This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Average great Americans all across the country have been flocking the town hall meetings to voice their opinions on health care reform. And here tonight, we've relocated to Studio D and invited real Americans, you know, people that pay their taxes, obey the laws, and you know, contribute to society, to have our very own town hall focus group.
And joining me now is pollster and president of the Word Doctors, our own Frank Luntz.
Frank, good to see. Thanks for being here.
FRANK LUNTZ, THE WORD DOCTORS: You sure paid their taxes?
HANNITY: Anyone here pay your taxes?
LUNTZ: Yes, before we get started, I want the people at home to see this. How many people voted for John McCain? Raise your hands. 14 of you. How many voted for Barack Obama? Wow, 15 of you. Dead even.
HANNITY: One more for Obama so just — but a tainted group, Frank.
LUNTZ: But it's perfect because it represents America as we know it. So let me ask you, Barack Obama, is he delivering what he promised? Yes or no?
Who says he is? Show of hands.
Who says he's not?
You're that disappointed.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Yes!
LUNTZ: I want people who voted for him to explain why you're disappointed. If you voted for him, why you're disappointed.
CHARLES, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Too much compromise. To me he needs to be more a little bit more forceful.
LUNTZ: Why you're disappointed?
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: It's still a big business that runs everything.
HANNITY: Can I go back — are you saying that he's not liberal enough? That he's not pushing change enough?
CHARLES: In some instances, absolutely. I think that the things about George Bush and Dick Cheney, you know I didn't vote them but the fact that whatever the issue was, they got it done.
HANNITY: OK. And you're agreeing?
JACOB, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Yes, definitely, I think he's not — you know he's just bowling down to conservatives to much that he's really not sort of taking a hammer to this thing. You know when George Bush was president, he got his like — my friend over was saying, he got his agenda through. I think Obama has to do the same.
BARBARA, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Oh God, this is such junk. I mean, my god. We had eight years of $1 billion a month towards Iraq. If we had taken all that money for a war that was false being with, we would have the best health insurance in the world right now. We wouldn't be going through this now.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: But that was his platform, to get rid of the war. Meanwhile, he kept Bush's agenda. So.
BARBARA: We can't just leave.
PETER, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Well, that's not.
HANNITY: Go ahead, Peter.
PETER: That's a little, you know, not necessarily, totally true. He hasn't just kept Bush's agenda on Iraq. I mean he's — pulling people out but once you get there and you're privy to all that other information, sure, maybe your plan should change. And they should.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Can we give him a chance? I mean since the day he took over, nobody gives him a chance. The Republicans, he's a pariah. You know he's our president. Stand behind him.
HANNITY: Can I ask you? But we found out today, though, the debt in the short time he's been in office has quadrupled since he's become president. In one year, he's quadrupled the deficit. Is that —
HANNITY: Are people supposed to be quiet?
LUNTZ: Go ahead.
CAROL, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I am in shock at what I am hearing. We have somebody who rammed through a stimulus, we have somebody who's Miranderizing terrorists on the battlefield? Are you kidding me? He wants to put terrorists on the streets. And this is not harsh enough for you? You've got to be kidding me.
LIONEL, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: He hasn't been in office for a year now.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: That's not — well, but he's done.
LIONEL: I mean he came in to try to take over and put this government and put this country back in the right direction.
DAVID, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I think that's the right word. I think he's trying to take over. And he's trying to make the government take over just about anything you can think of.
HANNITY: Can I ask a question? How many of you think that he's fundamentally changing America in ways that nobody imagined?
LUNTZ: In a good way or a bad way?
(GOOD WAY! BAD WAY!)
LUNTZ: One at a time. Who says it's a good way?
Who says it's a bad way?
LUNTZ: Now socialist is a very strong word to use.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I think that he was voted the number one leftist in the entire House of Representatives and Congress and he's still maintaining that position. He's radical all the way through.
LUNTZ: Go ahead.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: He could be the most honest politician I have seen. He promised change and we are getting lots of change.
HANNITY: But wait.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I don't — I didn't vote for him. I don't agree with it. But he's delivering what he promised.
HANNITY: But didn't he try and sell himself as more fiscally conservative? Tax cuts for 95 percent. He said no earmarks. He gave us 9,000 earmarks. They're not even reading these bills that they're passing.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Right.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: This is not the change that I want.
LUNTZ: Go ahead.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: This is not the change that I want.
HANNITY: Go ahead.
REBECCA, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: And he said he was going to be transparent and nothing so far has been transparent. I mean almost nothing that he does.
HANNITY: It's a great point.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I have written to him 16 times. His transparency has told me, every time, that he hasn't written once in response.
HANNITY: I wrote him, too, by the way, he wouldn't respond back.
JOYCE, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I just want to say, what about flag at Whitehouse.gov? OK? It has changed my perception of being an American. When I think that if I send an e-mail to someone else, that they can send it to the White House and my name gets on the list.
HANNITY: How many — I agree with you. I think this is a good question, Frank. How many of you are concerned that the government wants you to report on your fellow citizens?
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: "1984."
HANNITY: "1984." It sounds like.
