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Two prominent political strategists, one a Republican, and the other a Democrat, talk with Diane about why words matter. Frank Luntz and Anita Dunn explore how language is used to craft campaign messages and frame debates.
- Frank Luntz president, Luntz Global author of "Win: The Key Principles To Take Your Business From Ordinary to Extraordinary"
- Anita Dunn Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to the Obama campaign
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. You have the best answer, the best strategy, the best product, but without the right words, all could be lost. Two communication experts join me to talk about what makes communication effective and how to use these ideas in our everyday lives. Here in the studio, Frank Luntz, he's the author of, "Win," a brand-new book, and he's also president of Luntz Global. And Democratic strategist, Anita Dunn, she served as communications director for President Obama. We're going to have some fun in this hour with our two guests and I hope with you as well. Join us on 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to email@example.com, feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to both of you.
MR. FRANK LUNTZGood morning.
MS. ANITA DUNNGood morning, Diane.
REHMFrank Luntz, for this book, "Win," you interviewed dozens of people who had succeeded in business, who somehow knew the right formula, the right way to use words. What did you, as a communications expert, learn from them?
LUNTZI learned as much about their failures as their successes and I'll give you a couple of examples. The ones that are the best and all the chapters begin with a letter P and it's not a gimmick, it's for real. If you're not people-centered, you're not going to be able to understand what the individual's hopes and dreams are. If you're not willing to break a paradigm, then you're not going to do things different because in the end, we hear things that surprise us, that amaze us, that inspire us and we're more likely to remember those things. If you don't know how to prioritize, then your beginning and end won't be effective. And by the way, the most powerful opening word is imagine.
LUNTZThe most powerful closing phrase is, let's get it done, let's get to work. Perfection. The winners in communication don't accept failure. They always are trying to figure out a better way to communicate, a better way to reach. Passion, which we try to do in our voices and try to do in our presentations, if you bore me, I'm not going to listen to you. Persuasion, persistence and then the last one, principles. I refuse to write when, without a concluding chapter that in the end, it's not what you say that matters or even what people hear, it's who you are, what you believe and do you stand for something, whether in business, politics, media, culture. A bad person will fail even with good words.
REHMAnita Dunn, how much do you go along with what Frank has said? How have you developed your own principles of communication?
DUNNI agree with a great deal of what Frank said, particularly his last point about principles and the fact that you can have the greatest communication strategy and you can have the most effective language, but if it isn't authentic, either to the company or to the politician or to the human being, it isn't going to work. And I think particularly in this age of transparency where being open is not only part of the reality that everyone faces, but is also a value that people really look for, both in their politicians as well as their companies, that authenticity is a critical part of effective communication and effective language.
DUNNIf you're using language that sounds phony, people will pick it up. If you are saying things that are at odds with the reality, people are going to find that out. There's no secret in a corporation or a politician where they can say one thing in public and do another. When Frank and I were children in this business, you know, there used to be -- there was a time when a politician could say one thing in his home state and another thing in Washington, D.C. Now, it would take roughly five seconds, I think, for someone to start tweeting on that one, right?
LUNTZShe's so right. I actually, to take her authenticity part, I've added the word, there about 120 specific words in win that will be effective either in your home life, your business life, your political life, whatever life you lead. I've added the word genuine. A genuine measurement, genuine accountability. I've actually taken her philosophy and that word genuine and I tie it to another word, indicates that you really, truly mean it.
REHMAll right. Now, Anita, I need your really, truly, honest answer to how you first felt when you heard the phrase death panels?
DUNNWell, I think I read the phrase death panels before I heard the phrase death panels because Dr. Luntz's memo was circulated rather widely in Washington, D.C. and, you know, I probably didn't pay as much attention to it, to that particular phrase, as I should have. I was looking more at the argumentation of the overall memo and the positioning.
