Jun 21, 2004
Frank Luntz lays out a new contract on America:With voter anxieties about Iraq shadowing this year’s campaign, pollster Frank Luntz has some advice for fellow Republicans: Mind your language.
Luntz, according to a strategy paper that fell into the hands of Democrats, says minor changes in language used by politicians can lead to major differences in voter perceptions—turning a potential liability into an asset.
Among his suggested talking points, in the nine-page section on Iraq and terrorism:
• It’s not the war in Iraq—it’s the war on terror. “You will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word ‘preemption’ or the phrase ‘the War in Iraq’ to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start,” it said. “Your efforts are about ‘the principles of prevention and protection’ in the greater ‘War on Terror.’”
• Remember: better there than here. ” ‘Prevention at home can require aggressive action abroad’ is the best way to link a principle the public supports with the policies of the Administration,” it said. ” ‘It is better to fight the War on Terror on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York or Washington.’”
• Don’t forget the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. ” ‘9/11 changed everything’ is the context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11.”
• Don’t forget Saddam Hussein. ” ‘The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.’ Enough said.”
• And don’t forget the troops. “Nothing matters more than Americans in the line of fire,” it said. “Never, ever, EVER give a speech or issue a press release that makes no mention of our troops.”
In an e-mailed response, phrasemaker Luntz declined to comment on his paper.
Luckily, Matt Labash has already taken one of Luntz’s points and created a fun new game to teach us how to propagandize, which the Weekly Standard was kind enough to print:
Once you get the hang of the Where You’d Like to Fight The Terrorists game, it’s easy to play, and lots of fun. Let’s try it. Match the Iraqi cities where you’d rather fight the terrorists on the left to the U.S. cities where you don’t want to fight the terrorists on the right. Then, check out the answer key below and see how good a terrorist-fighter you are.
(A) Umm Qasr (1) Kansas City, MO
(B) Nasiriyah (2) Tifton, GA
(C) Karbala (3) Umnak, AL
(D) Basra (4) Nacogdoches, TX
(E) Tikrit (5) Beaver Falls, PA
A little practice, and you’ll know exactly what to do if you find yourself down-wind on some Sunday morning gasbag show. Whenever the Iraq catastrophe of the day is brought up, just look the moderator in the eye, and tell him that you’d rather fight the terrorists in Salman Pak than in the Salmon River of Idaho. That you’d rather fight the terrorists in Safwan than San Antonio. (I’ve lived in San Antonio—great place to get Mexican, no place to fight terrorists.) Better Berkeley than Baghdad. Or vice versa. That one’s a toss-up.
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