions on potentially unpopular policies.

 

"If you look at the advice he (Luntz) gave to the Republicans some time ago and compare it to how the Conservatives are talking about these things, it's just cut-and-paste, basically,' said Stephen Guilbeault of Greenpeace Canada.

 

Luntz has long been associated with the Conservative party and its forerunners. He recently spoke to a meeting of the Civitas Society attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other top Conservatives.

 

In his 2003 memo he told Republicans not to use economic arguments against environmental regulations, because environmental arguments would always win out with average Americans concerned about their health. Luntz also told his U.S. clients to stress common sense and accountability.

 

"First, assure your audience that you are committed to 'preserving and protecting' the environment but that 'it can be done more wisely and effectively.' Absolutely do not raise economic arguments first.'

 

Since the Conservatives took office, they have consistently stressed their commitment to clean air and water, and tried to avoid discussion of cutting back environmental programs -- although many have been eliminated.

 

"My mandate is to have accountability on the environment and show real results and action on the environment for Canadians,' Ambrose told the Commons last week.

 

Luntz advises that technology and innovation are the keys to curbing climate change, a theme the Conservatives have repeatedly echoed. "We will be investing in Canadian technology and in Canadians,' Ambrose told MPs.

 

Despite his general aversion to economic arguments, Luntz does advises putting the cost of regulation in human terms, emphasizing how specific activities will cost more, from "pumping gas to turning on the light.'

 

Ambrose has claimed that "we would have to pull every truck and car off the street, shut down every train and ground every plane to reach the Kyoto target. Or we could shut off all the lights in Canada tomorrow.'

 

Luntz advises use of the term "climate change' rather than "global warming,' which he says is more frightening.

 

Ambrose has avoided either term in the Commons, speaking about the need to curb greenhouse emissions, without referring to the reasons for doing so.

 

Luntz calls "international fairness' the key emotional argument against Kyoto, saying Americans won't accept targets unless developing countries like India and China also do so. Ambrose has repeatedly used that argument.

 

"The reality is that the Harper government has studied Republican tactics carefully and is implementing them one at a time,' said Louise Comeau, project director of the Sage Climate Project.

 

LOAD-DATE: May 15, 2006