DUNNI think death panels took people by surprise, at least in the Democratic Party, for one simple reason, which was that it was a lie and therefore, there was this feeling that having been exposed to something that was totally inaccurate, the people would move on, and it was an interesting phrase -- Frank may disagree, but it was an interesting phrase because it caught a much deeper emotion and it actually -- you know, so it wasn't about death panels at all, it was much more about the emotion that was wrapped up -- and I think Frank will agree with this, wrapped up in bailouts, wrapped up in a Wall Street, wrapped up in, you know, this feeling that everything was out of control, okay. Out of control and that something horrible was going to happen to people as had been happening.
DUNNSo death panels, I thought, was a placeholder for a lot of emotion. Fear, concern, insecurity, all kinds of things and, you know, it was a great phrase. The fact that it was a lie didn't make it less an effective phrase politically. We clearly should have done a much better job at being far more aggressive at the beginning. Now, here's something that's interesting, though, which is, now we have -- you know, now we have a very different context, because obviously, context in communications is critical and the summer of 2009 was one time. We now are in the spring of 2011 and we're entering a budget debate in which the GOP, having accused President Obama of wanting to kill Medicare, is actually now going to now try and kill Medicare.
DUNNAnd one of the interesting things, Diane, over the last couple of days, is looking at people experimenting with the language to describe what the Republicans are going to do to Medicare. Here you see gut, you see voucher, you see people are experimenting with this right now. I'm interested in Frank's take on it.
LUNTZWell, here's the amazing thing. If you don't correct something at the very beginning, it becomes not the truth, but it becomes accepted wisdom.
DUNNNo, it becomes fact. It becomes what I call a false fact, but fact nonetheless.
LUNTZAnd yet, I'll tell you that the word fact is the most powerful word in this entire budget debate because the American people feel like they're not getting it. They don't want statistics, they don't want evidence, they want facts. I had nothing to do with death panel, I hated death panel. I thought it...
REHMHow'd you feel about death tax?
LUNTZThat's different. But death panel, people have assumed that because I was involved with death tax, I also did death panel. And all my documents said not only is this not true, but it's not even an effective way to communicate and yet you end up getting stuck with it because somebody...
REHMYou didn't react to it quickly enough?
DUNNI -- well, I owe Frank an apology because I actually -- but it's a weird apology 'cause I thought it was effective at the end of the day (laugh). But it is interesting, if -- one of the things that I think corporations in particular aren't coping with, if -- some of them are doing a better job than others, is realizing that when something appears, if it's not true and they don't correct it immediately, that it actually does become as Frank says, it becomes accepted as true.
REHMWhat about death tax, which he did author?
DUNNAgain, a place where I think that we could have -- and I think we were far more effective against that, that that's been an ongoing fight for a long time and it goes back and forth, that in politics, unlike business, the context and who is in control tends to make things more effective. For example, when the Democrats had control for two years and controlled every branch of the government and people understood they controlled every branch of the government, that it was easier to message against them because we owned everything. We -- you know, we had responsibility for everything.
DUNNWhen the Republicans control part of the government as they do now, some of the messages that just didn't work over the last two years because they didn't have any power, there was no perceived threat, but the go-to, the divide in this country between the 1 percent who have so much and the 99 percent who increasingly have less, compared to the 1 percent, those messages work better. So the death tax works better when Democrats control, that, you know, give ways to the wealthiest 1 percent work better when the Republicans have some control.
LUNTZDo you want -- I'm happy to give you the words that are going to be used in this debate. They exist in win, but for those people who don't want to spend the money to go buy it, they're 11 of them. The first one is imagine, because it allows you to consider whatever vision you have in your head. When I say imagine the American dream, the three of us have a different imagination. It puts the communication in your perspective, in the listener's perspective. Second is no excuses and you're hearing that right now, today, in this debate. No excuses. I don't care whether it's the White House or Congress, Republicans or Democrats.
REHMGet it done.
LUNTZGet it done.
DUNNGet it done.
LUNTZWhich is the last one, get it done and get to work. Third is, I get it. By saying I get it, it means that you're listening, you hear them and you're going to do something about it. Fourth, if you remember only one thing, which should be at the end of this interview rather -- if you remember only one thing, "Win," is for sale at your local bookstore.
