Advocacy groups lay off W for now

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

respond.



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

campaigns.



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."



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