First of all, let's get the Maher header out of the way. It was rolling around in my head all night and the only way to get it out was to put it on paper. I'll be the first, but far for the last to admit, I'm no Frank Luntz.
Friday night, Luntz, the Republican Party's message architect behind the phrases, "Contract With America," "Climate Change," and "Death Tax," paneled along with the always gaw-gee-ous Arianna Huffington and the severely amusing Paula Poundstone on Bill Maher's Real Time.
As always, it was politainment at its best. Whomever's in charge of casting the consistently interesting labyrinthine of diversity that sits weekly at the Real Time table should get an Emmy (or at least an ACE). If not for
ingenuous mix of personality and credentials, then for the fact that they can put together a group which can battle intelligently and passionately without going O'Reilly all over each other.
While each panel member was splendid in doing what they do, if I might put on my dispassionate, non-partisan glasses on for the moment, it was Republican-enabler, Luntz, who shone. Not for his even-tempered, charming grasp of the issues but for his willingness to accept the part of sacrificial Republican lamb without losing his sense of humor.
Maher's hour never fails to surprise, but last night on the webcast that follows the HBO hour, Luntz provided the kind of jolt that on network television would send shock waves through the political punditry cosmos.
Backstage, before the show, I asked Luntz to come up with a new phrase during the panel so I'd have a scoop for my column. He said he would but had no idea yet what it would be. Little did I know that the phrase Newt Gingrich's favorite elucidater would come up with might signal such an intriguing point in 2008 presidential election.
"This country would benefit from electing someone like Obama."
It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue say like "Contract with America," but keep in mind, this is from an admitted Republican who writes the words that make the whole right-wing world sing.
But that wasn't all. He gushed on. Obama would bring renewed respect to America.
In Obama you see hope and opportunity. He's such a positive. He will do things that are good. This guy is incredible."
Alright, Frank, we get the idea. You're an unabashed Barrack backer. No where during the show did Luntz come close that kind of adoration for a Republican candidate.
If Barrack's ad guys aren't getting rights from HBO to download Luntz's words onto Obama's MySpace site right now, they're missing a huge opportunity to sign up a bunch of new friends from the Right.
I don't know if Luntz is thinking of switching teams but with that type of endorsement he gave Obama, I think it would be smart for Arianna to bring him on staff at Huffinton Post. In the least to make whatever I submit, sound coherent.
P.S. Arianna's call for Democrats to stop buying into the Repbulican canny ability to define an issue without an iota of truth behind it - like Luntz's caveat that Democrats are not tolerant of religion - was long-needed to be said and and should repeated ad infinitum to and by every Democratic politico and voter.
Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" (www.greatfailure.com) and an award-winning television writer who has never received a pay check from Bill Maher.