Sen. Tom Daschle's criticism of President Bush and his administration dusted up more controversy than the Democratic leader expected, in part because the polling the Democrats had done leading up to Daschle's comments indicated that his language would fly.
"We focus-grouped and tested the idea that Bush had failed miserably as a diplomat and most of our respondents agreed," says a Democratic leadership aide. "It seemed like the perfect approach for us." Apparently it wasn't.
Daschle was excoriated in the Monday news cycle, and seemed genuinely surprised by the furor when he stepped to the microphone for a regular press briefing in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.
No information on the polling was available, but several Democratic sources said that, like the Senate Democrats, the Democratic National Committee was also studying how best to appeal to the party's left-wing, anti-war base, while also appearing to support the American troops poised to cross into Iraq.
"Everything we were seeing [in the numbers] was that Bush was ripe for criticism for failing to peacefully resolve this," said a House Democratic leadership aide. "That's why so many of our people have been out there hitting him on that point. But maybe it was just bad timing."
Republicans in the administration and on Capitol Hill say the reason Daschle's -- and others' -- criticism isn't flying is that Bush and his team have been so consistent in the message about Iraq. "Remember, we've given diplomacy of some kind six to eight months," says a Bush adviser in the private sector. "The American people probably understand this issue better than the Democratic leadership."
And unspoken in all of this is that the Bush administration hasn't been polling or focus grouping its Iraqi policy. "That the Democrats feel the need to poll on this just shows where their minds are," says a Republican Senate leadership staffer. "You'd think they'd have learned a lesson from the Clinton White House on that."
Perhaps out of concern that their vast left-wing membership would use the numerous open mikes available to them leading into and during Sunday's Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to pull the plug on the nationally (and internationally) televised red carpet entrance at the top of the show.
Also, presenter Susan Sarandon has been shifted to host the "In Memoriam" segment, in the hopes that that solemn moment will limit her abilities to be political.
The Academy, however, will allow the distribution of ribbons at the ceremony which can be worn to show solidarity with the antiwar movement.
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