LAST CALL: GOP finds allies in PR effort to hound House Democrats

We're all in favor of a good publicity stunt, but there is such a thing as going too far to make a point. Or as your mother used to say: It's all fun and games until somebody loses a very expensive piece of audio equipment.

We're all in favor of a good publicity stunt, but there is such a thing as going too far to make a point. Or as your mother used to say: It's all fun and games until somebody loses a very expensive piece of audio equipment.

OK, so maybe your mother isn't a boom mike operator, but the guy who wound up on the wrong side of a Senate Republican publicity play last month was.

A handful of Republican senators wanted to mark the one-year anniversary of their party's relegation to minority status and the elevation of Sen. Thom Daschle (D-SD) to majority leader. Their primary message? Daschle was exploiting his powers as leader of the Senate to stall, ignore, or otherwise bury (hint hint) Republican-backed legislation.

So they did what any reasonable elected officials would do: They dragged three 100-pound bloodhounds into the middle of a press conference in the Capitol building.

You see, bloodhounds are hunting dogs. They dig things up. The Republicans were accusing Daschle of burying legislation. Get it? Get it?

One could be excused for not getting it, as the dogs themselves actually didn't do much of anything except stand around looking confused. That is, until one of them found something worth hunting.

That something was a $2,000 boom mike, operated by an unidentified cameraman.

The dog being held by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) got it in his sights, then got it in his teeth. And when a staffer attempted to wrest the mike loose, the dog growled, hopefully inspiring all senators present to reflect upon the old adage about any publicity being good publicity.

As it so often does, good taste won out in the end. The dog eventually released the gnarled, flavorless mike (whose owner was reportedly looking for compensation), and the press conference achieved its purpose - the event was the talk of the day on the Hill.

Putting it all in perspective, Ron Bonjean, press secretary to Senate minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), told reporters, "This gives new definition to the term 'sound bite.'"

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