LUNTZWhen you say, if you remember only one thing, they will remember the next 30 seconds of what you say. Fifth, the simple truth. The simple truth is that we can't spend more money than we take in or you can't spend $3.9 trillion, take in $2.2 trillion and expect that things work. Uncompromising integrity because in the end, more important than honesty, even more important than truth is integrity because it's how you live, it's who you are and everything you're about, real time because they want things instantly. You decide and you deserve.
REHMFrank Luntz, his new book is titled, "Win." Also here in the studio, Anita Dunn. Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Frank Luntz is here with me. You know him as a genius of the political strategists. He's the author of a new book titled, "Win." He's also President of Luntz Global. Anita Dunn is a Democratic strategist, former communications director for President Obama. We're going to open the phones in just a few moments, but first want to go to yesterday's statement by Congressman Paul Ryan that what he wants to do is to sell a program, a cut of $6.2 trillion in the overall federal budget over the next 10 years. And what he would do, a major portion of that, is to amend both the Medicare and Medicaid programs so that ultimately, the top 2 percent of income earners in this country would have their income taxes cut to 25 percent. How are they going to sell that, Frank?
LUNTZWell, let's do it point by point. And, as Anita says, when you set the context, the American people are frustrated. They've received empty promises from both political promises.
LUNTZYes. Both political parties have engaged in budget tricks and accounting gimmicks. And the public says, we have the right to know the truth and you have the responsibility to tell us the truth. That's step one. Step two -- and you notice that I'm enumerating it because that's a more effective way to communicate it -- step two is that we know three more facts on Medicare. We are living longer.
LUNTZWhen Medicare was created, the average woman lived into her early 70s, the average man died in his mid-60s. Now women are living to their 80s and 90s and men are surviving into their 70's and early 80's, so we've got an older population. Second is the baby boomers are now starting to retire and this is a huge glut of population. And third is that healthcare costs are going up so much faster than inflation as we develop new pills, new procedures. All three of those say to us, we can't do it the way that it's been done. You can't get around what is actually happening in the human condition.
LUNTZNow, the first thing that's going to happen is if you're wealthy, you're not going to get the same Medicare that you had before. You're still going to get the ability -- I don't want to get too deep into the policy...
LUNTZ…'cause I'm a communications person...
LUNTZ...and I know what I'm good at and I know what I'm not, but the wealthy are going to have to pay more for their healthcare, as most people would say is okay. And the second aspect of it is that we have a responsibility that these programs have to exist, not just five years from now, but 15 years from now and 50 years from now. And in the end, with these numbers, as huge as they are, if we don't make changes now, then it's going to be a nightmare 20 years from now.
REHMAnita, how do those who disagree with what he has just outlined, how do they combat that?
DUNNThere's a very simple message in the Ryan budget, which is redistribution. Democrats are often accused of wanting to redistribute the wealth in this country. His budget's very simple, which is, we want to give even more benefits to the wealthiest in the society and we're going to pay for that by taking away money from things that benefit the broader group. The Republicans -- and I think Frank would agree, have a problem on Medicare. It is a historic problem. They opposed it. In 1995, they tried to take money from Medicare, at the same time, they wanted to give tax cuts to the wealthiest in this country. It was a defining issue for then Speaker Newt Gingrich.
DUNNLast year, the Republicans actually staked out a position of saying, you can't touch a cent of Medicare in the course of trying to reform healthcare to bring costs down. And then this year, they come back and they say, guess what? We're now going to replace Medicare with a voucher program. And people in this country understand what that means, so I think that the democratic argument's very simple, which is, you want to gut Medicare and Medicaid in order to give even more tax breaks to the 1 percent of this country who increasingly have most of the wealth to begin with.
DUNNAnd I think that that is -- first of all, that has some truth behind it if you look at -- if you look at the tax part of Representative Ryan's program, which didn't get a lot of scrutiny yesterday, but if you actually lower taxes for the wealthiest in this society, even farther down to 25 percent, then actually 99 percent of the people in this country are going to have to pay more if you are going to get the same amount of money in. And that is going to be a very difficult -- I want to hear some language on that one, Frank.
