DES MOINES, Iowa — Vice President George Bush finally got the folks' attention out here, and in so doing has induced widespread feelings of social insecurity in this otherwise seemingly stable and sensible state.
But he didn't do it with his hint on Wednesday that if he were President he might consider raising taxes after all if that turned out to be the only way to reduce the federal deficit. Nor with his challenge to the other Republican presidential hopefuls to sign off on the Administration's proposed intermediate-range missile-reduction agreement with the Soviet Union.
No, he did it with his explanation of why he finished a disappointing third behind former television evangelist Pat Robertson and Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) in the Republican straw poll here a month ago.
Bush said that while Robertson was able to bus about 1,300 of his supporters to the Saturday event in Ames, "A lot of the people who support me, they were at an air show (in Cedar Rapids), they were at their daughter's coming-out party, or teeing up at the golf course in that all-important last round and they were turning out at high school reunions."
Representatives of a whole class of thunderstruck Iowa Republicans are feeling embarrassed, if not humiliated. It seems that not only has none of them ever been invited to a debutante's ball in Iowa, they've scarcely even heard of one.
"I've had some suspicions that I wasn't socially acceptable, but I never realized how bad it was," said Steve Roberts, a Des Moines lawyer and former state GOP chairman. "I don't even know anyone who knows about one, that's how far down the line I am. We owe him a debt for pointing out who's in and who's out and he needs to spend more time here getting us educated.
"Is he sure they were at coming-out parties? They may have been mountain climbing or went to the beach."
Roberts, who is supporting Dole, now wonders why he has never been invited to a coming-out party in Russell, Kan. (population 5,427), Dole's home town.
"I've never heard of a coming-out party in Iowa," said Penny Brown, who was born, reared and educated in Iowa. "That's an Eastern phenomenon. I don't think Iowans are plugged into the concept of coming-out parties."
One Iowa Republican speculated that Bush may have revolutionized the nation's social priorities.
"It's possible that an invitation to a debutante ball in Iowa will become more cherished than one to the White House," he said.
"That defines Bush's supporters: country-club types and aviation enthusiasts," said another Iowa Republican. "Fortunately for him, there's no golfing here in February (when the caucuses are scheduled)."
As befits his rank, it was left to Bush's Iowa chairman, George Wittgraf, a lawyer from Cherokee, to explain the situation.
"This was a generic reference to community celebrations like weddings and Chamber of Commerce dinners," he said. "Boone was having Pufferbelly Days that day, which is a celebration of its railroad history. There was the air show in Cedar Rapids and the Tri-City Rodeo in Fort Madison. Bush and Dole supporters are the kind of people who make these events happen and they think we're crazy to put so much emphasis on a straw poll."