WASHINGTON: Liberal advocacy groups are grappling with a thorny
communications issue in the struggle to reclaim normalcy after the
attacks earlier this month: how does one criticize George W. Bush when
criticism of the President is suddenly considered un-American?
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource
Defense Council have made a veritable cottage industry out of
criticizing the Republican President, who they claim is willing to
sacrifice the environment for the needs of corporate donors. But in
light of recent events, the American mood seems unlikely to tolerate
public Bush bashing. Such activities, these groups fear, could result in
public scorn for their missions.
As a result, these groups and others like them have called off all
anti-Bush campaigns, and are struggling with ways to refine their
messages without surrendering their agendas.
"The question now is when to proceed and how," said David Fenton, whose
firm Fenton Communications, specializes in PR for advocacy groups. "It's
a timing issue as much as anything. If this administration proceeds with
plans that are damaging to the environment, these groups are gonna
It's just a question of tone and timing."
Fenton said he has been huddling with clients since the attacks to
develop new messages, but declined to give details of what may emerge.
It is unclear when the mood will change enough to make way for fresh
campaigns, he said, adding that much of it will depend on military
action, which would make it more difficult to run critical
Nonetheless, he said, his clients strongly believe they can find a way
to criticize the President while supporting the country. "You can be
supportive of the President in times of crisis and still exercise the
democratic right to be critical when his policies are not appropriate.
You can do both."