PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Dayton's panic attacks rules of smart PR

Being the target of a terrorist threat is the new status symbol in American politics.

Being the target of a terrorist threat is the new status symbol in American politics.

Does anything so instantly endow an elected official with patriotic cachet? Surely a man must singularly personify some facet of Americanism to deserve special attention from The Evildoers. We're not quite sure what Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) did to anger the terrorists, but then again, neither are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the US Capitol Police, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), nor anyone else in Washington. Nonetheless, Dayton shuttered his Senate office last week and relocated his staff to Minnesota, citing two-week-old threats allegedly relayed to him by Frist. "I do so out of extreme, but necessary, precaution to protect the lives and safety of my Senate staff and my Minnesota constituents," wrote the senator in a statement just slightly more reassuring than repeated airings of the Emergency Broadcast System. But everyone from Frist to the DHS soon made it clear that they didn't know what Dayton was talking about. One by one, Washington officials assured an understandably concerned city that if Dayton had reason to worry, he knew something no one else did. So not only did Dayton's inexplicable freak-out rattle a city of people already on edge, it sent exactly the wrong message: In the face of adversity, turn tail, flee, and leave nothing in your wake but the disruptive stench of vague panic. Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4.Savvy 5. Ingenious

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