LUNTZ: Why does it concern you?
KATHERINE, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Sounds like Bush-Cheney.
LUNTZ: Why does it concern you, Katherine?
KATHERINE: It's an invasion.
LUNTZ: But it's voluntary.
HANNITY: One at that time.
KATHERINE: For the people reporting, what about the people who are expressing themselves openly?
CHARLES: If you pick up your phone right now, or when you e-mail anybody right now, there's somebody already taking your information.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Oh I don't believe that.
HANNITY: Yes? Rebecca.
REBECCA: But what's scarier is that citizens on citizens turning on each other.
REBECCA: That's not what we're supposed to do.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this.
HANNITY: When we — can I have one more question on health care? When we heard that they want to push this health care through in two weeks' period of time, and we know that they didn't read the stimulus bill before they passed it, $787 billion is a lot of money from our kids and grandkids, but when they wanted to pass it through, do you that think they really weren't taking into account your opinions?
How many of you think that they were not being considerate of the American people's point of view here?
(HALF RAISE HANDS)
LUNTZ: But — now they would argue that the Republicans had eight years and nothing happened.
JACOB: Didn't Bush pass the first bill? That was on his watch. That wasn't.
HANNITY: But Barack Obama and the Democrats voted for it.
MICHELLE, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Yes, I felt very safe with Bush. And that was a prime issue for me. And the fact that anything that he would do would be clamped on very quickly.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: He created a crisis that doesn't exist. The system is not perfect, but it's not broken. People aren't lining up outside of hospitals dying. There's specific problems that need to be addressed, you don't need to trash the whole system.
LUNTZ: Let me ask you a question, are you mad as hell?
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I'm very angry about that.
LUNTZ: How many of you would say by a show of hands that you're mad as hell?
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Oh yes!
LUNTZ: So it's this why people are yelling and screaming at town hall meetings? This is justified. Just because, David, you're angry?
DAVID: Yes. I think if that's.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Nothing to do with health care.
DAVID: The politicians have been this elitist mentality. They don't want to listen to us anymore. So we're going to try to make them listen to us and if this is the only way to do it.
HANNITY: Can I have on last — is it really — is it just that they're passionate? I mean we see, for example, stay-at-home moms, we see the elderly. We see veterans. We see fathers pushing children in wheelchairs. And the politicians referred to them as mobs, as un-American, as political terrorists, as mobsters.
Do you think the Democrats have overreached in these attacks?
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Absolutely!
JACOB: I'll be willing to bet a year's salary that the people that are yelling at these town hall meetings are the same exact people that think Obama was born in another country.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Right!
JACOB: The same group of people.
HANNITY: Hang on a second.
I'll tell you what, Frank, this is a great focus group. This is a town hall debate. You guys are terrific. We've got a lot more to get to. We have more with Frank Luntz. More of this town hall focus group coming up right after the break.
HANNITY: And we continue now with Frank Luntz and our town hall focus group.
All right, Frank. Everybody is willing. I want to show you — we've been reading about all the things the Democrats have been saying about the people that have been showing up at the town halls. I want to show you a montage of three Democrats starting with Nancy Pelosi. And then we'll get your reaction. Let's roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, D-CALIF.: I think they are Astroturf — you be the judge. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care.
REP. BRIAN BAIRD, D-WASH.: Some of the rhetoric that we're hearing is vaguely — not vaguely but eerily reminiscent of the kind of things that drove Tim McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma.
REP. JOHN DINGELL, D-MICH.: The last time I had to confront something like this was when I voted for the Civil Rights Bill and my opponent voted against it. At that time, we had a lot of Ku Klux Klan folks and white supremacists, and folks in white sheets and other things, running around, causing trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUNTZ: They're complaining. Are their comments justified? Yes or no?
How many of you say yes by a show of hands?
(THREE HANDS RAISED)
HANNITY: You think it's all right?
LUNTZ: But only three of them.
HANNITY: Only three.
LUNTZ: Who says they're not justified?
So a lot of Obama people who support the health care plan are still saying it's not justified. Tell me why, Barbara.
BARBARA: I — I just think this — it's such drama. It's like watching a Shakespearean drama. It's just funny at this point.
LUNTZ: Why isn't it justified?
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: What the people are saying — I mean, the people that could — three people go — a few people go and yell at these town- hall meetings. That's not representative of the whole Democratic Party.
HANNITY: How many of you saw what I saw at these town halls, though? The elderly concerned, veterans concerned, people with their children.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: But they're getting their information from FOX News. Misinformation.
HANNITY: No, no, they're getting the truth from FOX News.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Maybe from you. They're listening — they're listening to Rush Limbaugh.
HANNITY: Rush is telling the truth.
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: He's driving them –- making them nervous...
LUNTZ: David. David.
DAVID: I got an e-mail the other day, e-mail list, that had 30 different points about the health care plan and why you shouldn't support it. And to make sure that it was real, I looked up every single one. And every single one was true. And it was in the bill the way it was written.
So the misinformation is a lie, because the stuff that's being put out there, even these little bullet points, is right on the mark so far.
