Dog Days In Iowa

It's summer. Let us all pursue our pleasures where we find them, whether in Maine or Iowa. That's CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver's suggestion in her latest column for An archive of The Braver Line is available. Rita Braver's email address is

My friend the Washington Wise Man was even grumpier than usual. "When are you people going to stop covering non-news like it's news?" he demanded to know. "Moi?" I asked.

After all, I had been on vacation during the Iowa straw poll. It wasn't my fault that all the networks had sent teams of reporters and swarms of camera crews to cover a non-binding event more than a year and before the election.

But I had to admit that I had watched the competition with keen interest. My feeling is that the more vibes you soak up, the better; call it the osmosis school of politics.

I thought it was interesting to observe George Bush trying to look victorious and humble at the same time. I like seeing Elizabeth Dole, who's worked so hard to prove that she is more than a grown up sorority girl, win her third place victory through the efforts of her sorors. And why did Lamar Alexander finally have the good sense to throw in the towel, while Dan Quayle keeps running and Marilyn Quayle has now taken to bashing George W., the son of the man who catapulted her husband from the obscurity of the junior Indiana Senate seat?

How about Gary Bauer claiming to inherit the mantle of Ronald Reagan, when a high Reagan White House Official recently told me that the Gipper had put out the word to keep Bauer away from him, because "All he wants to talk about is fetuses?"

Oh, I do love politics.

My friend persisted: "If you didn't go to those things, the candidates wouldn't go to them." But, I responded, "If the candidates didn't go to those things, we wouldn't go."

Chicken or egg? Egg or chicken. Scrambled or fried or sunny side up. Political jousting at this time in the election cycle is just for political junkies, and no one has to pay attention.

I know this is true because I just got back from Maine where the entire state is interested in just one thing, and it's not politics. It's shopping. Maine has become a giant crafts store.

Is there any resident without a home workshop? There are people selling moose made of wood, pottery, iron, or lace. You can buy hand made place mats, butter knives, aprons, scarves, or dishes.

And talk about plunging into politics too early. It's practically Christmas time in Maine, what with all the handmade Santas and elves and reindeer jumping out at you everywhere.

And if you don't fancy the crafty stuff, head for Freeport, where LL Bean and the outlet shops are packing in shopping fiends like my daughter, who had to be dragged away by her father and me so we coulcatch our plane home.

So, to my grumpy friend and all the rest of you out there, I say "lighten up." It's summer. Let us all pursue our pleasures where we find them.

As for me, I'm on my way to Iowa to catch Bill Bradley on the campaign trail.