Mark Blumenthal | January 29, 2010
Topics: Barack Obama , Frank Luntz
From our Pollster-centric perch, this is a memorable comment. In answering the last question of the Q & A session with the House Republicans today in Baltimore, President Obama called out pollster Frank Luntz (emphasis added):
That's why I say if we're going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can't start off by figuring out, (a), who is to blame, (b), how can we make the american people afraid of the other side? Unfortunately that's how our politics works right now. That's how a lot of our discussion works.
That's how we start off every time somebody speaks in Congress, the first thing they do, they stand up and all the talking points - I see Frank Luntz sitting in the front. He has already polled it and he said the way you're really going to -- I've done a focus group and the way we're going to really box in Obama on this one or make Pelosi look bad on that one -- I know Frank. I like Frank. We've had conversations between Frank and I, but that's how we operate. It's all tactics. It's not solving problems.
So the question is, at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability or a serious conversation about Social Security or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we're not simply trying to position ourselves politically? That's what I'm committed to doing. We won't agree all the time in getting it done, but I'm committed to doing it.
I'll update with video if and when I can find it (thanks to Marc Ambinder for noting this exchange via Twitter). Update: CSPAN has video here, but the video is not embeddable; the comments above begin at 84:21. Update 2: Thanks to MSNBC, here's the clip:
PS: Probably says more about the nature of inside-the-beltway chatter, but Mark Halperin apparently considered this exchange the most "extraordinary" aspect of the Q&A.
[Luntz] conceded Obama had the advantage today -- but said he'd still advise Republicans to debate him again, because it put them on his "level."
Luntz also confided that Obama had approached him after the event and joked with him about calling him out. "We had a laugh about it," Luntz told me in an interview just now. "He said, `It's good for business.'"