CBS News has reportedly hired Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist and pollster best known for helping Republicans craft often-deceptive messaging to torpedo liberal policies. In his post announcing the move, Politico media reporter Dylan Byers writes that Luntz will “make a number of appearances across the network between now and Election Day.” Luntz's hiring comes only a few months after New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper reported that Luntz orchestrated a 2009 meeting where prominent Republicans formulated a plan to win back Congress and the White House.
In his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Draper reported that Luntz “organized a dinner” on Obama's inauguration night featuring a handful of “the Republican Party's most energetic thinkers.” The attendees -- which included current vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan -- reportedly emerged from the nearly four hour dinner “almost giddily” after having agreed on “a way forward.”
According to Draper, the Republican plan involved showing “united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies,” with an eventual goal of defeating Obama and taking back the Senate in 2012:
Luntz had organized the dinner -- telling the invitees, “You'll have nothing to do that night, and right now we don't matter anyway, so let's all be irrelevant together.” He had selected these men because they were among the Republican Party's most energetic thinkers -- and because they all got along with Luntz, who could be difficult. Three times during the 2008 election cycle, Sean Hannity had thrown him off the set at Fox Studios. The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, had nurtured a dislike of Luntz for more than a decade. No one had to ask why Boehner wasn't at the Caucus Room that evening.
The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:
Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: “Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it - please?”)
Show united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama's economic stimulus plan.)
Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)
Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.
“You will remember this day,” Newt Gingrich proclaimed to the others as they said goodbye. “You'll remember this days as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.” [Do Not Ask What Good We Do, pp. xvi-xix]
The inauguration night dinner was also reported in Election 2012: The Battle Begins by Real Clear Politics reporters Tom Bevan and Carl Cannon.
Now, less than four years after this meeting, CBS will be inviting Luntz onto their airwaves as an “analyst.”
Luntz's influence in GOP politics isn't limited to organizing high-level strategy dinners -- he's been credited with coining some of the most infamous lines from conservative media figures and politicians.
In their article naming Republicans' labeling of health care reform a “government takeover of health care” as their 2010 “Lie of the Year,” Politifact credited Luntz with spreading the phrase:
In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a “government takeover.”
“Takeovers are like coups,” Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. “They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.”
Luntz has been a regular fixture on Fox News for years. His appearances have featured him praising dishonest conservative ads and asking focus groups questions about whether Obama is a socialist. During a 2010 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Luntz praised the Chamber of Commerce for having “done some of the best advertising across the country” without disclosing that the Chamber was one of his corporate clients.