LUNTZBut it's not language. I mean, look, one of the reasons why the Democrats lost over 60 seats in the House and actually what was more significant was what happened in the State and local elections. Do you realize Republicans have more seats in the State Houses and State Senates than at any time since 1928? The reason why? The American people are tired of wasteful Washington spending. They do believe that there's waste in Medicare, they do believe that they want to instill accountability. And in terms of the healthcare that you described -- and I notice you used the word voucher. What's wrong with giving people more control over how they use their healthcare dollars? What's wrong with giving them the right to choose the doctor, the hospital, the medical plan, the prescription drug plan? This is about the rights of control.
DUNNWell, Frank, guess what? They actually have that right right now under Medicare and what you're doing when you give people a voucher is fundamentally you take away the guarantee and you put them onto the open market, which is something that senior citizens understand. I want to make one more point about this, which is that, you know, Frank refers to the elections and obviously, it was a referendum on are you happy and people are not happy and they sent a clear message to both parties.
DUNNIf you look at some of these states where local officials won, if you look at Ohio, if you look at Wisconsin, if you look at states where Republican governors who fundamentally ran by saying, we're going to cut wasteful spending and it will create jobs, we're going in there and pushing very extreme programs, what you will see is that if those elections were held today, they would have very different outcomes.
REHMAll right. I want to get to yet another issue. Here is an e-mail from Debbie. "It troubles me mightily," she says, "that the right has frightened the debate on important social issues by controlling the language. Assisted suicide implies helping a mentally distraught person kill themselves. The truthful term is aid in dying. A person at the end of life has the right to decide and control how they die. Partial birth abortion is a nonsense term designed to inflame the debate and take away a woman's right to choose. When will thinking people in the mainstream call this ugliness out?" Which really raises the essence of this whole debate, how come these words are so successful, Frank?
LUNTZThey're so successful because, to a majority of Americans, it describes what it is. Now, she uses the phrase, when will thinking people. I will tell you from 20 years of research, if you say that phrase to someone, they're offended by it, they're insulted by it. It's as though if I disagree with you, I'm therefore not a thinking person.
REHMNot a thinking person.
LUNTZThe purpose of the writings that I've done is to try to transcend that partisanship. Anita and I had a nice conversation before we went on the air, we will have a nice one after this. My relationships -- I know a lot of Democrats. I speak -- I present to a fair number of Democratic governors and Democratic Senators because in the end, good words work. They transcend the political debate. What would be great for Anita and I is to be trying to find language that instead of frightening, that actually unified people to acknowledge that we have a problem, acknowledge the facts, 'cause everything I've said to you, those statistics are true and no one disagrees with them.
LUNTZTo acknowledge that the President Obama's Debt Commission actually supports what Paul Ryan is doing -- now, they would like him to have more in tax increases, but the Debt Commission said, we've got to tackle Medicare, we've got to tackle these entitlement programs. That's what we should be talking about.
DUNNWell, and I think that one of the great hopes that President Obama had when he was elected was that we would be able to have a national conversation around these serious challenges that face the nation and that affect everybody and affect our children without polarizing the debate, which unfortunately was not the case. You know, I have to correct Frank on the Debt Commission, though, because I think the Debt Commission said, we do have to tackle entitlements, they certainly didn't endorse the specific programs that are in the Ryan budget and they certainly did not say, we need to lower the tax rate for the wealthiest people in this country even more than it's already been lowered, as a matter of fact, to the contrary.
DUNNAnd it kind of points out one of the problems we have in these debates because it is easy to say, you know, we're going to wave a magic wand and we're going to cut 6 trillion and -- you know, and it's easy, which is functionally what the Republicans have been saying for the last two years is this is all unnecessary spending. When you demonize any spending, it becomes very hard to build a consensus for really making those cuts, so.
