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Posted by on Oct 9, 2006 in At TMV | 8 comments

GOP Pollster Frank Luntz: Foley Scandal The Last Straw

Time has a fascinating column by GOP pollster Frank Luntz where he takes a cold hard look at the political landscape (not good for Republicans) and offers Republicans some advice (which could lose them more votes).

Part of his analysis:

Had enough?

America has. Anyone who reads the polls accurately and honestly will acknowledge that the Republican Party is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives, the so-called “People’s House.” The Democrats maintained control for 40 years. The Republicans, just 12.

What went wrong? Why do Democrats finally appear to be heading toward electoral success and Republicans back into the political wilderness? In a word, fatigue. Americans are tired of the war, tired of watching illegal aliens race across our unguarded borders, tired of high energy costs, tired of wasteful Washington spending, and tired of story after story of political corruption and misbehavior.

But isn’t just that, he writes. Basically, the GOP has become the kind of bloated, arrogant creature Newt Gingrich vowed to — and did — replace when he dislodged the Democrats who had control of Congress for years.

And the language voters now use to describe Congress can only be heard after nasty divorce settlements and in the subways of New York. I’ve had voters spit on me as they emphasize the “d” in “do nothing” and the “c” in “corrupt.”

Who can blame them? The Republican Party of 2006 is a tired, cranky shell of the aggressive, reformist movement that was swept into office in 1994 on a wave of positive change. I knew those Republicans. I worked for them. They were friends of mine. These Republicans are not those Republicans.

Then he blasts the Democrats as not being much of an improvement over the Republicans and labels Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as partisan (which is usually what Congressional leaders of parties are on both sides).

Part of his advice:

For Republicans to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, they need to acknowledge in the waning days of the election what the Democrats refused to accept in 1994: it’s time for a change. I was involved in the 1994 elections, and I will never forget the arrogance of the Democrats back then, and how they refused to accept the electoral reality facing them.

It is no different today. It’s time to admit mistakes, to acknowledge voter frustration, and to once again reaffirm the principles that kept them in the majority for more than a decade. This is not giving up — it is the only way to give themselves the slimmest of chances. They must return to being the Republican Party of new ideas, not a party whose only idea is to do what it takes to survive.

The problem is: it would be too little, too late. The GOP and the White House face a credibility gap as big LBJ or Nixon faced. Even some Republicans would shrug if off as just-before-the-election rhetorical claptrap.

The vast majority of Americans would not accept a sudden GOP “trust us we’ve changed” statement coming about a month before the elections. And it just isn’t the Foley scandal; I am now reading Bob Woodward’s book and it’s FAR MORE devastating to the Bush administration than reviews have portrayed it. Woodward did meticulous research and it’s not written in a partisan, biased style; it’s laid out with an overkill of data, personal accounts, plus policy and personal histories. It’s skyrocketing on the best seller lists and will shape perceptions about administration among the public, journalists — and historians.

This week President George Bush and White House spokesman Tony Snow are reportedly going to attend a fundraiser for House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Polls show most Americans are not happy with Hastert’s performance. Will that show the GOP is the “party of change?”

And will statements such as this?

Appearing on CBS News’ Face the Nation Rep. Ray LaHood R-Ill. said that the page program should be suspended and gave Speaker Hastert “high marks” for his “strong leadership.”

“He took care of Tom DeLay, his best friend. When Tom was having ethical problems, the speaker went to him and asked him to leave. When he appointed Duke Cunningham to the Intelligence Committee, he went to Duke and made sure he wasn’t on the Intelligence Committee after it was disclosed he took $2.3 million. And when Bob Ney was appointed chairman of the House Administration Committee, he was appointed by Speaker Hastert. Speaker Hastert went to him and told him to step down from that committee after the Abramoff disclosures,” he told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

Hastert, LaHood said, still has the credibility to lead on ethical challenges the Republicans face.

The GOP is circling the wagons and using up vital pre-election time to make sure the party doesn’t look worse — or seem to admit it messed up — by forcing Hastert to step down.

It’s hard to package yourself as a party that has decided to turn over a new leaf when you’re standing on a shaky branch trying to glue-on a leaf that is starting to fall off the tree.

UPDATE: TPM Reader at Talking Points Memo comments more extensively on the LaHood statement. He concludes:”Hastert has stonewalled, resisted, enabled, ignored, participated–well, you get the idea. He is the longest serving GOP Speaker in history. One of the most corrupt Congresses in history is his legacy. He built it. He owns it.”

