Call it rapprochement. Call it detente. Call it peace, however fleeting. After weeks in the national spotlight, Dan Quayle now admits he actually finds the press likable.
Quayle's new posture with the media assumes that reporters are merely a bit misguided, not necessarily evil, a notion he expanded on this week as he posed for a photo opportunity at an Ohio pumpkin stand.The Republican vice presidential nominee bought his press entourage a bushel of apples, bit into one and admonished: "Go eat them. Enjoy it. Change your attitude."
The stand was owned by one Jack R. Custer. Not to let an opportunity slip, one reporter noted to Quayle that it appeared he was at Custer's Last Stand. The senator laughed.
"Why not? We were at Waterloo earlier," said another, a reference to Quayle's remark to a Napoleon, Ohio, rally that Michael Dukakis wouldn't come there because he "doesn't want to meet his Waterloo."
Such repartee with the Indiana senator was missing from early weeks of his campaign, when the candidate was constantly peppered with questions about his military service, academic record and personal life. Those questions do pop up from time to time, as do questions about polls indicating that Quayle is a drag on the ticket.
And indeed, when Quayle ventured into the back of his plane to see reporters recently, he met some of his toughest questions to date about his parents' support in the past of the John Birch society.
Quayle testily denounced the question as "irrevelant." When the reporter persisted, Quayle finally told him, "You're irrevelant."
But more often than not, Quayle has been casual and relaxed around the press since his debate with Lloyd Bentsen, his Democratic counterpart.
There have been frequent impromptu visits to the back of the plane for on-the-record chats and good-natured banter with the regulars who travel with him.
There haven't been any formal news conferences since Sept. 15. They are not Quayle's best format - he often makes gaffes - and they clearly don't fit in with the campaign strategy.
"We've had news conferences, not as much as the press would like," concedes David Prosperi, Quayle's press secretary. "But our strategy is not to satisfy the press as much as it is to get our message out."
Quayle likes to tell crowds he is a former newspaperman. He once held a management position at his father's Huntington, Ind., newspaper. But he has made no secret of the fact that he feels he has been treated unfairly by the press since he became the nominee.
One reporter who rode on Quayle's campaign plane for the first time Tuesday seemed stunned that the senator and his press corps were not at war with each other in the air.
"You didn't realize what good friends I had until you got on, did you?" Quayle said, gesturing around the plane and smiling broadly.
"Wonderful people here. Glowing reports they write about me all the time. It's the other people that aren't here, they're the ones that write all those bad things."
With perhaps a bit more of his tongue in his cheek, Quayle explained his seemingly new attitude to the press by saying, "I figured out you weren't all that bad."
"I just didn't realize what a friendly bunch of people you are. The more I get to know you, the more I really like you," he told a group of reporters at a Van Wert, Ohio, stop.