REHMIsn't that a fair statement, Frank, in that if you say to someone, do you want the EPA or do you want their spending cut? They might say, sure, go ahead and cut spending. On the other hand, they might say, well, if EPA is regulating the content of the water I drink, I want the EPA to hang in there and I want to give them resources. So isn't it fair to say it's really how you characterize these agencies and these functions that government performs?
LUNTZYou're absolutely correct 100 percent how they're characterized. And the question then becomes -- and so much effective communication is putting it in terms of questions. I come from a Jewish background. I used to ask my mother, how far is the earth from the sun? You know what her answer was? How far do you think it is? Mom, you're not being helpful. Ask in terms of a question it's not how much money is spent, it's how it's spent. It's not the effort that you put in, it's the measurable result that comes from it. And these are very direct questions that are now being asked of our government, of our education systems, of our healthcare, of media, of everything that we do. It's not the effort, it's the result.
DUNNI think -- I could not agree with Frank more that this is an era where results and solutions are critical both for businesses to demonstrate and for government to demonstrate. The problem with the policy debate right now is that the Republican approach to the budget is not based on either results or solutions, it is very much based on ideology and that is, you know, something the president referred to yesterday when he said, you know, we can come to an agreement on the number. And then, of course, the Republicans want to shove all this -- you know, all these issues that have nothing to do with deficit reduction into the argument. The American people, as Frank will tell you, aren't dumb. They can recognize this.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an interesting question from Beth who says, "Fascinating subject, given the new census figures that have emerged, demonstrating the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote. What do your guests feel that media consultants -- or how do you feel will deal with Spanish language campaign messages advertising and outreach?" Anita.
DUNNI think that it is an exciting thing in this country to watch, you know, the faces of crowds grow more and more diverse. It's a healthy thing. Former President Bush made a real point of outreach to the Latinos in this country and I think it was a core principle of his that he really did believe in outreach, even if it wasn't always successful politically. If he didn't see a lot of payoff, that he felt the Republican Party would be a healthier party for being a more diverse party and I have always respected him for that. I think that unfortunately, you've seen the -- their political party go down a different path over the last couple of years and you saw this in the polls.
DUNNI think for both parties, there will be a great challenge in adapting their communication across a lot of different platforms and we've seen this in fragmentation of media. We've -- in 2008, in the Obama campaign, you know, you can't communicate in one way to one group of people any longer. You have to communicate across the board. But I think it is going to be critically important for both parties to incorporate this. I think if you look at, for instance, websites now, it's very unusual if you see websites for candidates that don't have translations. I think that it is, you know, just a matter of course for good campaigns to make sure that they are communicating Spanish language as well.
REHMAnd at the same time, this desire to encourage participation on the part of Hispanics, you've got this great debate over illegal immigration going on. How do parties separate those two things, Frank?
LUNTZWell, life is not just about politics, life is also about business, it's about families. The number one definition of the American dream for the Latino household is homeownership and that's why this beer company created the most incredible ad. This young woman comes to her living room and she's in tears, her mother's in tears, her father's in tears because she's leaving home for the last time. She's got a suitcase in one arm, a plant in another and they say goodbye. She goes out the door, shuts it behind her, down the stairs, into the street, across the street, up the stairs to the house right across the street from her parents. Goes to her refrigerator, grabs a beer, holds it up to the camera and says, mi casa.
LUNTZThey loved it. For the Latino household, living across the street from your parents is the American dream. As I said to you before, I'm Jewish. Living across the street from my mother is the American nightmare. We...
REHM(laugh) You make me laugh.
LUNTZWe have to find a way to answer some of these political challenges in nonpolitical ways so that Anita doesn't take the Democratic position, I don't take the Republican position. We can actually sit down as human beings and resolve some of this.
REHMBut do you think that having spent a good bit of your career framing phrases for primarily Republicans, that people will now believe that you, Frank Luntz, are really as interested as you sound or want to appear in the broader conversation?
