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. [...]Should Luntz have known something like this might happen? Of course. He almost certainly did. Why would he care?
At one point, Luntz was asked about political polarization. He replied that he had something important to say on this matter but was apprehensive about speaking openly; doing so, he explained, could land him in trouble. Members of the audience groaned; some called out for Luntz to continue off the record. Luntz asked if anyone was recording the event, and Eric Kaplan, a reporter from the college paper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, indicated that he was. Luntz requested that he turn off his recording device. Kaplan did so and agreed that this part of Luntz's talk would remain off the record. But one of the students present, Aakash Abbi, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics, started to record Luntz on his iPhone (without letting Luntz know), and Abbi has provided that recording to Mother Jones.
First, we've been down this road before. In 2006, all of the Serious Media was atwitter with the story that the GOP establishment appeared to be shunning Luntz after Luntz's long-time colleague and meal-ticket, the disgraced Newt Gingrich, was replaced by John Boehner as House Republican leader. The rift lasted a couple of months, and then everybody became friends again.
It never hurts Luntz – especially not his revenue stream from the networks that hire him for commentary and analysis – if he appears to step one toe off the conservative reservation every now and then. That little feint is all he needs to burnish his “bipartisan” credentials for another stretch.
And Limbaugh can take the incident to the bank, too, since much of his popularity with Tea Partiers rests on his putative ability to strike fear not only in the hearts of Democrats, but of “establishment” Republicans. With Luntz claiming that he only dared badmouth Limbaugh and his ilk if it was totally, absolutely, pinky-swear off the record, Rush's reputation also gets a boost.
Second – and this is the thing that really chapped mistermix's ass – there's Luntz's response to the release of his full remarks:
Following Mother Jones' publication of remarks GOP message man Frank Luntz made to University of Pennsylvania students about conservative talk radio, Luntz has decided to withdraw funding for a university scholarship named after his father that sends students to Washington, DC, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, an independent student newspaper at the school.Even if Luntz's fan dance about going off the record was credible – and again, of course it wasn't: “He replied that he had something important to say on this matter but was apprehensive about speaking openly; doing so, he explained, could land him in trouble.” Seriously? This was Luntz performing the Dance of the Seven Veils! – I imagine he's already more than made up for it in the eyes of conservatives with this follow-up, a veritable grand-slam of conservative grudges. Consider:
1. He's picked a public fight with an Ivy League School.
2. He's made sure there's one less student getting a free ride (at an Ivy League School).
3. He's painted himself as another victim of "leaks" by the duplicitous left-wing media.
4. He's got a student with a foreign-sounding name to blame for it all.
(p.s.: Sorry, mistermix -- I know there's no "a" in it.)