How About the Language of Truth-Telling?

Posted November 18, 2003 at 6:42pm

Frank Luntz, who claims to have gone cold turkey from partisan politics so he could host a weekend show on MSNBC, just can’t seem to break the Republican habit.

During last week’s marathon debate over judicial nominations, Senate Republican aides were carefully reviewing an 11-page memo written by

Luntz on “The Language of Judicial Nominations.”

Luntz included sample press releases for Republicans to use and advised lawmakers that “the silver bullet in this effort — the one argument that consistently turns voters against the Democratic strategy and tactics — is timing. More precisely, virtually no one believes a nominee should have to wait more than six months for a vote — and a year-long wait is simply unconscionable.”

Number seven among the 14 bullet points was this gem that had Luntz taking a shot at the Founding Fathers: “In any history lesson, the Constitution matters, but the Founding Fathers don’t. I say this with respect and deference to Madison, Jefferson and Hamilton but the framers don’t matter — and referring to them is at best irrelevant in today’s audiences and, at [worst], a turn-off.”

In a telephone interview on Friday, Luntz confirmed to HOH that he wrote the strategy document. But the pollster claimed that the memo was written much earlier this year — before he got his MSNBC “America’s Voices” show — and maintained that he has since stopped advising Republicans.

“That memo was written five or six months ago and that’s all I’m going to say about it,” Luntz said. “It’s before MSNBC gave me my television show. I have not been working in electoral politics.”

MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines backed up Luntz’s account of the time frame. “When we began discussions about doing the show, part of the agreement was that he would not have political clients for the duration of the show,” he said.

Tuesday, however, HOH obtained an e-mail revealing that Luntz was scheduled last night to address a session on “How to Communicate Medicare Back Home” for House Republicans. The event in the basement of the Capitol was hosted by Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) “Prescription Drug Action Team and the House Republican Conference.”

The session also included advice from David Winston, a contributing writer to Roll Call, who is honest in disclosing that he is a Republican pollster and strategist. The two pollsters were not paid for last night’s appearance.

In any event, Luntz didn’t return a call Tuesday seeking comment on his renewed interest in electoral politics.

Ask Chrissy. Chrissy Gephardt, who has already shown plenty of courage during her father’s presidential campaign by publicly revealing that she is a lesbian, has now decided to start spilling some secrets about daddy instead of herself.

She just launched an “Ask Chrissy” column on the presidential Web site of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) that’s vowing to reveal some “little known” facts about her dad.

“What I decided is that one of the things I hear a lot on the road is that people don’t know my dad as a person,” she said Tuesday from the campaign trail in New Mexico. “I want people to know that Dick Gephardt wasn’t born in a blue suit. He’s been a Washington politician so long I’ve heard people say he was born on C-SPAN — in a blue suit.”

Given the fact that the candidate is known as a straight-laced Midwesterner, it seems unlikely that he has some deep, dark secret. Nevertheless, his daughter wants to make clear that there are limits to what she will reveal.

“I want to tell things about him that nobody knows — without being too racy,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not going to answer the question ‘boxers or briefs?’ Sorry.”

Out of nowhere, however, she proceeded to spill the beans about the time that her mom, Jane Gephardt, threatened to get a divorce several years ago. This was revealed when Chrissy was pressed to detail the candidate’s “goofy” side.

“He likes to swim in the ocean with the rental car keys in his bathing suit,” she said of the family vacations on the beach in North Carolina. “He’s actually done it twice. My mom wanted to kill him because two times we’ve had to have someone come with a crowbar” to get into the rental car.

“The second time my mom looked at him and said, ‘I want a divorce,’” she recounted. “She was kidding, of course.”

Whew. Got a nagging question? Fire it off to askchrissy@dickgephardt2004.com.

Medicare Mom. Is 89-year-old Marcia Lieberman dissing her own son’s health care reform plan?

At an AARP forum held with the Democratic presidential candidates in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) noted to the crowd that his beloved mom was sitting in the front row.

After Lieberman trumpeted the fact that a noted expert had touted the merits of his health reform plan, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) decided to drop a surprise on his colleague.

“Joe, I know you have an expert who thinks your plan is the best, and I really hate to spring this on you in the debate,” Edwards said. “Your mother thinks I have the best health care plan.”

Quickly realizing that he probably should not kid like that to an elderly woman, Edwards added, “I was joking. I was joking — mom — I was joking!”

Nevertheless, Lieberman’s campaign hurriedly put out an official statement from his mama: “Is my son’s health care plan the best, or what? That John Edwards is a nice looking boy, but I don’t know what he was talking about. I’ve been telling Joe for years that we need a prescription drug benefit, and I know he’ll get it done as president.”

Hooters Tax Break? As the energy conference report passed through the House Tuesday, Democrats were taking shots at a provision that gave a tax break to help pay for a new development in Shreveport, La.

The Denver Post editorialized Tuesday that the bill is “full of pork,” noting that the Shreveport provision will “subsidize that city’s first-ever Hooters restaurant.”

One female House aide wondered whether “there will be solar panels” at the restaurant: “Are the chicks going to call their skimpy outfits ‘energy efficient’ instead of ‘tartish?’”

Tauzin-Dingell, Take Two. First “Tauzin-Dingell” was a broadband bill that couldn’t get anywhere. Now it’s an invitation to a holiday party that’s sparking laughter throughout the Capitol.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and their wives are throwing a “Cajun-Polish style” bash on Dec. 6 in the Rayburn House Office Building. The invitation, which was put together by Cecile Tauzin and Debbie Dingell, highlights the vast differences between their constituencies:

“Tauzin-Dingell. Andouille and Kielbasa. Beignets and Paczki. Muffalettas and Coneys. Jax and Stroh’s. Oysters and Zebra Mussels. Tigers (LSU) and Tigers (Detroit). Nutria and Beavers. Zydeco and Motown. Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin. Fais do do and the Polka. Accordions and Accordions. The French Quarter and Hamtramck. Emeril and Jimmy Schmidt. James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard. Ellen Degeneres and Lily Tomlin. The Superdome and Silverdome. The Delta and the Delta 88.”

A second invite for a staff party that Tauzin and Dingell are throwing on Dec. 9 features a male reindeer and a female reindeer. “There’s some disagreement over who posed in the bloomers and black stiletto heels,” quipped Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson. “But Tauzin’s nobby knees are a dead giveaway.”

Moving On. Chris Paulitz, spokesman for Rep. Mark Foley (Fla.), is heading over to the National Republican Congressional Committee to become press secretary.

Meanwhile, Michael Hacker is leaving his post as spokesman for Dingell to join the public affairs team at Quinn Gillespie & Associates.