LUNTZI don't want to make a plug, so I'll leave that to you, but that's why I wrote it. I wrote it to actually say, okay, these words apply to everyone. The words -- that list of 11, you could so easily apply, you decide. You deserve, actually, comes from Tim Kaine, the former governor of the DNC Chairman. He created that phrase. They work for Republicans or Democrats, they work for liberals or conservatives. You have to have principles underneath them, but these words, these phrases work for everybody.
REHMFrank Luntz, he's the author of the new book titled, "Win," and he's president of Luntz Global. Anita Dunn is a Democratic strategist, former communications director for President Obama. When we come back, Richard, Chad, Margaret, Jay, Sarah and Jamie are all waiting. We'll take your calls.
REHMAnd welcome back. Two communications experts are with me, Frank Luntz, he's president of Luntz Global and author of a new book titled, "Win." In it, what he's done is present to you words that he believes can win in any situation. He's talking about the words families use, business uses, lawyers use. Also here in the studio, we're so pleased to have with us Anita Dunn, she's former communications director for President Obama. And here's an e-mail from Diane who says, "What words have Karl Rove and the Koch brothers used to convince the Tea Partiers that the rich should not have to pay their fair share?" Anita.
DUNNI have to confess, I have not paid as much attention to what Karl Rove is saying as perhaps Frank has. I'm going to kick that over to Frank.
LUNTZAnd the problem is, I don't know what the Koch brothers have ever said and Karl Rove has never been a linguist, Karl Rove is a strategist. I hate ducking a question, but I don't know how to answer it.
REHMOkay. All right. Let's open the phones to Richard. He's in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, you're on the air.
RICHARDGood morning. I would like to speak briefly to the way I am troubled by the whole ethos of winning as the most important thing, which to my mind, flies in the face of, well, what I would call reality. The show began with your -- with one of your guests talking about how politicians can't get away with saying different things these days. And, you know, Jon Stewart makes a living juxtaposing those things, but it doesn't seem to have any effect. The one place where a lot of people seem to pay attention to evidence based -- what I would call evidence based knowledge is in crafting a message rather than in the true value of the message itself and I find that very, very disturbing.
LUNTZWell, I can tell you and it's in the poll by Rudyard Kipling. It's the poll that -- it was the first poll -- poem I ever remember being read and it's the last stanza. And it reads, "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue or walk with kings nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor living friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much, if you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that's in it and which is more, you'll be a man, my son."
LUNTZI closed this with that poem because it so communicates that it is not the winning that matters, it's who you are, what you represent, your beliefs, your convictions, your behavior, because in the end, you can say one thing and do another. We are nothing if we are not principled. And the best language that I've come up with is meaningless if it's used by people who are corrupt, dishonest or don't deserve to win.
REHMAnd you don't believe that any of the language that you have crafted has been used by people who were trying to communicate something that was not fully authentic to the American people?
LUNTZFor every job that I've accepted, and I've got a very good business, there are probably three that I've turned down because they're things that I don't believe in. And for every presentation that you may be aware of, I've probably done 10 of them. And the relationships that I have, if you feel that this is problematic, then I guess that the Democratic governors shouldn't have invited me in to present to them, that the Democratic senators shouldn't have had me come in to present to them. I show them how the American people think, how they act, how they behave and, for me, how they speak. And then it's up to them to decide what words they use.
DUNNI guess I disagree a little with the listener because I do think that it is -- that people get called out on this stuff. Now, unfortunately, we are at a point in our country where there is a great deal of polarization and where people increasingly seek people they already agree with to get their news from. One of the things that Frank talks about and that I think is critically important is, you know, who do you look to? You know, I sometimes talk to people who say, I don't know where to find the truth any longer. I'm just looking for somebody who will give me the unvarnished facts. This goes to what Frank talks about.
DUNNYou know, and that, you know, people have to work very hard to do it, but I do think that, you know, the opportunity to have a national conversation that is more civil, that is based on looking for consensus and that, you know, does try to pull together people to meet our challenges is potentially there thanks to the new technologies. And that frankly, there's a lot of individual responsibility out there to look for the facts, to kind of sift it for yourself, to hold people accountable when they do try to say different things, when they try to misuse language, when they use scare tactics instead of trying to bring people together.