HANNITY: But for example, President Obama said that it's not going to cost us anything, but in fact, the CBO even says it's going to be $1 trillion. They said you can keep the current plan, but on page 16 it says something very different.
And I'm very concerned about end-of-life counseling for the elderly. How many of you are concerned about this?
LUNTZ: And I want to show you something. If you can bring that painting in here.
LUNTZ: This is a gentleman. This is what I think, one of the great presidents. And he had something to say about how people participate. And you all recognize him.
LUNTZ: You like him.
HANNITY: Who did this? That is a beautiful painting.
LUNTZ: And the artist actually is here, Steve Penley (ph). Teddy Roosevelt said, "Walk softly but carry a big stick." The people who are at those town-hall meetings are not walking softly; they're talking loudly. Are they justified?
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Yes.
LUNTZ: Why are they justified?
HANNITY: How many say justified? Almost.
LUNTZ: Carol, why are they justified?
CAROL: They're justified in a number of reasons. And I also want to say, it is very, very dangerous to go around to ask people if they belong to groups. We have the right to a free association and to assembly.
What the left is trying to do is they're trying to scare people to organize. Because when you organize, you can raise money. When you raise money, you have power. ACORN is — ACORN is — is powerful, because...
PETER: These are — I mean, ACORN, that's in the past. We can move on from that one. That was farcical.
CAROL: Not in the past!
PETER: You're allowed free speech. That's a fact. No one should be called un-American because they made free speech.
JACOB: The people at these town hall meetings, it's not really about health care. These words — let me finish. These words like "un-American," "socialism," like you use, Sean, it's — I think it's really a code word for — it's the new "N" word, basically.
HANNITY: How many — how many agree with that?
MALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Rubbish.
HANNITY: Three people. OK. Let me play something, because there's a lot of questions about dissent now in the country. Because I think that people have a right in this country still to express their viewpoints. And believe it or not, not somebody that I've often agreed with politically, Hillary Clinton agrees with me. How many of you remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON IN 2003: I am sick and tired of people who say that, if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic. And we should stand up and say, we are Americans, and we have a right to agree or disagree with any administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUNTZ: Matthew, now, if it's good enough for her to yell, what is so wrong about people being emotional at these town hall meetings?
MATTHEW, FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Nothing at all. I mean, they want to demonize people for having a different opinion. It's OK to organize a community when you are agreeing with them, if you're liberal, but not if you're a conservative.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: I think it's disgraceful that we have that triumvirate of people criticizing, in the most vile and extreme terms possible, to characterize — because the last eight years the left has characterized Bush in vile terms, and now they're doing it again.
CHARLES: My only problem with the town halls.
HANNITY: One at the time.
LUNTZ: Can I ask you a question?
LUNTZ: What you just did to her is what's happened at the town hall meetings that you're criticizing. You heard her speak, and you talked over her. Are you any better than them?
CHARLES: No, but she's been doing it the whole night, too. And if you want to get your point across, sometimes you have to yell. My problem — my problem with the town halls is not that people are raising their voice, it's not that they have dissent. But you don't call somebody a Nazi. You don't bring pictures of...
HANNITY: Wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait. The people that are being called Nazis and mobsters and political — wait a minute — political terrorists...
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: No!
HANNITY: ... are the very men and women that are taking time out of their summer to go to the town halls.
FEMALE FOCUS GROUP MEMBER: Joyce. Joyce.
JOYCE: None of the politicians have been transparent. They have obfuscated everything concerning that health care bill. And people fear that. They — they are shocked that their politicians would do that to them.
HANNITY: I have one important last question, because we're running out of time in my ear here. You know, government is bankrupting Social Security. Government has bankrupted Medicare.
But President Obama promised that unemployment would not go above 8 percent if we passed that stimulus bill. How many of you have any hope that the federal government can really get health care right with that track record? How many of you hope that they can? One, two, three, four, five.
LUNTZ: Understand this. Half of these people voted for Obama, and only five of them have faith in this plan.
HANNITY: That's interesting, yes. How many of you think that the government — how many of you distrust your government more now than in any point in your life?
Wow, that's pretty powerful.
HANNITY: That's pretty powerful.
PETER: It took eight years to get there. You're discounting the eight years. When I — that's when a lot of...
HANNITY: I'm going to start calling you Peter the Lib. I'm kidding.
PETER: You can, you can.
HANNITY: I'm kidding.
BARBARA: Can I say something? I had to leave a job after — now, I've been looking for three years. I had to leave a job after four days because when I saw the health package, I was getting 12 bucks an hour, and I couldn't afford the health package.
Guess what? I'm on Medicare and Medicaid. I have the best health insurance of anybody in this room. They will not kick me out of the hospital.
HANNITY: Actually, FOX has a pretty good plan.
BARBARA: Can I have a job?
HANNITY: Can I say something? This has been a great panel. And even Jacob and Peter and the guys that disagree with — honestly, congratulations. I think you taught us a lot tonight. And more importantly, I think you're very well-informed, which I think bodes well for this debate as it moves forward.
And Frank, as always, terrific. Thank you for being with us all. Thank you very much.
LUNTZ: Thank you.
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