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  • SnarkyShark

    If Luntz is bailing, the Cheney cabal is over. Luntz is the foremost expert and practicioner of doublespeak and framing.

  • Larime The Gimp

    “He took care of Tom DeLay, his best friend. When Tom was having ethical problems, the speaker went to him and asked him to leave. When he appointed Duke Cunningham to the Intelligence Committee, he went to Duke and made sure he wasn’t on the Intelligence Committee after it was disclosed he took $2.3 million. And when Bob Ney was appointed chairman of the House Administration Committee, he was appointed by Speaker Hastert. Speaker Hastert went to him and told him to step down from that committee after the Abramoff disclosures,” he told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

    Let me follow this logic.

    When it came out that DeLay was corrupt, he asked him to step down.

    When it came out that Cunningham, who he put on the Intelligence Committee, was corrupt, he asked him to step down.

    When it came out that Ney, who he put in as Chairman of the House Administration Committee, was corrupt, he asked him to step down.

    This makes him a strong leader?

    No, it says he has poor judgement and a habit of putting the worst people in charge of things.

    Like, say, a child predator in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children Committee.

  • BeYourGuest

    I understand that this story is really about the corruptions of power and the absense of accountability. But on the surface, it’s just about sex. Isn’t that all most people will get about it?

    If Republicans lose–and as far as I am concerned, I’ll believe it when I see it–will they be able to blame Foley-gate instead of their own incompetence in the Iraq War, or the huge deficit, or the foolishness surrounding the Terri Schivo controversy?

    And, my God, if they do–will they be right?

    While I see a kind of rough justice in the party of tiresome moralizing being undone by a dumb sex scandal, don’t they have more serious problems when it comes to their governing?

  • Rudi

    Speaking of Luntz, isn’t he the person credited wtith calling the late term abortion procedure – Partial Birth Abortion. This galvanised the BB base and brought FL to the forefront. Am I correct?

  • Kim Ritter

    BYG- Yes they do, but, until now they’ve been able to counter their weaknesses with arguments that the public bought. War in Iraq going badly? Well, better to fight them over there than over here. And if its bad over there now, it will be worse for our security if we pull out prematurely. And I’ve heard apologists who say the deficit isn’t bad when measured as a percentage of the GDP. Schiavo was long ago, most voters don’t think about it anymore. And the numerous scandals they were involved in are mostly talked about inside the beltway. If someone brought up Duke Cunningham, they could bring up William Jefferson-and point out that Cunningham is in jail, and Jefferson still holds his seat. They tried to portray Abramoff as a bipartisan scandal. They have obfuscated the issues just enough to muddy the waters until now. Almost everyone is aware of Foley, and polls show they care. If Foley raised public awareness of a very corrupt Congress, then it no longer matters to me that there is so little outrage for all the rest. At least there may be some accountability- at last.

  • TomH

    Karma’s great. The more the power people try to put this behind them, the more it’s going to come up and bite them. There’s no way that the media will let this story go because it’s too juicy, ie., it’ll make them too much money (advertising) between now and election day. I see ‘team meetings’ at ABC, CBS, NBC, etc., saying, how can we maximize the impact of this story with our viewers and ‘by the way’ rake in a bunch of money… Only 4 weeks to go…

    That said, Foley was a predator of underage partners, he should be prosecuted and those that screened him because he was a ‘fund raiser’ should be exposed and discredited as well.

  • jjc

    BYG:
    If Republicans lose–and as far as I am concerned, I’ll believe it when I see it–will they be able to blame Foley-gate instead of their own incompetence in the Iraq War, or the huge deficit, or the foolishness surrounding the Terri Schivo controversy?

    There’s already talk of the “velvet mafia,” so they’ll certainly try.

    It does look as though Foley will cost them as many seats as all the other issues you’ve named, but an important reason for this is that their spin on Foley will backfire while the spin on the other issues didn’t.

    Cokie Roberts, of all people, put it very well: “Are they thinking they can get their base to hate Democrats and reporters more than they hate child molesters? I don’t think so.” (Quoting from memory–I’m sure this is very close if not completely accurate.)

    What we have to hope for is that investigations will start bringing these other issues home to the public so they understand that they were being spun on those issues the same way they were on the Foley business.

  • Kim Ritter

    Tom H- The GOP’s biggest problem is they now have a scandal that garners better ratings than Bush’s speeches on national security and the GWOT!

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