DUNNAnd that's, of course, what the political process is all about, is for people at the end of the day, to reject things they feel are inauthentic, untrue, not in the best interest of the country by replacing the people who are doing those things.
LUNTZAnd by the way, none of the definitions of winning or winners has anything to do with negativity or fear. I'll give you three or four of them. A willingness to try, fail and try again is absolutely essential to someone who's going to make it to the very top. There's nothing negative or there's no misuse of words in that. A curiosity of the unknown, the person who keeps asking the question why, why, why, I still don't understand, tell me more. That's engaging in a discussion and engaging in the expansion of the knowledge, rather than trying to demonize or someone who sees a solution, not just the problem. There's a whole litany of 15 specific attributes of these people at the top, zero of them involve negativity.
REHMHere's the question that is coming up a lot these days and that has to do with defunding public broadcasting. Your reaction, Frank, to that idea and the way it has been framed, which is that public broadcasting is -- it represents totally liberal thinking. Public broadcasting should not be funded by government money. Public broadcasting does not present all sides. What's your reaction to that, Anita?
DUNNWell, Frank had a great reaction before the show started. I guess my reaction is that, you know, to go to the facts, which is public broadcasting has been, you know, an integral part of many communities. It provides something that people want which are, you know, stories that go in-depth and present both sides of the facts and it also is a very interactive process in which the listeners get to play a role, that more to the point, if there -- there certainly is a legitimate argument that can be had about whether or not the government should be in the business of public broadcasting. I happen to think that it plays a huge a public role, but that these decisions should not be made on a punitive basis, which is what the argument is right now about punishing public broadcasting and the way it's been framed by the Republicans.
REHMIs that how you see it?
LUNTZThere are five different types of people for you to reach out to. Rejecters, disagreeables, neutrals, acceptors and embracers. And each one of those terms means something. You need to forget the rejecters because there's nothing you can do to influence them. And the truth is, the disagreeables -- disagreers won't help you. Your job, the most important role for someone who supports public broadcasting, is to take the embracers and energize them to speak up and do something and move the accepters to become embracers.
LUNTZAnd in terms of the best possible language, it is possible to communicate across politics and across ideology. Number one, you provide listeners with content that they cannot get any other place. Number two, you take e-mails, you take Twitter, you take phone calls. That means that there's a greater degree of interactivity, which is what listeners want. Number three is that there's a geographic component. We believe that whether you live in the most rural area of Georgia or the most urban area of New York City, you should have the right to quality programming.
LUNTZAnd number four, if not this, where? It's ending with that question. You know, if not us, who? If the content -- if we lose NPR, where are you going to get this kind of content? Those four steps and that targeting delivers you greater support, if that's what you are trying to do.
REHMAll right. To Southern, Ill. Good morning, Jay.
JAYIt's right over there.
REHMJay, you're on the air. Hey, Jay.
JAYI'm sorry about that.
JAYMy question is about the Healthcare Reform. I want to know why it's called Healthcare Reform hen everything that it's reforming is just insurance. It should be called Health Insurance Reform.
REHMWhat do you say to that, Anita?
DUNNWell, we spent a great deal of time calling it Health Insurance Reform is the answer, that because it has a history -- it has a history of being called Healthcare Reform, that was the shorthand that certainly the press used when we introduced it. That if you go back and you look, you will see the president and many people in the White House and in -- and who were talking about it called it Insurance Reform because it fundamentally was about insurance reform, but it was also named the Affordable Healthcare Act, so there were a lot of terminology that was used, but it is about insurance reform. It was called Health Insurance Reform by many of the people talking about it.
DUNNOne of the -- one of the better questions to be asked is why we didn't do that at the beginning. And, you know, I think that there -- you know, there are a lot of reasons that we didn't, but at the end of the day, in order to frame it the way that really did go to what was happening in the bill, it was called Insurance Reform and that's how people talked about it.
REHMAll right. To Syracuse, N.Y. Good morning, Sara.
SARAHi, thank you for taking my call.
