After three days of tracking Bill Bradley through town halls and libraries, hotel meeting rooms and restaurants, I feel compelled to write a word about Midwest values as exemplified by the Hawkeye State.
Okay, I admit to a soft spot for the whole region. I went to college in the Midwest. I married a Midwesterner. The sight of green and golden cornfields stretching out under the clear blue Iowa sky makes me catch my breath with delight. But it's really the people that get me.
In Dubuque one night, I sat next to a couple juggling a baby and a toddler on their laps. Grandma was with them, too, and she kept pulling keys and other items out of her purse to amuse the baby. The toddler kept wiggling out of her parents' grasp and having to be retrieved. But all of them, mom, dad, and grandma, kept listening to every word the candidate spoke. They hadn't made their minds up for sure, but they had come out to listen and decide who they wanted to govern them.
In Manchester, a group of Iowa farmers talked about how they were facing hard times. "I would say the next six months according to the USDA is going to be extremely tough on everybody at this table. ...Every one of us survived last fall, maybe by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin...and we're gonna have to tighten our belt one more notch if hogs collapse this fall."
Yes, they wanted some federal help, but in the meantime they had tried to help themselves, saving money by marketing their own local brand of high quality pork products.
In the Muscatine Hotel, some teachers asked about Bradley's proposals for education. When he responded that he's in favor of more respect and money for their profession, they were the first to had laugh about how they were getting an answer designed to please them.
At Stan's Bakery in Keokuk, a counter lady proudly displayed the huge variety of donuts and sweet rolls available in the tiny shop. She added up everything twice to make sure that she wasn't overcharging. The goodies were going to some other kindly Iowans, the ones who were letting our CBS camera crew plug into the power supply in their little trailer park near the Mississippi. We kept thanking them. "Don't mention it," they kept insisting.
Good manners. Hard work. An interest in democracy. As Meredith Wilson wrote in The Music Man, "You really ought to give Iowa a try."