What to say, what not to say

WHAT TO SAY, WHAT NOT TO SAY…. Over the weekend, at the first event hosted by the National Council for a New America, Eric Cantor, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney were asked about what Republicans would do to reform the health care system. Cantor answered by criticizing England and Canada.

This morning, Cantor appeared on MSNBC and was asked, “[W]ithout the pretty language, without the big words, can you tell me: what’s your health plan, what’s it going to cost, how are you going to get it done, how can you work with the Democrats … in coming up with a health plan that works for everyone?” Cantor couldn’t answer this either.

So, it looks like GOP leaders still need a little help coming up with a policy they support. According to the Politico‘s Mike Allen, however, Republicans have a very clear framework on a policy they hate.

[Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster/consultant,] says Republicans should warn against a “Washington takeover” of health care, and insist that patients would have to “stand in line” with “Washington bureaucrats in charge of healthcare.” […]

Adding a personalized patina to familiar conservative arguments, Luntz also urges Republicans to say that “One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.”

And he suggests they steer constituents toward keep the “current arrangement by asking at “every healthcare town hall forum”: “Would you rather … ‘Pay the costs you pay today for the quality of care you currently receive,’ OR ‘Pay less for your care, but potentially have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatments you need.'”

Luntz’s memo apparently goes on to urge Republicans to tell the public the Democratic plan “could lead to the government setting standards of care,” “puts the Washington bureaucrats in charge,” and “could lead to the government rationing care, making people stand in line and denying treatment like they do in other countries with national healthcare.”

There are, not surprisingly, a few problems with this. First, it’s deceptive propaganda. Second, we already have rationing and people standing in line for care under the status quo. Third, Mike Allen reported all of this without so much as a hint of analysis about whether Luntz’s arguments had any merit.

And finally, as Greg Sargent noted, it’s also terribly familiar: “[I]f Luntz and House GOPers were hoping this new linguistic strategy would help the party recast itself as ready for today’s challenges — and not trapped in the past, as Dems have sought to portray them — they have a bit of a problem. That’s because the language echoes, to a striking degree, the same language that was used in the infamous ‘Harry and Louise’ ads to defeat health care reform back in 1993 — 16 years ago.”

How bad has it gotten? This morning, Joe Scarborough said, “It seems to me the Republican Party has to do one of two things: either they come up with an alternative or they stay off the stage…. Talking in generalities is not going to do it. They’re going to have to come up with a plan of their own.”