Mother Jones -- which these days seems to have a business model built entirely on the use of nanny cams -- has just released a surreptitiously acquired video of Frank Luntz, the GOP messaging guru, unloading on talk radio as the source of many of the Republican Party's image problems. An excerpt from the accompanying piece on Luntz's talk at the University of Pennsylvania:
Believing he was speaking privately to the dozens of students present, Luntz proceeded to gripe about conservative talk radio and its impact on political polarization:
"... And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side…[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take—Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy."
As he continued, Luntz, according to [Aakash] Abbi [who made the recording] and two other attendees (who wish to remain anonymous), asserted that it had been irresponsible (and bad for the GOP) for right-wing talkers to pontificate about women's bodies and birth control—an obvious reference to Limbaugh's attack last year on Sandra Fluke, a law student invited to testify before Congress on health insurance coverage of contraception. (Abbi didn't catch this part of Luntz's reply on his recording.)
Luntz was blaming polarization and the GOP's problems partly on conservative media, but he didn't want his criticism of Limbaugh, Levin, and the others to reach beyond this classroom. He was clear on this basic point: Right-wing media is not serving the national debate and not helping the GOP widen the party's appeal beyond its declining base. (Luntz declined to comment on his remarks at the event.)
What do you think? What role does conservative talk radio play in representing the movement? What role should it play? And our are biggest talk radio starts net positives or net negatives for conservatism?