SARAI'm a really big fan of the show.
SARAMy comment and question is for Anita Dunn. And I always wonder -- I'm a Democrat, but I always wonder why the Democrats are so much worse at framing debates compared to Republicans. It seems to me that they continually seed ground to the Conservatives. And it was really telling that Ms. Dunn said at the beginning of the show that she was surprised that the Republicans would resort to lying, for example, about death panels. You only have to look at the so-called political debate over global warming to see the amount of misinformation and lies that they are willing to spread.
SARAAnd I really see that the bigger problem here is that the Democrats don't work on crafting any general arguments that does support the role of government in anything, so they're constantly on the defensive. And a good example was your response, Ms. Dunn, to the questions about NPR. You said, well, there's a legitimate debate to be had about what the government should be involved. No, there isn't (laugh).
DUNNWell, I'm sorry, that is my opinion and, you know, it's a free country and I actually do think it's a legitimate debate. It's one where I personally believe government should be involved in this, that the public broadcasting plays a unique role, but I think if we are not willing to accept the other side and to acknowledge that there are two sides to an argument, that at the end of the day, it's much harder for us to credibly argue our positions.
REHMAnita Dunn, Democratic strategist, former communications director for President Obama. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What about Sara's point that the Democrats are constantly playing catch up?
DUNNYou know, I think that when the Republicans controlled the White House, they feel like they have trouble framing the messages. And when -- if you go back and you look at Medicare Part D, for example, which at the end of the day was a massive entitlement expansion for senior citizens, giving them a prescription drug benefit, that's actually an issue where the Republicans were on the defensive for years because it was framed by Democrats as a giveaway to the pharmaceutical companies where the government wasn't even allowed to negotiate for lower prices, two things that people just felt were inherently wrong. That I think both political parties in different ways tend to get defensive around places where they have historical weaknesses.
REHMDo you agree?
DUNNI would be quite surprised, Sara, if the Republicans were not on the defensive about Medicare for a long time now.
LUNTZI'm going to give you words that both parties should stop using. When the Democrats accused the Republicans as the caller did of lying, when you use the word, you lie, you automatically turn off about 80 percent of the people who are listening to you, no matter what is said, because it's such a personal and such a...
REHMIt's an attacking word.
LUNTZIt's an attack and it attacks character and we don't want to hear that, so -- and then on the Republicans, they like to call Barack Obama a Socialist. That's dumb because that turns off the people in the center who want to hear a reason disagreement, not name calling. And then for both parties, they love to talk about transforming things. Nobody understands what transforming is. Whether it's transforming healthcare or transforming a studio or transforming your life, it's a stupid word and it doesn't work with anybody.
REHMFrank Luntz, how effective do you believe -- no, effective is not the word I want. How truthful do you believe Rush Limbaugh is?
LUNTZWell, if -- to do the first word in terms of effective, you know he's effective because he's the number one talk show host in America.
LUNTZAnd number two, in terms of truth, whenever he says things that people disagree with, he is instantly held accountable and it's an amazing thing in media where he'll make...
REHMGive me an example.
LUNTZWhen he said about Barack Obama, that he hopes that he fails. And I -- when I heard that phrase, I cringed and I told him this and we did a milking conference together and I said, you know, this is a problem because if the president fails, it means that America fails. And his response back was, but this president, he may be the President of the United States, but his beliefs don't represent a majority of America's beliefs. And to me, he says, it's important that his beliefs fail so that we can put in the right beliefs in the Oval Office.
LUNTZThere was an interesting clarification and an important one. Look, the words that you say determine your success or failure. They determine whether people listen to you, whether they like you and whether they'll do what you want them to do. The right words can move mountains and change a generation and the wrong words can really, really sink you.
REHMFrank Luntz, he's the author of a new book, it's titled, "Win." He's also president of Luntz Global. Anita Dunn is Democratic strategist, former communications director for President Obama. And with those simple words, we will close this program. Clearly I'd love to talk to you for many more hours. Thanks to both of you for coming in.
REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales.
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